Walking past a Hallmark store this past weekend, I was more than a little surprised to see a blazing Christmas display. Front and center, a huge tree with ornaments. All it was missing was a spotlight. In JULY. Now I get jumping the gun on a holiday – my kids are already planning their Halloween costumes and are concerned that they’re running out of time. But five and a half months before Christmas? No. Fuck you, Hallmark. That stings. That started a chain of thought that landed on the time when, in talking with a friend about Black Christmas (also known as Silent Night, Evil Night), I was met with a, “Oh, you mean the bad movie with Lacey Chabert?” No. No. Just, no. There are few times when I tell someone to leave my home – not knowing who Robert Johnson is will get you booted as well. This was one of those occasions. Since then, I’ve found that there are a lot of people that haven’t seen this one, and that makes me sad. It’s about a sorority house that’s being tormented by an obscene caller… who also happens to be hiding in the attic and killing people. In that case, crank up the air conditioning, throw on a goddamned sweater, and prepare yourself for a good, old-fashioned sleigh ride through hell. This is the closest I get to Christmas in July.
|Tagline: if your skin doesn’t crawl, it’s on too tight.|
#1 – Drunk, mouthy Margot Kidder
Lois Lane drinks! She swears! She antagonizes the obscene caller! Kidder’s Barb is extremely entertaining in this one. As a kid that grew up watching the Superman movies, I found it terribly funny when I saw it as a teenager. There’s something great about seeing a childhood favorite doing something totally different. Her portrait of an unfiltered, brash sorority sister is worth a view. We all know at least one Barb, so even if you don’t get the Lois Lane reference (really tempted to tell you to get off my lawn), you can connect to knowing someone like the character.
#2 – It’s creepy as all hell
The thought that someone could be living in your attic, taking people out and hiding them up there… yeah, it’s scary. Especially when you stop and think about how little sounds get explained away. The one year that my older sister and I were watching this one home alone, someone called in the middle of the film; I was the one that had to answer the phone, and I half-expected the prank caller on the other end. In fact, after I watch this one, I get a little skittish about being alone – this is one of the few films that will have this impact on me. Especially if my cat starts meowing and I don’t know where he is. You’ll see why when you watch it.
#3 – It’s a very good portrait of a couple dealing with an unplanned pregnancy
Olivia Hussey’s Jess and Keir Dullea’s Peter experience an unplanned pregnancy and can’t agree on how to address it. Considering that this came out a year after Roe v. Wade, the way it addressed the conflicting parties was pretty gutsy for the time; in America, abortion is still relatively sticky ground, even today. (Given, the film’s Canadian, but it still counts. Neighbors, you know.) Incorporating a young couple that is unraveling due to conflicting wants was not the kind of depth I anticipated from a slasher flick. It was well-executed. It still holds up today.
|This was a gutsy plot device. The gamble paid off.|
#4 – There’s a lot of paranoia
There’s a young girl missing in addition to the college student Clare. You will get to see the escalating fear of not being able to get in touch with someone… then not being able to find them… then no one else recalling seeing them for a bit. It’s that growing dread that builds. It’s a worst-case scenario for a loved one. That adds to a huge chunk of the tension for the film, and boy does this one exploit that sense of fear. Couple that with the references to the urban legend of the babysitter and the prank caller upstairs, and it will give you serious heebie-jeebies.
#5 – The soundtrack
Carl Zittrer did the soundtrack by warping the hell out of a piano’s strings. It’s one of the more atmospheric and creepy soundtracks I can recall. If you dig music that will go the extra mile and send shivers down your spine, this one’s for you.
This one isn’t gory at all, but it will make you hate your phone and your attic. Happy July!