Thy Critic Man – To make a long story short: It is the Christmas season. I called upon some friends to assist me in taking on the most horrifying Christmas releases of all-time. We will continue by looking at both the original and remake of the horrifying Christmas classic, Black Christmas. The Telltale Mind is my special guest!
The Telltale Mind – When I was asked to participate in Thy Critic Man’s horror-filled Christmas, how could I say no? Thus, we decided to team up for the betterment of mankind and here are the results.
I’ll Have a… – Black Christmas (1974)
A lot of people tend to watch movies over the holidays and just like everything else in life, they all enjoy something a little different. There are those that like their Christmas movies wholesome. That is they like the things that make them feel good at this time of year whether through family or prayer, the gift of giving or even receiving. Some people like White Christmas with Bing Crosby while some like Love Actually or Home Alone and some even like Gremlins. Comedy, drama, or musical or whatever, there is literally a film out there for everyone at this once religious turned corporate holiday. For some, those people whose souls are as black as coal, nothing says Christmas like a pile of dead sorority sisters which is exactly what Black Christmas gives you.
In one of the earliest slasher films ever made, and with a Christmas setting of all things possible, it manages to fit into the genre by hardly spilling a drop of blood. It is a little hard to believe actually, and while you could chalk it up to smart writing or even smarter direction, it was more than likely due to the small budget that the film sported thus making it a little pricey should they have done all they had actually wanted to do. As it is, the film does a great job of killing off all of the women and for the most part, all of them off-screen and by a perpetrator that is never shown. Instead when the killer is present we get a first person, jerky point of view, some heavy breathing and some dark and effective lighting to create the suspense, the tension and the horror. It was a novel approach for the time, and it still is by a then young director named Bob Clark who made use of essentially whatever he had to, to get the job done and make the scariest possible film he could.
Starring in the film would be Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, a young Andrea Martin and the supremely underrated Keir Dullea fresh off of one of the best television series of the time, The Star Lost. From the very start of the film you kind of know where it is going to go when all the girls are gathered together and partying. Introduced first was Margot Kidder and it was almost prophesised that she would be the first to go, and in a surprising move she actually outlasts some of her fellow sisters but eventually, die she does. As the film moves on none of these women would live to see another day even though you kind of hoped that most of them would. Hussey is the lead of our film and she does an excellent job with the script by A. Roy Moore lending it a performance that seems authentic more often than not. Soon the cinematography by Reginald H. Morris comes into play enhancing her performance. It ramps up that feeling of dread with the quiet streets and the silent house and that lone, terrible telephone. That phone. Always ringing and always with that ominous, insane voice on the other end. And to top it off there is that menacing score by Carl Zittrer that almost feels like it follows Hussey throughout the house.
Most of it might seem familiar for those who might have watched this film, as many of the elements that appear within have been copied over the years by a variety of different filmmakers. Most famously would be John Carpenter’s Halloween and to an extent, even Wes Craven’s Scream and they are but two films that feature material that can be associated back to Black Christmas. Bob Clark also uses that fear of the unknown to good effect with our nameless antagonist and his unexplained motivations. Not understanding why someone does what they do, especially when it comes to a killer is a lot more frightening than it is to find out. Black Christmas is also one of the best horrors ever made for the fact that it could actually happen, that this could possibly be real and that makes it scarier more than anything else.
So maybe this is not your average feel-good, holiday cup-of-joy, but it is, after all these years, a holiday classic. It is frightening, scary, horrific and simply put, wonderful (in a way that your average person would not understand). If you like horror and you like Christmas, together or separately, and you have not seen this film, then you are in for a real treat.
4 out of 5
Black Christmas (2006)
Imagine yourself getting ready for bed the night of Christmas day. All the guests have left. All the presents have been opened. All the food has been devoured. You remember a Christmas many years ago where everything was perfect. You had the love of your life by your side. You received every present that you had asked for. The food tasted delicious. You are pumped for boxing day. Now you reflect on the current Christmas day. The guests irritated you. You are dating a new person who you caught kissing someone else on Halloween. You are still with the person. In an open relationship. That person just put a candy cane into a stocking with somebody else yesterday. The presents suck. The food tastes mediocre. You can’t afford to spend much money on boxing day. This is the difference between Black Christmas 1974 and Black Christmas 2006.
The original film has a cult following. It is one of the first slasher movies to ever be made. Hell, it even inspired both the Halloween and Friday the 13th movies. This version on the other hand falls a bit short, despite having a full Christmas dinner of potential. I’ve always been a fan of Michelle Trachtenberg. I enjoyed seeing her go from annoying to mature as Dawn Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The same thing applies to Katie Cassidy in her role in Arrow. Both of these ladies are in this remake. Crystal Lowe is also part of the cast. She is perfect for a Christmas-themed movie because it is mistletoe season. And who in the right mind wouldn’t want to meet her under a mistletoe?
On a serious note, she was in Wrong Turn 2 (which is the best movie to come out of the Wrong Turn franchise) and that makes me happy to see her again. Director and screenwriter Glen Morgan builds an amazing atmosphere for a horror flick. He combines classic Christmas tropes with terrifying horror imagery in order to create memorable visuals. His killers are both delightfully campy and intensely creepy at the same time. The gore is also wonderfully done. I’m currently making the Black Christmas remake sound like a present. Now it is time to shed light on what is coal about it…
…we are simply given nothing to care about. This is a common problem in the slasher genre and in a great amount of slasher flicks that I actually enjoy. However, I usually have at least a single person who I can cheer on. Or if not that, at least a few of them have some sort of distinguishable personality trait to tell them apart from the next. In Black Christmas, the characters are either somewhat nice or complete scumbags. That is it. Some of the characters say a word or two before being sliced to bits. That is all. The characters here take being one-dimensional to a new extreme. I watch a slasher film to see a great deal of suspense and cool kills. Not caring about what happens takes away all the suspense. I could not sit still during this movie. It has nothing to keep me viewing it from beginning to end without being distracted.
Superpower Film Scale: 2/5
1: Villainous Waste 3: Hero unaware of powers 4: On the verge of greatness 5: Heroic film
Standout acting heroes: They weren’t given much to do.
Photo credit: Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes & IMDB
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