Black Christmas

Movie Information

In Brief: Merry Christmas from the Asheville Film Society with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (yes, the same Bob Clark who made A Christmas Story). What better way to celebrate the season than with the original “slasher” picture? Yes, Black Christmas pretty much started it all — predating Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Though it flopped in 1974 (despite being rechristened Silent Night, Evil Night so it wouldn’t be mistaken for a blaxploitation picture), it has come to be recognized as the groundbreaking minor classic that it is. The plot is simple — sorority girls being offed one by one by a crazed killer in the house — but the execution is surprisingly clever, creepy and restrained. At its core, Black Christmas is essentially an “old, dark sorority house” picture, but it offers variations that would soon become conventions. It draws from the land of the urban myth with its “oh my God, the killer is in the house” development (it’s only a development to the characters; we’ve known it all along). That’s part of terrorized-babysitter lore that goes back at least to the 1950s — and almost certainly earlier. It quickly became a staple. The much-debated use of subjective camera, where the audience “becomes” the killer, is here, too. You may recall that this became a controversy — mostly due to Siskel and Ebert — in the early 1980s as an example of the depravity of modern horror where the audience is, by implication, doing the killing. This was said mostly in reference to Friday the 13th, but it’s also used here. (The theory fails to consider that — in both of these cases — the approach is less psychological than utilitarian, since it keeps the viewer from seeing who the killer is.) This excerpt was drawn from a review by Ken Hanke published on Dec. 15, 2015.
Genre: Horror
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin
Rated: R

The Asheville Film Society will screen Black Christmas Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at The Grail Moviehouse, hosted by Xpress movie critic Scott Douglas.


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