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"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas," directed by Henry ("Coraline") Selick, is a sublime piece of puppet animation. It actually intensifies the Christmas spirit for the viewer in a deliciously naughty way. This 1993 picture depicts yule delights from the perspective of Halloween and a scintillating, unexpected antihero: Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King.

But for a really scary Christmas -- far scarier than any "Black Christmas" slasher films -- check out "Silent Partner" (1978), starring Elliott Gould as a meek, "underestimated" Toronto bank teller. Correctly reading a clue that he's about to be held up by a robber in a Santa suit (Christopher Plummer), Gould makes out like a bandit: He stashes away most of the loot in his own safe-deposit box.

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No one knows except him and this bad Santa -- and Santa turns out to be a vengeful (and spine-tingling) psychopath.

Curtis Hanson, the director and co-writer of "L.A. Confidential," made his first big mark as a screenwriter with this movie. Under Daryl Duke's direction, it's a first-class chiller.

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