#250 -- 13 Days of Creepmas Day 4: Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
Contains light spoilers
I have always been interested in seeing this movie, simply because the idea was intriguing. It's a simple premise, but those usually are the best. Now, for the fourth day of Creepmas, I have finally done it. Usually, after I watch a movie, I like to read other reviews before I write mine. I do this because it often points things out that I didn't notice while I was watching the movie, and it helps me get a better feel for it. For this one, I read two other reviews, both of which were wonderful--and now I'm really not sure how I feel about the movie.
The idea is not something I'm new to, though it did come before the others I've seen like it. I will say that it's probably one of the best. It also predates those silly horror movie cliches that everyone's come to love, so it's a little bit different in some ways. First of all, the sweet virginal girl is the first to die, rather than the last. The bad seeds--the drunks, the neurotic, the pregnant and planning an abortion--are then left to fend off the evil. One thing you should know is that this movie does not rely on jump scares or excessive gore; it relies simply on your imagination. The kill scenes are limited, but that's not really a problem. The problem lies in the characters and the lack of resolution. But that might not be a problem at all. Like I said, I'm not entirely sure.
The movie isn't really about Christmas. There are no Santa Claus or elf killers here. The events in question simply occur on Christmas, making the holiday very bleak for those involved. The girls at a sorority house receive obscene phone calls on a regular basis. They shrug it off at first, thinking that the caller is simply a perverted creep, or perhaps a prankster with a twisted sense of humor. But when one of their sisters (the sweet girl mentioned earlier) turns up missing, and a murdered little girl is found nearby, they start to fear that the phone calls might not be so innocent after all. Several of the girls leave to return home for the holidays, leaving only a select few to endure the horror that is to follow. One of those girls was Olivia Hussey, who would go on to play Audra Denbrough in Stephen King's "It." She is the main character, and the final girl, which is the first problem I have with the movie. She was okay at first, but when she revealed her plans to have an abortion, she made it absolutely impossible for me to care for her at all. Her boyfriend, Peter, wanted to marry her, but she would have none of it, for the same reasons that she wanted the abortion. There were still things she wanted to do with her life. I understand that, Jess, but you really should have thought about that before you opened your legs. It's your fault, not the baby's, you selfish whore. Ranting aside, there were other reasons I didn't like her as well. I imagine that she was absolutely terrified--or at least, she should have been--but I saw none of it. She seemed far too calm throughout the majority of the movie, up until she was notified that the caller was inside the house, at which time she really broke down and showed some emotion. I was really more interested in a girl named Barb, simply because she was funny. She was drunk almost the entire time she was on screen, and she told a police officer that the street she lived on was called "Fellatio." This led to a pretty hilarious scene inside the police station. But she suffered from a hangover and was a sleep for most of the movie. John Saxon also had a role as the lieutenant in charge of the case, and he did an excellent job as usual.
The phone calls the girls get from the killer are the most terrifying aspect of the movie. He refers to himself as Billy, speaks to a woman named Agnes who has a dark secret he wants no one to know, acts out sexual and murderous deeds in several different voices, and laughs maniacally as he's doing it. He also seems to know a thing or two about Jess, which leads us to our conclusion of who we think he is. But we're never given any insight into what he's thinking or why he's doing these things. We never learn who Billy or Agnes are, or of the secret in question. All of these things are somewhat implied and left to our imaginations.
Fairly early in the movie, we're given an idea of who the mysterious caller might be. We're actually pretty damn sure of who it is, and it makes us anxious for Jess to realize the truth. She does, eventually, but it turns out that we were all wrong. At the end, there was absolutely no resolution to the problems. The killer was never found; there were two bodies left in the attic, and they were never found either. Absolutely no one thought to look in the attic, either when their friend went missing, or when everything was said and done. I'm not sure what the point of that was. The movie ends with a shot of the house, the telephone ringing, and the killer once again talking to Agnes about their secret.
In the end, I think I agree with both of the other reviews I read. I do think there were some continuity issues going on here, and the movie was certainly flawed in areas. But I also believe that it was the crew's failures that gave it its charm. The implications and offscreen deeds are what make it scary. It is the not knowing that frightens us. Do I think it's the scariest movie ever made? No, certainly not. But is it an entertaining ride? Definitely. I've never been a huge fan of '70s movies (thought, to be fair, I haven't seen that many), but I can say that this is the best I've seen come from that decade, aside from Halloween.
Black Christmas is definitely a movie you should be checking out this Creepmas.