About Christmas TV History

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Holiday Horror/Disaster Movies

Most of us are familiar with the romance movies that come out each Christmas on television on networks such as Hallmark, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, and Ion. But did you know that the Syfy Channel hosts movie marathons at the holidays each year as well?  Since 2009, I've noticed a sharp incline in the number of horror/disaster movies Syfy runs in marathons.  Some of these movies take place at Christmas while others are more winter themed. (If you're sharp-eyed, you can usually find these same movies running in marathons during the month of July too!) These disaster stories are sometimes horrifying and other times campy fun. Some of the stories depict natural phenomenon run amok while others truly transgress into the realm of science fiction's partner: fantasy. Let me share a few titles and tell you which ones I like the most.

If you're a Christmas movie purist, you might be interested in seeking out Ice Quake (2010), Snowmageddon (2011), The 12 Disasters of Christmas (2012), Christmas Twister (2012), and Christmas Icetastrophe (2014).

THAT'S a great title!

In Snowmageddon, the Miller family discovers an anonymous present on their doorstep at Christmas: it’s a snowglobe depicting their town of Normal, Alaska.  Just as mysteriously, the town and its residents begin experiencing a series of catastrophic disasters. The fun here is seeing the residents scramble against the odds to survive these ‘natural’ disasters and figure out a way to stop these horrible catastrophes, bringing their own Christmas miracle. The characters trapped in this movie play it seriously--too bad it doesn't have more tongue-in-cheek humor.

A movie I liked more was The 12 Disasters of Christmas. Who doesn't love a good doomsday story at the holidays? As natural disaster after natural disaster occurs in their small town, lead character Jayce can feel her destiny tied into the countdown to the end of times.  Remarkably, the end of times countdown is connected to the popular Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and she must collect the five golden rings in order to protect the world.  You read that right.  There's a lot of fun in the details here--even if the natural disasters depicted seem minor and unimaginative.

Heads-up friends: Christmas Twister was originally released on the Ion Network but it feels much like the others (and was directed by Christmas TV movie veteran Peter Sullivan). Like many of these films it features a recognizable TV actor, and Christmas Twister stars Casper Van Dien.

Other horror/disaster movies that you'll find airing on the Syfy Channel during the holidays include ones that feature extreme cold weather survival stories, snow monster features, and weirder.  If this appeals to you, look for movies such as Ice Spiders (2007), Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon (2008), Polar Storm (2009), Ice Twisters (2009), Rage of the Yeti (2011), Snow Beast (2011), Ice Road Terror (2011), 2012: Ice Age (2011), and Abominable Snowman (2013).

"Look out behind you!"

My favorite of these is Ice Spiders. It is a ridiculous but a fun-to-watch monster/comedy. One by one, members of an elite team of skiers disappear from the slopes while at the Lost Mountain Resort in Utah. Although the Olympic team was looking for isolation at Lost Mountain to focus on their training, when the giant and deadly ice spiders attack, the remote location might be the team’s demise. Where did these huge creepy crawlies come from? The military hired scientists to tinker with the DNA of various species of arachnids for their web strength in weaponry use. But wouldn’t you know it--these spiders are another military/scientific experiment run amok. It also features THREE actors from Melrose Place: Thomas Calabro, Patrick Muldoon, and Vanessa Williams.

I also enjoyed Ice Twisters. Don't judge me. In this movie, science-fiction book author Charlie Price finds himself in conflict with the Federal Science Foundation when his predictions of apocalyptic disasters begin to come true.  The Federal Science Foundation has been conducting weather experiments to manipulate the atmosphere to produce rain in drought areas. Unfortunately, their manipulations have created extreme weather storms that are not only taking human lives but the storms are out of the control of the scientists. It has a whole self-righteous conspiracy theorist vibe to it.  It also stars actor Mark Moses who you'll recognize from huge TV shows such as Mad Men, The Killing, Desperate Housewives, Homeland, and Manhattan. It's fun.

Think: less T-Rex and more iguana.

I also got a kick out of Ice Road Terror.  An explosion at an arctic diamond mine opens a hole from which a dinosaur/lizard crawls.  After feasting on several miners, the monstrous lizard sets his sights on truckers driving nearby on the longest ice road in the world. Actor Dylan Neal is in this movie.  He's appeared in many great projects but he'll always be Pacey's older brother on Dawson's Creek to me.  Another actor Michael Hogan is here too.  He's had a long career as well, but I love his role as Col. Saul Tigh on the update of Battlestar Galactica.

Most of the yeti/abominable snow monster movies suffer from poor special effects.  You may get a laugh (between snoozes) from Snow Beast--it stars John Schneider (!) and the monster looks like a gorilla version of Rankin/Bass' Bumble. The natural disaster story 2012: Ice Age pushes credulity with the plot that a glacier from Greenland is rapidly moving towards the United States' New England coast line. Key word is 'rapidly.' It just gets worse from there.  I warned you.

Don't forget Poseidon Adventure (1972 theatrical release) in which a cruise ship flips over during a holiday journey.  And, Terror on the 40th Floor (1974 TV movie) which features a a fire in a skyscraper trapping employees from an office Christmas party.

This is not a complete list of TV movies in this genre but the ones I felt deserved a mention.  If you like (or despise) other horror/disaster movies that air on the Syfy Channel, mention them in the comments.  Have you seen any of these?  Are you a fan of the genre? I can't wait to see what Syfy comes up with for this year.


  1. Very upset that I've not seen any of these! Except Poseidon Adventure of course...

    1. Perfect for Halloween/Christmas viewing. Or, anytime really.

  2. I need to track down Ice Spiders and Terror of the 40th floor!

  3. I am a glutton for cheesy movies, and cheesy horror movies AND cheesy holiday movies, so all are up my alley. I will have to check some of these that I have not seen out. One I did see on SyFy that I did NOT care for was Santa Jaws. Oy, that's a bad bad movie. And not in the good way.