Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MR Black Christmas

And the Xmas-a-thon continues!

Some call this one the best Christmas-themed horror film ever made! Let's see if this hold up true...

Movie: Black Christmas, aka Black Christmas (1974), alternatively also known as Silent Night, Evil Night, Stranger in the House or originally Stop Me
Directed by Bob Clark
Release date 1974
Genre Psychological thriller/Slasher/Horror film
Country Canada

Long before the original Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre and John Carpenter's Halloween defined the slasher horror genre, there was a little Canadian film called Black Christmas.

In fact the film was never called a "slasher", since it came before all that subgenre. And it doesn't even really fit the genre that well.

The film is closer to a psychological thriller. It's a slow burn that takes its time establishing the setting and the protagonists.. but you get increasingly uneasy as this creepy terrifying killer makes his way into the life of these girls....

The story takes place in a sorority house.

The movie begins from the point of view of an unknown man (?) climbing inside the attic around the Christmas festivities. Yeah, John Carpenter seems to have loved this beginning when he made Halloween, didn't he?

These sorority sisters have been receiving a lot of threatening prank calls lately. This girl called Jess  (played by the lovely Olivia Hussey) can't take it anymore. They call this mysterious caller "the moaner". His calls have been getting more annoying and frequent lately. This other girl Barb (played by noneother than Lois Lane Margot Kidder!!) decides to put the moaner in place, which frightens the other girls. He leaves a threat on the phone - "I'm going to kill you!" after Barb provokes him and then hangs up. But now's not the time to think about this, the holidays are here afterall!

Most of the other girls go back hone. Only Jess, Barb, Phyllis and Clare stay there. Clare is killed by the mysterious stalker with a plastic wrap.

The next day they notice Clare's still missing, which worries Clare's father who comes to the sorority house to look for his missing daughter. The very alcoholic woman who acts as responsible for the house, Mrs. Mac, tries to calm him down with no success.

We are introduced to Jess' boyfriend around this time. Peter is an aspiring pianist. His recital goes wrong and he's angry at Jess for thinking about an abortion, you see she just found out she was pregnant from him! From there on he's clearly upset and most of the film seems to point at him to be the killer... probably...

The police doesn't take Clare's disappearance seriously, they say the girl ran off with some boy, but Clare's boyfriend Chris shows up and he's just as worried. This cop Lt. Kenneth Fuller (John Saxon). finally decides to take their case seriously and investigate. The cops finally find a body in the nearby park, but it turns out it's another missing girl! At the very least now the police's taking the case seriously. Mrs. Mac finds Clare's body upstairs when looking for her cat, and she gets murdered next. Jess receives more obscene calls. Jess even starts doubting Peter when she finds him already at the premise. The police puts a tap on the phone line and they put a cop outside too.

The pervert killer murders the rest of the girls one by one. And he keeps frequently making these obscene calls after each death, now even going as far as quoting the previous argument Jess had with Peter!

She finally manages to keep the moaner long enough on the line so the police can finally trace it.. the killer was inside the house all along!!

Things get really hectic as Jess is cornered by the killer and the police has not yet arrived!

Who is this mysterious deranged murderer!?

Black Christmas is a timeless 1970s classic!

Back when this Canadian horror film first played in the the US they retitled it Silent Night, Evil Night, which would inspired the name of another Christmas-related horror classic.

The movie stars several scream queens from 70s horror films alongside some well known figures of the genre; Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman and John Saxon. Decent performances from everyone involved. Particularly Kidder as this unpredicatble character who's particularly entertaining to warch, and the lovely Olivia Hussey who does a perfectly fine job as our main "final girl".

The film has a great atmosphere. The obscene phone calls are really creepy and terrifying. It makes the film so intense!

Speaking of frightening stuff, on the creepy side behind this movie, the story behind this film wa based on a series of real life murders in Montreal, Quebec. The movie takes a not from a real life urban legend inspired by a series of actual mysterious murders that took place in Montreal. The urban legend of "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs" which would go on to inspire several movies over the decades. About how a teenage girl babysitting a large group of children was disturbed by several phone rings on night, some man checking on her. She ended up calling the police, but when they traced the call it turns out it had been coming from inside the house all along! The police told her to run outside. When they arrived on the scene, they discovered he made a call after killing each of the children. The murder remains unsolved to this day. There was only one prime suspect, but he passed a lie detector and the charges never hold. But how creepy is that though?!

The film was originally titled "Stop Me".

It's a great thriller, a true gem of that time. The whole house feels really creepy. It's a great suspenseful atmospheric horror film. The violence was a lot more graphic than previous films of the genre. It was a precursor to a new subgenre of horror and would set the slasher genre that followed and was the inspired behind 1978's Halloween and 1979's Friday the 13th.

While several slashers would follow and kind of establish a formula over the years, Black Christmas itself doesn't really pertain to the slasher genre since it isn't particularly bloody and even features a surprisingly complex cast of characters, closer to old horror films from the 70s with its minimalistic approach and macabre ambiance. It's certainly an unsettling Christmas tale!

Black Christmas was the first entry in the slasher sub-genre. It's a great creepy tale for the Christmas festivities.

It's a unique horror movie with a really great sense of atmosphere, suspense and mood. The house is great and creepy and a nice throwback to early 70s gothic horror films. The film sort of marks the end of an era for me, but it also would set a new genre on its own.

The movie has a great terrific ambiguous ending which really made it iconic and certainly helped get the film its cult status. We're left with so many questions open to interpretation. Who or what is "Billy" is never made quite clear, and there's been all kinds of fan theories over the years who Billy really is or was (some even say it was Jess all along, others say it was a more mystical form of an evil entity lurking in the darkness). You can certainly see what would inspired slasher figures like Michael Myers in Halloween to the "cabin in the woods" from the Evil Dead series.

The great atmosphere mostly comes from the great score composed by Carl Zittrer. Full with creepy renditions of classic Christmas songs including a chilling rendition of "Silent Night"! 

The film was made on a very tiny budget of only $620,000, but it would go on to make over 4 million dollars worldwide!

Since then Black Christmas has become part of our pop culture and had a huge cult following. It's an iconic film of the genre since it was the sole responsible for the slasher genre (even though John Carpenter's classic perfected the formula, it had become a formula by that point let's admit it).

Which by Hollywood standards means the film would warrant a remake. Which it got more or less under the same name. That remake was still produced by Bob Clark though. It featured a cast of modern day scream queens, it was directed by Glen Morgan and was released in December 2006.

Overall, this little Canadian classic is well worth its cult status!

Black Christmas is often considered to feature the first slasher killer, picking our characters one by one, killing each of them with a different unique method. The film follows a simple premise which works great.

It's creepy, it's frightening and it's beautifully well shot. If you feel like having some Christmas spirit tis' season, I Highly Recommend this film! It's a really good effective horror classic!

Story goes Bob Clark actually suggested John Carpenter to direct Halloween as a sequel to Black Christmas, even if the producers or the marketing would never allow that officially. While the film's kind of forgotten and mostly ignored by modern audience nowadays, it doesn't change the fact it's an iconic cult film that marked a generation filmmakers!

Speaking of modern generations, this granddaddy of slasher films was, of course, remake in 2006. The problem is the remake came after an entire genre gave birth to slasher flicks filled with gore and over-the-top kills. So instead of the original game changer, we ended up with a new version of the film kind of crammed with all the tropes the genre is defined with now. The story more or less follows the original, it's still set in a sorority house, but it made some very questionable changes. Where the 1974 film choose to never show us the killer we never truly understood, the 2006 film had to have the obligatory origin story for the killer to "flesh out the character"...

I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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