Black Christmas – The Origins of the Slasher Film

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@ventspleen2014 decks the halls with bits of bodies and revisits Black Christmas…

I'm going to kill you Black Christmas If you aren’t that good at history or really young you’d be forgiven for thinking that Halloween inspired the genre we know and love as the slasher film. You’d be forgiven but you’d be wrong! Actually, Halloween and the Friday the 13th films were, themselves, inspired by Black Christmas (or Silence Night, Evil Night or Stranger in the House) Released in 1974 it tells the story of a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered during the Christmas break. Black Christmas itself was inspired by urban legend of “The Babysitter and the man upstairs” (girl babysitting alone is terrified to realise that she isn’t and he’s insane) it was also said that the film had some true event type origins in a real life Christmas slaying that took place in Canada.

Written by A. Roy, Moore and directed by Bob Clarke ( he also directed the 2006 remake) and starring Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder it is, still to this day, a gripping and horrific story. It’s hard to believe watching now that the plot twist of nuisance and abusive calls made from the killer actually being made from inside the house is anything other than “same old, same old” (the plot device was used brilliantly in Scream though) But think about it, a man’s house is his castle (or some such rubbish) so to be stalked and murdered from within that place of safety really does mess with your head.

Festive scene from Black Christmas

All the hallmarks of a great slasher films are present here, from the inept law enforcement right through to the shocking death scenes. Olivia Hussey (Jess) brings an incredible performance and as the body count and calls increase so does her desperation to uncover who is responsible. The atmosphere of suspense is further cranked up with the killer still calling throughout the film, indeed this is the very centre of the action and provokes Jess and her sorority sisters into turning on themselves. Margot Kidder is also amazing here as Barb Coard (slightly hard faced bitch) as it is Barb that provokes the killer and the events that the film focuses on.

Breathless- Black ChristmasWhilst Clarke’s remake in 2006 wasn’t exactly terrible it was a little too polished for my liking. It lacks the gritty shocks of his original and certainly the performances are not as memorable. This is due to Black Christmas being attributed to the start of all things slasher in films and, as a result, the plot devices and twists we have become familiar with were very new at the time. I am delighted to be starting our Christmas viewing with Black Christmas, it is seen by many as the best festive horror film ever made. Whilst many other films content for this title, it is true to say                                                                             that most owe their existence to Black Christmas.

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