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 "Durrrr...it 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 again...in a year or so.