12 Days of Christmas: Black Christmas

It might not officially be The 12 Days of Christmas, but FILM IN WORDS will still fill your festive viewing schedule with cheer. From beloved movies that have become an irreplaceable holiday tradition to cult and lesser known Xmas cuts that promise to subvert and haunt your holidays, there’s something for everyone all the way up to Christmas Eve. First up, cheer turns to fear with cult horror, Black Christmas.

Black Christmas

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter

ALPHA BETA KILLA

What better way to celebrate Christmas than by murderously tearing through a sorority house of attractive twenty-something females. Some may celebrate the festive season by confidently tearing a turkey leg from its tasty carcass, or presenting handsomely wrapped gifts to one another, but those interested in living an alternative lifestyle and alternative Christmas movies should gravitate towards the subversive deviancy of cult 1974 horror, Black Christmas.

After receiving a series of obscene phone calls for several weeks, the exclusively female residents of a Canadian sorority house receive a particularly viscous and explicit phone call from the individual they have nicknamed “The Moaner”. One of the sisters, Barb (Margot Kidder), insults Mr. Moaner only to receive the response “I’m going to kill you!” Unfortunately the end of that shocking conversation is the beginning of a sinister a violent series of events which promise to spread blood and guts all over the walls as opposed to Christmas cheer.

Horror films are often a prime example in the argument of whether audiences are becoming more and more desensitized to extreme content. If that content is physical horror with a focus upon ripping, tearing and torturing human flesh, then it’s clear that such bloody material has infiltrated the mainstream and is here to stay thanks to films such as the Saw series and the many gruesome facsimiles it spawned. However, the mental trauma of emotional horror remains both a rarity and a deeply unsettling tool for not just any, but highly skilled filmmakers to utilise. Whether its 1974 or 2014, the dinner table scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all its incredibly bizarre elements is still hard to watch thanks to its sheer strangeness. It’s this inability to understand and process what you are witnessing onscreen which often allows Black Christmas to feel so affective and chilling. Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (both films were released in 1974) share a unique and downright nasty tone without immediately painting their claustrophobic environments red – electing to nurture a much more subtle sense of creeping dread.

Director, Bob Clarke, and screenwriter, Roy Moore – who passed away shortly after the film was released – present a group of women who are unique, intelligent, and most importantly autonomous from the creaking clichés of horror’s air-headed heroines. The killer, who we rarely see but often hear, and also witness events from his point of view, is both grounded in reality and deeply troubling; a believable combination based upon a spate of real-life Quebec murders and urban legends.

A fiendish cult horror that still jingles with a melody of old-fashioned fear, Black Christmas, with its mature characterisation and creepy haunted house with a Christmas tree aesthetic will satisfy many a horror fan on a dark, cold December night – just put your phone on silent.

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