|02-05-2007, 11:26 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2007
Yes this is my review from Cobra Island but I wanted to jump start this forum.
Ok I had not heard of Black Christmas until last year when I heard both John Carpenter (director of Halloween) and Sean Cunningham (director of Friday the 13th) mention it as a direct influence on them. And they credited it as being the templete for the modern Slasher flick.
I thought wow how the hell did I never hear of this flick?
A movie that influenced two of the best in modern horror movies ever?
And I've never seen it?
So I did some digging.
And found that it was being remade.
It was released this past christmas to little fanfare, and no I too did not see it, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see it, more importantly the original.
So thanks to the remake, good or bad, the original gets it's very own Special Edition DVD release.
Which I gladly purchased and watched a few weeks back.
Now I'm gonna say I completely understand the ending of it, but it is a bit anti-climatic.
*******************THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD******************
*********************YE HAVE BEEN WARNED*******************
The movie itself was made in 1974, 4 years before Halloween was made, more on that later, but it's important, because it pre-dates what for years was considered THE modern horror slasher flick Halloween.
It centers around a Sorority House (in Canada eh?) and has a number of familar names already.
Bob Clark writer/director of Porky's, Porky's II, A Christmas Story, and It Runs in the Family (the sequel to A Christmas Story, often called My Summer Story) directs this flick, and with him are two actors that would pop up in Porky's a few years later. I'll spare you names, and just say The Sherif, and The Coach that can't stop laughing when he hears some howling during practice.
We also have a 23 year old Olivia Hussey (from Romeo and Juliet, Psycho IV, and many other films) fame.
SCTV alumni Andrea Martin.
Margot (Lois Lane) Kidder.
Keir Duella (Dave Bowman of 2001: A Space Oddesy)
John Saxon (Many roles but most recall him from A Nightmare on Elm St as Nancy's father the cop)
A few others of minor fame the lady that owned the Brewary in Strange Brew.
Back to the story.
A killer slips into a sorority house and hides in the attic. He kills them one by one.
No real Suprise there, however it really was the first movie to employ several techniques that end up becoming the templete for films to come.
First person killer point of view, used extensively in F13, and Halloween, the calls being inside the house was directly lifted line for line in When a Stranger Calls, and pehaps the two biggest points an unseen face killer, and the open ending.
Black Christmas never resolves the conflict, the killer is not caught, oh they think he was killed. It's pawned off (rather badly) that another character may be the killer, and is killed by our lucky surviving (?) lady Olivia Hussey.
It does however break some well standing horror taboos. The survivor as set by Halloween is usually pretty virginal, Olivia's character has a whole subplot about wanting to get an abortion.
This also seems to play a bit slow in the first two thirds of the movie, and only picks up pace towards the end, which is either VERY scary, in an anti-climatic way, or you might just feel jiped.
As I said the killer is never caught, he's also never fully seen, a pair of hands here, and eyeball there, but that is really all that is ever seen. Plus there is no real motive, or reason for what he does.
You can hazard as many theories as you want based on his disturbing phone calls, which really are the centerpiece of the scare this movie generates, but if your looking for the makers to give you an answer why 'it's me billy' does what he does than you'll be sadly let down.
To me I loved the ending, life rarely raps itself up into a neat little package with the good guys containing the evil. The open ending that he's still out there, and you have no idea what he looks like is pretty scary. Not in the makes you jump out of your seat sense, but in the real world sense.
Something Carpenter used again and again in his films.
Halloween, when Loomis looks over the side to find Meyers has fled, and again in Halloween III: Season of the Witch when he's pleading for the last station to stop the broadcast, and we never know if it does, and again in Escape From NY, that tape was supposed to stop a war, yet again in The Thing, we never know if it was truely destroyed, or if one of the is the Thing, and again in Escape From LA, Snake plunges the world in the technological stone age at the end of the movie.
However. As revoltionary as this movie is, and if you like or hate the ending, there are a few issues.
Filmed on a tight budget, (as were F13, and Halloween) this movie goes for some laughs early on, not over the top, but it does try. The drunk house mother, some sight gags such as a straightlaced father in his missing girls room seeing a poster of two people having sex, in the form of a piece symbol, the bubbling cop not understanding the meaning of Filatio, a drunken Margot Kidder.
Some of it is funny, some of it falls flat.
As I said before the movie also sufers from being slightly slow through most of it, and characters are sort of oddly spaced in the flick. Some show up early on and don't reappear at all. Some show up, early on, only to be killed nearly as an afterthought, "Oh yeah Margot Kidder was in the first half of this movie I forgot! Ohhhh guess she dead now." or Andrea Martin who just is found dead later, she didn't even warrent a scene on how she dies!
Then there is the random odd things thrown in that really don't do anything to enhance the plot. A murdered kid found in the park, seeming appears from nowhere, it's left to believe that perhaps our killer did this, but it's also never shown, or linked in anyway to him. Then there's the farmer that shots a cop in the ass with a shot gun, and pretty much is sent on his way like, "Ohhh that daffy bastard." Or the house cat, which seeming just disappears, or as the house mother seems to believe, has climbed a 90 degree angle ladder to open the attic hatch which is a chunk of wood to get into the attic. (Sure that's not only possible, it's also a great explaination for the noise in the attic.....and that dead body smell.)
The ending leaves the killer in his attic, and a seemingly inept police force never checking there, but if you listen carefully you can hear them ask if they should check the attic, but are told that CSI would want the scene as intact as possible. (Remember to them the immedaite threat, is dead already, they pawned it off on the boyfriend)
All in all an interesting (if somewhat slow and campy) look at where modern horror got the templet.
But the bottom line is this as much fun as this is, and as much credit as it deserves, Black Christmas (1974) leaves you feeling a little more informed on where John Carpenter and others got there spark, but a little disappointed.
Frankly Halloween and others did everything that was done here, and did it better.
As a side note Clark made Black Christmas in 1974 , Carpenter made Halloween in 1978. In between Carpenter and Clark would work togetheron a film, where Carpenter would ask Clark if he would make a sequel to Black Christmas what would it he do?
Clark stated that 'It's me Billy' would escape a mental institute, and atack kids on Halloween night, but that he'd never make a sequel.
Now before you all start yelling theif, keep in mind Carpenter may have borrowed heavily from Clark and Black Christmas, but steal is a subjective term. Remember Carpenter was brought a story called the Baby Sitter Murders by producer Irwin Yablas and asked to flesh it out and direct it. With the help of co-writer/producer Debra Hill (and the actresses) the town and female characters came to life, while Carpenter adopted some of the ideas he discussed with Clark for this story, it was eventually Irwin Yablas that suggested the name Halloween.
The rest is history.
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