Monday, 1 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, and Margot Kidder
Running Time: 98 min

  Ahhhh Black Chirstmas, there are a couple reason's why I dig this film.  It has to be one of Canada's most notable horror films ever and it's one of the films that kicked down the door to the slasher genre in North America.  This film is so ingrained into Canadian culture that the government should make a "Heritage Moment" for this movie.  Also, this is one of two amazing holiday films that director Bob Clark has created, the other being "A Christmas Story", which if you look at it closer is about the horror of youth, just kidding.  Haven't seen this one in a while but looking forward to seeing it again.

  The Christmas break has started and the girls at a local sorority are having a little party and getting packed up to head home for the holiday.  Unfortunately unbeknownst to them, a creepy dude has shimmied up their terrace, broken into the attic and waits silently for his moment to strike.  However downstairs is fun and everyone is having a good time until Jess answers the phone. She receives an obscene phone call and her friend, Barb grabs the phone and mocks the caller.  This prompts the obscene phone caller to threaten them and he ends the conversation with "I'm Going To Kill You". Well, Merry Christmas to you.  Anyway, another sister at the sorority house, Clare didn't find Barb's antics funny and let's her know, then storms off to her room to pack her bags and go to bed.  Sadly, when she gets to her room, she is asphyxiated with her own garment bag by the creep from the attic and is eventually dragged up to his evil fortress of solitude.
  The next day, most of the girls from the sorority have gone except for Jess, Barb and Phyllis, who are going to be leaving to go skiing later in the week.  Also, the house mother, Mrs. Mac is kicking around and drinking up a storm.  In the afternoon, Clare's dad stops by the house looking for her and isn't impressed with the way Mrs. Mac runs the house but that is secondary to his annoyance of her losing his daughter.  After searching with Phyllis and Barb, Clare's dad goes to the police to put in a missing person's report, which the police don't take seriously because they think she ran off with a guy for the holiday.  Also the police have bigger fish to fry and are looking for a teenage girl that has gone missing.  So the police invite the gang to help them look for the teenage girl hoping that Clare will show as well.
  Barb heads home cuz she's drunk needs to sleep it off, Phyllis, Clare's boyfriend and Clare's dad are out helping the police and Jess is out, trying to talk to her crazy boyfriend about her getting an abortion, which is never a good sign for a relationship.  Mrs. Mac does find Clare in the attic, while everyone is out and is rewarded with a hook in the head, which kills her almost instantly.  Gotta love a death rattle.  Eventually, Jess returns home and gets more threatening and obscene phone calls which the police are helping them try to trace.  Will this maniac ever get caught or will body bags be the only thing wrapped under their tree this year?

  This is such a terrific film.  Director Bob Clark (Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, Porky's) was ahead of his time when it came to this film.  The story is fantastic, based on the "babysitter and the man upstairs" mythos and apparently a series of murders that occurred in Quebec during the holidays.  There are some seriously creepy scenes in this film and has one of the most controversial and extremely chilling ending to a film.
  Also, the cast is incredible and has tons of future 80's film superstars, like Margot Kidder (Superman, Superman II) who plays Barb, John Saxon (Nightmare on Elm Street, Tenebre) who plays a police detective, Andrea Martin (SCTV, Cannibal Girls) who plays Phyllis and of course Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet, It) who takes the lead as Jess.  So much young talent here that it's literally   scary.

   I think everyone's issue with this film is probably the pacing.  It is a very slow movie compared the hyper kinetic films that are out nowadays.  It does take a while for them to get to the scary but once it gets going, you can tell that it was worth the wait.
  Also the film isn't as gory as I remember it.  Maybe I've been desensitized over the years, but looking at it now, Clark uses a "less is more" technique brilliantly and relies more on the body discovery method to show off his dead in this film.  It's cool and I bet this was probably considered pretty gory and sick for 1974.

 This is one of my favourite Canadian horror movies and I still enjoy seeing after so many years.  It has a decent story line, although slow at times, terrific cast and the ending is unforgettable and will give you the shivers.  This holiday you should find a copy of this either under your tree or stuffed in your... stocking.


1 comment:

  1. Black Christmas is one of my all time favorites. I watched it again last night so I could pair it with a Christmas beer and it was even scarier this time.

    Interesting that you think it's got a slow pace, but maybe I'm taking a more relative perspective. To me, the fact that the first plot-driving kill (other than the offscreen one) and that first majorly creepy phone call take place in the first fifteen minutes set the tension way sooner than a lot of other slasher movies (that don't really get rolling until 35-45 minutes). But maybe it's because I'm more willing to sit around and wait because the acting and writing is so much higher quality than others of its kind.

    Also, yes--such a skin-crawling ending!