Tuesday, December 20, 2005


"If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl... It's On Too Tight!" was the promotional tagline from the 1974 Canadian Christmas stalker film which (likely) created the genre that flourished in the 1980s. It is the Christmas holidays at a (unnamed) college around Scarborogh, Ontario. In one of the sorority houses, the few girls staying on campus for the holidays (for various barely-developed reasons) are getting some pretty obscene phone calls from a local nut-job. The straight-laced girl of the bunch, Clare, wisely offers the advice (especially if one knows they are in a horror film) "I don't think you should provoke somebody like that," to Barb, the baggage laden drinker of the bunch (played in a weirdly prophetic role by Canadian Lois Lane/occasional-crazy-lady Margot Kidder). This phone call is followed by the terrorizing and systematic elimation of the ladies of Pi Kappa Sigma.

Black Christmas is a moody and steady thriller which takes its time, and fetishizes the kill scenes much more like the Italian Giallos than the flood of American films which followed it. Of the two directors who popularized the slasher genre, John Carpenter with Halloween and Wes Craven with A Nightmare On Elm Street, it is certainly the latter who was stealing/paying-tribute to Black Christmas the most. First with the casting of John Saxon, who plays a competent police detective here (and both a father and a cop in Nightmare), as well as one memorable phone sequence involving a tongue. Craven's most successful film, Scream, even though it is knowingly making fun of the genre, is so similar that there probably should have been licensing involved.
In Black Christmas, there are many lingering shots on avacado bakelite phones, nearly to the point of fetishization, we even get to explore the inner guts of the local phone-switchboard. But the foulness that comes out of the speaker from Mr. POV-Shot psycho is geniunely creepy (strangely evokative of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Make no mistake that the film is purely a product of Canada. First off, the director, Bob Clark, would later go on to make the very successful Porkey's (which may have kick-started another genre, the modern teen gross out/sex film, but that is another story) and the Canuck equivalent (in Yuletide event status) of It's A Wonderful Life: A Christmas Story. Odd casting bits are all over the place, from the aforementioned Ms. Kidder, to a straight-up performance from pre-SCTV Andrea Martin, to the lead actor of a bonafide Canadian masterpiece, Goin' Down The Road, Doug McGrath, who plays the dopey (and picked on) Sgt. Nash, to finally the couple of "eh" spouting Bob & Doug types scouring the neighborhood with shotguns.

Come out and catch this horror classic before it is remade by the X-Files folks in 2006. (Yes, every horror movie is going to be remade over the next few years)

Drinks at 8, Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm - Tuesday December 20


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