FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 13, 2007

Day 13- "Don't tell what we did, Agnes..."

If there's one film I've gone on about here at Final Girl...on and on and on, that is...without ever really exploring it in-depth, it's Bob Clark's 1974 genre masterpiece (yes, I said it) Black Christmas. Even now, when I intend to write about it, I find myself unable to conjure up much more than a slack-jawed " scare. Me got scared and like. Merrrrrrr...."

I realize that's ridiculous, of course. But it's like, the more I love a horror movie, the less I want to talk about it. In fact, the more I love a horror movie- when I find one that really, truly frightens me- the less I want to see it. Films like Black Christmas are so...well, special to me as a horror fan that I try to tuck them away and pull them out maybe once a year to watch, lest the scare factor fade away. The more I analyze and discuss, the less terrifying they become. With repeated viewings comes a sort of numbness and the frights simply aren't so effective anymore. I mean, at this point I've seen Halloween (1978) so many times that it works for me in theory- I still appreciate it and love it and remember all the scares- but I'm no longer frightened by it. And you know what? That sucks.

Last year, when I did the "movies that actually scare me" marathon, I found it difficult to write about films like The Haunting and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for all the reasons I've described above, but I did it anyway because you were all obviously forcing me to. Don't get me wrong, I'll talk about movies I love with you until I'm blue in the face...but there's something about writing, that whole having to lay out paragraphs and coherent ideas thing that makes me reluctant. It's akin to pulling back the curtain and finding the Wizard, or learning how a magic trick is done, I think, and sometimes that ruins all the fun.

So, what can I say about Black Christmas? It's not a film I watched when I was young; I have no memories of it scaring me out of my footie pajamas. Though I'd read about it numerous times, I saw it for the first time relatively recently, after the first DVD release appeared...and had I been wearing footie pajamas at the time, then yes, I would have been scared right out of them. This film is one of the very very few I've seen (for the first time)- and certainly the only slasher film- in the last, oh, ten years that's truly frightened me to my core. I was taken back to my childhood, to the days when Michael Myers still terrified me by simply standing next to a shrub, to the days when nothing was more frightening than Harry Warden stalking the tunnels of a mine, to the days when I'd lie in bed wondering if Jason Voorhees could scale the outside of my house and climb in my window. What a find, this Black Christmas!

What is it about this film that got- and gets- to me so much? There's plenty- the fact that the killer did scale the outside of the house and climb in the window; the psychopath hiding in the house; those damn phone calls and the eye behind the door.

I could go on and on here about set design and cinematography and Bob Clark's direction; I could talk about all the characters and give you a plot synopsis...but I'm not going to (though I will give a small shout-out to Margot Kidder; fuck Lois Lane: Barb, that foul-mouthed, chain smoking, choker-wearing asthmatic boozehound sexpot is my favorite Kidder character).

I could ruminate about the nameless killer and what exactly it was that he and Agnes did with the baby- but then they tried that last year and we all saw how well that went.

There are plenty of people who've watched Black Christmas (some even seeking it out because I have gone on and on about it so) and found it...lacking. I don't know what that proves- just that the world don't move to the beat of just one drum, I suppose. Then again, the ranks of Black Christmas fans includes Steve Martin and Elvis Presley, and if it's good enough for Steve Martin and Elvis Presley, then it certainly ought to be good enough for you. You just think you're so big, don't you?

However effective you find the film, however, there's no denying its importance in the genre- its influence can be found in countless horror films, from When a Stranger Calls to...well, every post-1974 slasher film. I can't wait to watch it a year or so.


Anonymous said...

first off, kudos on the salem's lot post. i thought i was the only one who loved that mini series!!!! (hugs finalgirl). so anyhow, i've never seen black christmas the original, though i did pop in the new version a couple months ago with a friend. it was shit, of course, but amusing. i like horror movies even when they suck. i have a feeling i'd really like the original black christmas, because i'm into stuff like that. shit, i liked Cathy's Curse.

Joseph Emmerth said...

I've never seen it, either. The only good canadian horror movie I can think of is the Changeling.

Stacie Ponder said...

There's some fantastic Canadian horror films out there- pretty much anything from Cronenberg, for starters. Most folks seem to like Ginger Snaps (I personally wasn't overwhelmed by it). Canada also brought us some classic slasher flicks; whether you enjoy them or not is up to you: films like My Bloody Valentine, Curtains, Terror Train, Prom Night, Visiting Hours, Happy Birthday To Me, and gobs more.

Who knew?

Arbogast said...

(hugs finalgirl)

Dream on (your avatar here).

Anonymous said...

I agree. It's a masterpiece and ten times better than Halloween, even though I love Halloween.

I reviewed the new DVD edition at Film Threat.

Neil Sarver said...

Yeah... I've got to say, pound for pound, Canada has a substantially better record with horror movies than the US.

Craig Blamer said...

IIRC, in the early stage Halloween actually started out as a sequel to Black Christmas.

Don't recall where I read that, but there you go.

Joseph Emmerth said...

Cronenberg's canadian?

Neil Sarver said...

Cronenberg is indeed quite Canadian. The majority of his movies take place in and are shot in Canada with very little attempt to even smooth over their Canadian-ness.

Rey Nova said...

I prefer this instead of "When a stranger calls", "Black Christmas" is more terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Stacie, I agree, writing about certain films is impossible-I'm a HUGE fan of The Shining, and I tried to write a review today for my blog and couldn't do it...I ended up just posting that crazy fake trailer that is on youtube that paints the movie as a family comedy. I also discovered Black Christmas several years ago and now I watch it every Christmas and it still scares the crap out of me. I saw a 35mm print at a movie marathon and most of the audience thought it was too slow. I almost walked out when several people laughted during the creepy Silent Night/Kidder death scene.

Jessie Sinko. said...

I'm glad I decided to lurk your blog -- not only have I substantially increased my knowledge on slashers, but I've delved into some pretty great movies that I had no idea existed. Black Christmas, per example, SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. I went on IMDB to look at some of the posts and opinions -- I honestly can't believe people think it sucked because the movie didn't explain everything. Suppose no one has ever heard of imagination.

Also, I really wish I owned Olivia Hussey's sweater in the first scene. It rocked.

Carrie said...

Okay, you’ve convinced me. Black Christmas is now on my Netflix list and I’m definitely skipping the new one.

If Black Christmas is more terrifying than the first 10-15 minutes of When A Stranger Calls, I may die of fright. That shit was SCARY.

The first Ginger Snaps was okay, the second one was awful, but I kind of liked the 3rd one. It was definitely the best.