Monday, December 7, 2009
Black Christmas Review
As we continue our look at holiday horror films we turn the clock back to 1974 when the original Christmas horror movie showed up on the scene. Black Christmas is a cult classic, and it even spawned a sequel in 2006 (which we’ll review as well). The movie has yet another simple premise, and a body count that is quite good.
Black Christmas revolves around a sorority house that is victimized by a serial killer. It starts off a bit slow, but the first person camera usage of the initial break in by our psycho brings about a suspense that you rarely see in horror moves today. I also appreciated the use of music, very subtle at times, and in many suspenseful points dead silence to build right to the good stuff.
The movie uses a very good editing technique and camera motion, that is not usually seen today. It paces itself quite nicely, and while there’s definitely gore it’s done in a kind of “arthouse” way. The artful usage of the camera swivel when the killings begin is definitely a good one. From the first fifteen minutes, you really get a sense for what you’re going to get, nothing too elaborate, just pure psychopath.
This film takes a little time to set up, even though we get the initial slayings. It also gives you a small amount of foreshadowing and shows you characters that could be the killer, but it doesn’t necessarily make it too obvious. While there are moments that you swear this thing is on rails, it surprises you with a fare amount of shock value. The traditional set up for a slasher film is not necessarily found here, with a good amount of time dedicated to setting up the third and fourth act. The final act hits hard, and it’s interesting to see how this thing develops, even though the budget wasn’t exactly very big.
Is Black Christmas a Scary Film ? : No.
While this film is a classic piece of horror history, it’s not too scary. Sure the first person camera views are creepy, to say the least, but overall it’s tame enough to keep you unscathed. The jump scene’s are telegraphed, so don’t worry.
Black Christmas has some great moments. It’s a memorable, cult classic of a horror film. It’s a horror film for horror film fans. It’s not the new age of horror with lots of bloodshed and torture for the sake of torture and gore. This film actually attempts to make a real “film” out of the premise, even if the plot is not exactly the thickest.
Some of the shots are out right creepy. I found that the pan away from close ups to reveal gore was a great technique. You see such a clever round about way of presenting the audience with so much, yet with so little, creating an atmosphere of horror that you aren’t seeing often.
The film pulls no punches, but when you start to peal away the layers of horror found in this film, you realize that it shouts 1970’s. While I appreciate the style and substance that this film brings, I felt like there was something more than could have been done. The ending kind of leaves you with a few questions, and that’s a shame. The film does such a good job setting up the final acts, that by the time you go through the motions and start to sympathize with the characters, the rug gets pulled out from under you.
Black Christmas is a good overall film and a classic horror film from the 1970’s. The remake is beyond brutal, but this one has enough class to leave you second guessing the sequences. We get a few good moments here, between crank calls, a psycho killer, and girls running around scared of what is around the corner, this film does a far better job than modern horror.
If you haven’t seen Black Christmas, or have just been lazy, this Christmas is the time to check it out. Black Christmas is a must own, watch, or rent for your Holiday of Horror. There’s a lot of great moments, and the film really captures the attitudes of college students in the 70’s and even throws in a great deal of drama to its characters. These characters, you care about, as the film progresses, and aren’t just throwaway pieces of meat, which is a rare thing in regards to horror film in general. Enjoy Black Christmas with your friends and dare I say family, before you’re left behind…no wait, you’ve already been left behind. 1974 hasn’t looked so good in a long time, but this one is a gem. Independent film makers should take note, this low budget horror flick has enough fun and horror to make it a standout for this and every season.
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