Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Christmas (1974)

Last Christmas
I gave you my heart
But the very next day
You gave it away...
 - Wham!

Well it's the happy holiday season again. The time when families and friends get together to celebrate the warmth love and joy that comes with the Christmas season. And what better way to celebrate than with one of my favorite holiday movies? You know the classic one where a demented killer terrorizes a group of sorority girls.

Well, you have your holiday traditions - and I have mine.

Filmed three years before Halloween, Black Christmas is one of those 'should be more popular movies than it is' horror films. It's as simple as Halloween, but just as terrifying and if possible, even scarier. The movie centers around a sorority house during the Christmas season. The girls have been getting crank calls from a fellow they call "the moaner" and although he's mildly disgusting, it seems like a harmless prank - until Clare, the good girl of the group goes missing and the killer's calls start to get a little bit more....threatening. That's when the real terror begins. Silent night, indeed.

Okay, yes there have been quite a few movies about hapless sorority girls getting killed but I guarantee you, none of them had the great actresses we have here. Our main girl Jess is played by Brit actress Olivia Hussy, who is wonderfully natural in her role and a young Andrea Martin who is just as good. Lynne Griffin, plays a convincing good girl (Clare) in sharp contrast to Barb the bad girl, (Margot Kidder) who lends just a touch of pathos to her character so that you really care about her. In fact Margot steals every scene she's in whether she's calling Clare a "professional virgin" or telling a dim-witted officer that her phone number exchange starts with F-E-L-L-A-T-I-O, you just can't wait to see more of her.

And then there's the killer.

One of the most brilliant things about this movie is that the killer is never shown. We get one scene where we see his eyeball peering through a crack which is just enough. We also get a few scenes filmed in "killer vision", watching him pushing Clare's body back and forth while singing a lullaby or climbing into the attic. It's just enough to scare you, but then....there's his voice.

The killer's calls, along with the voices he uses is what really makes the movie. I'm not afraid to admit that when I first watched the film, only a couple of years ago, my phone rang and I jumped a mile. I mean, I've had the occasional crank call before but these calls are truly nightmare inducing. Who is Agnes? Who is Billy? How did the caller know about the conversation Jess had with her boyfriend regarding abortion? What the heck is going on? Is that one person making all those noises?

Man, for being an essentially goreless film, this one is more than a bit scary and director Bob Clark nicely adds some tension (along with a few red herrings) to amp up the creep factor. Okay, there are always a few things - first of all the ending, which I LOVED may leave some people unsatisified, especially those that like everything neatly wrapped up.  Also a little of the drunken housemother goes a long way. But these are just minor quibbles actually. So instead of obnoxious caroling or spending time with your Great-Aunt Martha - indulge in my tradition of and watch sorority girls get murdered this Christmas. What? It beats fruitcake.

Happy Holidays! God bless us everyone (except you Clare, your death was brutal.)

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • Every time the killer is on the phone. I dare you not to cringe. Seriously.
  • A drunken Barb telling Clare's conservative Father that there's a certain species of turtle that can screw for three days straight and his reaction.
  • Death by crystal unicorn intercut with kids caroling.
  • Poor Clare sitting rocking in that chair with the look of frozen horror under the plastic bag. Chilling.
Fun Facts Kids!
  • No dummy was used when the camera was on Clare's body. Instead Lynne Griffin who had to assume the "dead" position every time Clare's body was filmed - and keep the same look of horror on her face - surrounded by the plastic bag.
  • More than one person was used to make the killer's voice - including director Bob Clark.
  • Bette Davis was offered the role of Mrs. Mac, the house mother and Malcom McDowell was asked to play Jess's boyfriend. Both turned down the roles.
  • That line about the turtles? Made up. Bob Clark admitted he had put it in there and that to his knowledge there was no known species of turtle that can screw for three days. So ya'll can stop scouring the Internet now.
  • In a nod to the original, Andrea Martin plays the house mother in the remake. But even she can't save that poor excuse for a movie. No. Stick to the original. I beg you.




  • Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment!

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