Monday, November 11, 2013

BLACK CHRISTMAS - REVIEW

Black Christmas
October 11, 1974 (Canada)
98 min
Canada (English)

Directed by Bob Clark
Written by Roy Moore


Films do not get much creepier than Bob Clark's Black Christmas, a celebrated horror classic by some but mostly overlooked by others.

For my 31 Days of Horror I borrowed recommendations from the libraries of fellow cinephiles. Guest curator Bill Mullan lent a stack to the cause and while we're already in November I'm still trying to get through them all. This last week I watch Black Christmas, a film I had not heard a thing about in all my listening years of film circles. It's clear the film is (criminally) underrated and needs all the word of mouth it can get, yet I also cannot stress enough of how grand an experience it is to go in know nothing more than its name and that it is a horror film. If you're wanting that, read no further and seek it out.

Still reading then? Well, I'll keep this brief in any case. Black Christmas begins during a Christmas party at a sorority house, specifically outside the house with the use of a type of "predator vision," embraced and utilized by the likes of Hitchcock and De Palma and to ultimate effect in this year's Maniac remake. It's an unnerving effect, aided by breathing coming from our side of the camera, which unsettles the audience and adds to the mystery of who the sorority stalker and slasher is. 

During the party and in the days to follow the girls receive phone calls from an unknown man who cries, moans, groans, cackles and talks most dirtily to the college-aged women. Each call is more creepy than the last and guessing the proximity of the man on the other line makes it all the more sinister. It doesn't matter if the sun's up or the house is full of people, the house has been targeted and its occupants seem destined to become victims. 

The highlight performance of the girls is Jess, played by Olivia Hussey. The filmmaker's acquired her not long after her breakthrough in Romeo and Juliet. Jess confides in her boyfriend (he's played by Keir Dullea) that she's pregnant and is seriously considering an abortion. He is adamant that she reconsider. The men in Black Christmas think they know what's best for the women and how to "save" them, from one of the girl's father to the frequently-involved police. Nobody seems likely or capable to stop the terror that is right under above their noses.

Full disclosure, Black Christmas is one of the scariest films I have ever seen. It came out some four years before John Carpenter's Halloween and deserves just as much, if not more, recognition and appreciation for being a poster child of independent horror and resurrecting the slasher picture post-Psycho. See it, and I won't judge you if you leave the lights on.


"No Claire, it's the Mormon Tabernacle Choir making their annual obscene phone call."
- Barb Coard


★★★★½
CONTENT: bloody violence, disturbing and scary images, strong sexual dialogue

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