Black Christmas (1974)

October 27, 2009 - 2:18am | Johnny D
  Tags: 70's, Andrea Martin, Art Hindle, attic, black christmas, Bob Clark, christmas, classic, college, Douglas McGrath, James Edmond, John Rutter, John Saxon, Keir Dullea, killer, Les Carlson, Lynne Griffin, Margot Kidder, Marian Waldman, Martha Gibson, Michael Rapport, Olivia Hussey, Robert Warner, slasher, sorority

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Bob Clark
Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, James Edmond, Douglas McGrath, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin, Michael Rapport, Les Carlson, Martha Gibson, John Rutter, Robert Warner

The late Bob Clark's filmography is the definition of hit and miss. From the bizarrely-entertaining Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things to the 'oh sweet merciful crap why do you exist' Baby Geniuses 2: Super Babies. While the general public will remember him for his dark humored yearly must see family classic A Christmas Story, us horror fans will forever know him as the man behind the first holiday themed slasher film. The movie guaranteed to make your skin crawl unless it's on too tight, Black Christmas.

We can spend all day arguing back and forth like the uber horror nerds that we are about which movie deserves credit for the invention of the modern day slasher, Black Christmas or Halloween. Instead I'll just say that Black Christmas was extremely ahead of the game with playing with the ideas that make up what we now know as the slasher movie. Halloween streamlined these ideas into a definitive structure and introduced them to a mass audience. Ergo...they both deserve credit. There, now we can all hold hands and move on with our lives...rejoice! Black Christmas revolves around the sisters of the Pi Kappa Sig sorority house who are plagued with the ultimate in gloriously perverse phone calls by someone who wants to stick his tongue in certain female orifices. Unbeknownst to the girls, the dirty pillow talker has staked out camp in their attic, slowly but surely taking them out one by one.

Whereas the Black Christmas remake displayed the ultimate in extreme deaths, the original’s carnage is left almost exclusively to the viewers imagination. The crapfest known as the Prom Night remake had more blood in it than this movie. Which can be used as an argument that the recent outbreak of PG-13 movies are shunned by the horror world not because they're not violent, but because they just plain suck...and that Prom Night would have been a disaster no matter what (Oh no Brittany Snow, the lamp is right behind you!). Black Christmas unleashes a relentless atmosphere of intensity much like the original Halloween. It's a slow burning tension builder whose creepfactor is heightened by the unnerving phone calls and the memorable iconic imagery of the poor first victim spending almost the entire movie propped up in a rocking chair with a plastic bag wrapped around her head. Although we never see a full embodiment of the killer, what we're treated to through the POV shots is enough to express his threatening nature...especially during his attic flip out. And who could forget that piercing eyeball staring at sexy Olvia Hussey behind the door. Now there's a sight that would have made little Johnny shit his feety pajamas when he was a wee lad.

As serious and straight forward as the movie is, it was still able to maintain a decent helping of humor thanks in large part to a pre-Lois Lane Margot Kidder as the sarcastic alchy Barb. Her standout moments including, but not limited to, when she gives the Sorority's phone number to the Sergeant and when she explains the three day long mating habits of turtles. Second runner up goes to Marian Waldman as the house mother Mrs. Mac with her constant secret booze slugging and her "These broads would hump the Leaning Tower of Pisa if they could get up there". Olivia Hussey gives a commendable performance as final girl Jess. She's not a typical horror virgin. She's a complex character dealing with her crumbling relationship with that guy from 2001, debating on whether or not to abort his child that she's pregnant with..."like removing a wart".

The ballsy ending is sure to divide audiences, but I can't imagine it any other way. The mysterious and low key way they chose fit in perfectly with the tone of the rest of the film. Today, a film studio would never let a filmmaker get away with such an ambiguous ending in fear of pissing off the mainstream audience...hence what was given to us in the aforementioned remake. As it stands, Black Christmas stands as a close to perfect film. And I stress close. The one evident flaw lies in some of the pacing of the second act. Most of the scenes move along surprisingly swift, considering the copious amount of dialogue, but every once in a while we encounter a redundant scene that slows things up. No movie can be absolutely perfect, I suppose, but I heart it none the less.

Black Christmas is an expertly crafted chiller that successfully relied more on genuine tension and thrills than over the top gore. Easily one of my favorite holiday slashers, I give Black Christmas a whopping 8 screwing turtles out of 10 in honor of my favorite holiday lush. Cheers, Barb!

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