Oh, you thought Christmas was safe from The Spooktacular Seventies? Well, you thought wrong. Luckily, I have my own Christmas carol to set the mood.
Now an excerpt from Spooktacular Serg’s “Slay Ride“
♪ You’re snuggled up by yourself, like the victim of a killer would be
See the knife before you and scream for the heavens for a few
Come on, it’s frightful weather, for a “slay” ride waiting for you ♪
Christmas is a season for giving, being with family and those with love, spreading good will to men. Others would think otherwise such as this 1974 classic titled Black Christmas. Before delivering the seminal Christmas film A Christmas Story showing off the childhood wonder, director Bob Clark opened up a more vicious and cruel vision in this feature and also gave us what many consider the first slasher film of its kind.
At a sorority house by a local college, a group of young collegiate women live while in the middle of the holiday season. The girls that make up the house are the foulmouthed drunk Barb Coard, played by Margot Kidder, simple girl Claire Harrison, played by Lynne Griffin, Phyl Carlson, played by Andrea Martin, and smart British gal Jess Bradford, played by Olivia Hussey, who all receive a call from a mystery man they call “the moaner.” Barb, being the drunken mess she is, pisses off the caller causing Claire to leave to her room. Unfortunately, Claire is killed by an unknown assailant that lurks within the house.
None of the sorority girls notice due to the loud celebration and Mrs. Mac, played by Marian Waldman, arriving to join in on the festivities. The day after celebrating, Claire’s father shows up to visit Claire only for her to not be anywhere near the meeting place. He heads to the sorority house in order to find out where Claire with, but all the girls are clueless that Claire is upstairs dead. As that happen, Jess informs her boyfriend Peter, played by Keir “Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey” Dullea, that she is with child and wants to abort it against his wishes. Of course, this relationship is quite rocky, but who cares, there is a killer in the house and no one knows it.
The sorority girls report Claire missing to the police, but the dumbass Sgt. Nash, played by Douglas McGrath, assumes that Claire may be staying over at someone she slept with’s house. Claire’s boyfriend Chris, played by Art Hindle, comes into play to prove to Nash what an idiotic shit Nash was being and the story goes from typical slasher to an interesting psychological thrill ride. The mystery of who the moaner is and what the killer intentions are start to come into play as Lt. Kenneth Fuller, played by John Saxon, helps with the case. Of course, everyone, save for possibly Jess, get killed before the true end comes. And, because I am nice, here are two famous deaths.
Mrs. Mack got a hook up on the season
Barb really got ‘iced’
As they murders continue, only Jess and Phyl are left to defend the beloved house as the police attempt to trace where the calls from the killer are coming from. Phyl soon gets a taste of the chilling death from the unknown kill and it leaves Jess ready and willing to defend herself. The police trace the call and realize the truth us as the audience knew all along.
Jess gets a fire poker and is ready for action and comes eye to eye with the killer…literally.
Jess sees Peter and proceeds to kill him after him being a suspect to the case at hand. After the madness is over, Jess is alive, well and tired as the police arrive to see her before they leave to clear up the case. Yet, something strange still lurks as the killer was not Peter, but still remains with Jess. And the rest, as they say, is left up to your own conclusions. Did the killer finally decimate her? Did she run away? We may never know, but it appears that even the merriest season of all can bring on the blackest of macabre tables.
Black Christmas, as my Spooktacular persona described above, is actually one hell of a psychological thriller. The build-up to the kills and the suspense as the girls try to figure out who exactly killed Claire is perfectly executed and engages you in the story despite knowing the killer is in the house. Clark’s directorial decision on the killer never being shown is quite creative. By giving the audience the point of view of the killer, Clark allows the viewer to make their own conclusion and see what exactly the killer see while also showing us the victim’s perspective. Funny enough, Clark does use some wide angle shots in those moments that appear again in A Christmas Story during the Santa Claus sequence of that film.
The acting is pretty great with John Saxon and Olivia Hussey coming out on top treating the story with the seriousness it calls for. Hussey is great and becomes a strong person in the process knowing that shit is about to hit the fan, but even then, she stays courageous throughout. Saxon does a great job as the cop on hand to make sure everything goes right and commands his role with ease. Then again, John Saxon is pretty awesome all around and a delight when he turns up in a classic horror flick. The effects work is quite dated, but the blood effect still make the skin crawl especially during the scene in which Barb is killed with a glass unicorn. The scene itself, which is posted above, is a perfect blend of effects work, editing and direction that is both beautiful and defies what slashers can do on celluloid.
It may be an unlikely film to play around Christmas time, but the thrills and chills created by Black Christmas is enough to warrant a place in regular rotation due to stunning direction and providing a unique Christmas film experience. Word of caution though, stay away from the 2006 remake. It’s more of a shock fest rather than a well-thought out film.
On Christmas Eve, prepare for the regular format of Film A Week as we celebrate not only the penultimate film of the Film A Week, but our second Christmas special as we focus on the true meaning of Christmas: love. Richard Curtis brought the world the anthology romantic comedy with the modern Christmas classic, 2003’s Love Actually. Film A Week teams up with countless friends in order to see their take on love while examining the romance scattered throughout this charming cinematic romp with romance. With only one film left after, this one is going to be the one readers may not want to miss.
The Final Month of Film A Week
Film A Week 51: Christmas Special- Love Actually (2003)