11 January 2012

Clarky's Review: Black Christmas

After a long festive break Ally brought a, late, Christmas present to the table for us all to enjoy - Black Christmas. To be honest I wasn't expecting much. I knew that they had remade this a few years ago and at the time I the reviews stated that it was based on the cult classic. In my mind, in relation to horror films anyway, I automatically assumed that the original must be one of the schlocky, average "cult" classics. I was delighted to find out that I was completely wrong.

Made in 1974 its not difficult to see the, wide ranging, impact that this film has had on the horror genre. Opening with a point of view shot, which as Fin noted was reminiscent of Halloween and which was made some 4 years later, it features a number of items which are now tropes of the horror genre including (SPOILER ALERT) the idea of the killer phoning from inside the house. But there are also  plenty of things that differentiate this from other horrors, especially from the 70's, and when I was watching this it seemed fresh and quite progressive at times to me. God knows what audiences at the time must have thought of it.

It's always important to remember that sometimes films like these can seem dated now, but I was surprised at how well this film still stood up, and how little recognition it seems to get. Sure there are some dud bits of dialogue and the odd bit of hammy acting, but I found the subtext and the morals of the film really interesting. Unlike films like Halloween, which were very black and white in terms of their moral code - the girls who drink, take drugs and sleep around all die at Michael's hands whilst the virginal Laurie Strode survives. In Black Christmas however, it's Clare, the church going "professional virgin", who bites the bullet first (in a genuinely tense and jumpy scene), whilst Jess "survives" even though she parties, has had pre-marital sex and is determined to have an abortion.

What's most interesting is that you can read into this in different ways. Did Jess survive as the director is pro choice, or is Jess being hounded by "Billy" because she is so determined to have an abortion. Suddenly, this cult horror has a little more to it than a simple slasher movie.

I also liked the fact that whilst a number of the deaths seemed quite gruesome at the time, on reflection, very little is actually shown on screen (which as I've stated before is always far more effective and creepy). There are also a suitable number of annoying characters that you can't wait to be picked off by "Billy" and some genuine humour in places. As well as the greatest phone tapping sequence of all time.

But most impressive, and what stays in the memory, are the hideous phone calls. The sound design is incredible and the manner in which "Billy" carries out the phone conversations is incredibly creepy and disconcerting, never mind what he is actually saying!

But, given the issues we have had with endings in the past, I was most impressed with the ambiguous ending that fitted the film perfectly, was incredibly creepy and gave the film real staying power. 

When dolls are involved its never going to be good.
This is a film that is a must for any horror afficianado. I can't believe this film wasn't even on my radar before now, and this is a matter that I'm glad to have rectified. Interesting and genuinely creepy.

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