Black Christmas (1974)
seen online via YouTube
So I went into watching Black Christmas with no knowledge about it whatsoever (other than who was in it, which couldn't be helped). I was looking for some holiday-themed B-movies to watch this week and I saw this title and I figured okay, that'll do, and I certainly didn't expect it to be anything other than a typical dumb horror movie. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only is it pretty watchable, but it's got a very strange and unusual ending, one that took a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off.
Is it scary? I'm sure 70s audiences may have found it so, although I'll tell you what creeped me out the most - the image in the poster at left is of the first murder, which we keep returning to at intervals throughout the movie. At first, I thought it was funny - as if they were saying well, let's check back in with her to make sure she's still dead; yep, she is indeed, still dead! After awhile, though, it started to unnerve me. I didn't want to keep seeing her dead body!
Looking through the IMDB reviews, I've discovered that this film influenced John Carpenter's Halloween, which came four years later, and a sub-genre was born. And while that film perhaps codified The Rules for Successfully Surviving a Horror Film more than any other, some of them are on display in Black Christmas too.
One thing seemed incongruous. Jess, the main character, is pregnant and wants an abortion (this came out a year after Roe vs. Wade). Yet throughout the movie, she wears a largish crucifix, which made me wonder if she felt any conflict over her decision. Her religious beliefs never factor into her character in general, much less her decision to have an abortion; her crucifix could just as easily be a heart-shaped pendant. But it is there, so we have to believe that she is religious to a certain degree. To not address her beliefs in connection with her decision, therefore, strikes me as a huge mistake on the part of the screenplay. It would've added a tremendous amount of depth to the story in general, as well as added conflict with her boyfriend Peter, who wants her to have the baby. I can't believe this detail was overlooked.
I'll have to look harder to find a old bad holiday movie; this one was too good for my purposes. (By 'old' I mean pre-90s, preferably pre-80s.) And this was made by the same guy who did A Christmas Story! Talk about extremes.