Welcome to the Terrordome #29 “Black Christmas (1974)”

It pains me to have to parenthesize the date of the criminally underrated gem entitled “Black Christmas”. By doing so, I have to acknowledge that there is a (crap) remake. I won’t squander my energy thinking about it.

Boy, oh boy! ‘Tis the season for the constant playing of the overrated (albeit good) movie, “Halloween (1978)”. There’s that parenthesis again. But, I digress. Yes, with October, one can expect fully the saturation of the Halloween series on their television sets, or in their multiplexes, if there are special engagements. Although cliche, I guess it’s proper to expect the film named after the holiday to play. However, by doing so, there are films that barely get noticed, and when they do, it’s because they are “influential” as opposed to worthy of being seen by millions.

1974’s “Black Christmas” is that film. Heralded as influential, particularly by John Carpenter, it’s pretty unknown to the unseasoned horror audience. Yet, one can’t account for the tastes of others. Some viewers would rather be spoon-fed their horror than put on their big pants and journey beyond the comfortable.

Anyway, to get beyond that mild rant, I watch “Black Christmas” once a year because I prefer to savor this delicious film than overstay its welcome. Like “The Exorcist”, some horror films demand proper respect.

So, here are my thoughts:

  • The late Bob Clark, director of Black Christmas and Porky’s, had a sick sense of humor when it came to the Christmas holiday. One on hand, he gave us this film and on the other hand, he gave us one of the top five Christmas films ever, “A Christmas Story”. He showed the good and bad of the season with reverence.
  • Although the killer’s point of view trope came prior with 1960’s “Peeping Tom”, this is the second-best demonstration used. So, no. “Halloween” was NOT the first to use it. Unfortunately, John Carpenter is credited for being the first one to use it. Amateurs!
  • There’s no rhyme or reason to Billy’s (I won’t discuss his role) madness. Child abuse? Incest? What in the royal hell on the River Thames occurred in his life?
  • That police force has to be one of the top ten most inept systems ever. Leave victims alone without supervision? Can’t trace calls long enough? Don’t catch on that “Fellatio” is not a new phone extension (Good one, Barbara!)?
  • Not only is the force dumb, but Jess is simply ridiculous herself. When you are told to leave the house immediately, it is best to do so! Your friends are on their own.
  • It’s good to see that the final girl (?) isn’t always so pure and chaste.
  • The funniest character, Barbara, had the best lines. “You’re a real gold-plated whore, Mom”. I wonder if that line would work over Thanksgiving dinner? I don’t think so. I’ll scratch that thought. We hardly knew ya, you funny drunk!
  • The cast has a real who’s who of young talent. Barbara is played by Margot Kidder (who went on to great success with the Superman series and other films). Another sorority sister, Phyl, is played by Andrea Martin (“SCTV”, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”- “What you mean you don’t eat no meat? That’s okay. I make lamb.”). Romeo & Juliet’s (1968) Olivia Hussey plays Jess, the final girl (?) and Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) plays her boyfriend, Peter (red herring). The cast is rounded out by horror and B-film great, John Saxon, as the calm and collected police detective (the only one that’s not inept).
  • The movie’s famous for not having a resolution or backstory for the killer. We don’t know why he is killing and we don’t know if he’s caught. In face, we don’t know – I’ll leave it there.
  • I can say that this film crawls up the viewer’s skin (unless it’s just me). It’s creepy, scary, and frustrating at the same time. You wish you can change the narrative, but you can’t. You are forced to watch the carnage.
  • Is it gory? I wouldn’t say it is. But, it’s not bloodless. It doesn’t go overboard to make its point.
  • Back to Netflix it goes until next year. It scares me to watch it more than once. I start getting a “stranger in the closet” complex and that’s not good for anyone. I think I’ll sleep with my lights on tonight.
  • Stop reading me! Rent it now!

9.5 out of 10 (Let that image sit with you for a while. Good night!)

Fun Facts About “Black Christmas (1974)”: 1). Bob Clark produced the remake. Well, we can’t all be perfect. 2). It holds cult status (See my first few paragraphs!), and 3). The critics of the time did not like it. Fortunately, today’s critics love it.

 

 

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