Thursday, 11 December 2014
Black Christmas (1974)
"That's the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doing their annual obscene phone call."
This film is so refreshing- one of the earliest slasher movies from before any of the tropes were truly established and so not weighted down by them. It also has that certain look that you find in the best films of the mid-'70s, all shot on proper film, brilliantly shot, naturalistically acted and with an emphasis on realism rather than glossiness of sound and picture. Oh, and Margot Kidder is in it.
The film is both very '70s and very Canadian, from the clothes to the sexual free-for-all to the ice hockey. At it's heart, though, its a well-rounded slasher which succeeds because of good characterisation, from the comical Mrs Mac with a bottle of whisky in every nook and cranny to the amusingly strait-laced Mr Harrison and from the realistically and terrifyingly misogynistic attitude of Peter towards Jess to the contrast between the virginal (and first to die) Clare to the deliciously naughty (and therefore doomed- tropes have to start somewhere) Barb, played by the brilliant Margot Kidder. The performances are as good as the characterisation, although perhaps Olivia Hussey is somewhat lacking in charisma. But even the police officers come across as individuals. It's a good slasher because it's a good film.
Best of all is the inconclusive ending; it isn't the red herring, but a semi- supernatural "Billy" in the attic, still reciting those creepy lines about "baby Agnes" and "what we did". That's how to do scary; undefined menace sitting there inexplicably in a world of realism.