This holiday season, we at Psycho Drive-In would like to introduce you to the good, the bad, and ugly of not just any Holiday Films, but the Holiday Films you may have forgotten, overlooked, or just didn’t realize were Holiday Films. There’s no Rankin-Bass, no Miracles on any streets, no traditional happy family gathering fare. Instead there’s a lot of blood, violence, some terrorists, monsters, and even aliens. Plus more than a couple of bizarre Anti-Santas to go around. Twelve days, twelve films, twelve opportunities to amuse and disturb your families this holiday season. On the First Day of Christmas, Kelvin Green gives to you, Black Christmas (1974). As everyone knows, Halloween was the first slasher film. Of course, there are films — like Peeping Tom and Psycho — that lay some of the groundwork, but it is in Halloween that the genre is born. Except that four years earlier, the Canadians invented the calendar slasher movie with Black Christmas, only no one noticed, probably because it’s Canadian. All the usual slasher ingredients are included years before any of them were invented, as if someone involved in the production was psychic or had a time machine. There’s even a close-up of a hockey mask at one point. Less than five minutes in the film breaks out John Carpenter’s creepy point-of-view StalkerCam™, as a suspicious fellow infiltrates a sorority house in Toronto just before Christmas and proceeds to pick the girls off one by one in a variety of inventive ways. The women fit into the broad stereotypes of the genre; you’ve got Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) playing the drunken party girl, Andrea Martin as the nerdy one, and Olivia Hussey playing the quiet, demure Final Girl. To the film’s credit the characters are a bit more complex and interesting than is traditional in the genre, even though there was no genre and no traditions at the point it was made, but you get my meaning. There’s an attempt early on to suggest that Lois Lane’s erratic behaviour is the result of or a reaction to abandonment by her parents, and Hussey’s Jess is not as virginal as one may expect from a Final Girl, as at least some of the film’s drama is driven by the revelation that she is pregnant. It’s tempting to credit Black Christmas as a forgotten treasure of horror cinema but in truth it’s a bit rubbish. The aforementioned attempts at social realism are clumsy and come across more as melodrama, an impression that isn’t helped by dull and uninspiring acting from almost the entire cast; yes, the acting in slasher movies is often sub-par — once again Black Christmas is setting the trends! — but the performances in this film wouldn’t be out of place in a workplace safety video. One aspect in which the film differs from the genre that ignored it is that there is quite a bit going on, and much of it is unconnected to the central murder plot; this could be turned into a strength but here it gives the film an uneven feel. There are numerous scenes of broad comedy — Mrs. Mac trying to hide one of the girls’ erotic posters from her visiting father, or the fellatio scene, which is not what you think you filthy beggars — and Keir Dullea’s Peter gets rather too much screen time as we follow the tortured genius’ struggles with the musical establishment. It all feels like a week’s worth of soap opera episodes squeezed into an hour and a half, with added jokes and serial killers. All that said, while it is one of the incongruent comedic elements, James Edmond’s bewildered annoyance is wonderful. As Mr. Harrison — the aforementioned visiting parent — he splutters and blinks his way around the film as if he’s wandered in from a 70’s British sitcom about the hilarious class-based tension between a bank manager and some hippies, probably called something like In for a Penny. He sticks out like the sorest of all sore thumbs but he’s brilliant and charming and I could watch him all day. The same is true of JOHN SAXON, playing JOHN SAXON; he doesn’t get much to do in the film but he’s JOHN SAXON, so who cares? I’d even watch Twilight if he were in it. Well, maybe not. It would be unfair to say that Black Christmas deserves to be forgotten, because although parts of it are awful the film as a whole does have some entertaining and interesting parts — and also JOHN SAXON — and it does predict the slasher genre in the most uncanny ways, but it’s a historical curio more than anything. The internet tells me that it is a favourite of both Ramona Flowers-McClane — who starred in the remake and I’m not going anywhere near that, thank you — and popular comedian Steve Martin but I can’t agree. Much better slasher films were made in its wake and director Bob Clark went on to make a much better — although much less gory — festive film a few years later. It’s worth watching for a fan of the genre, if only because that film bore — you know the one — is going to mention it during any discussion of slasher movies and you can tell him you’ve seen it, that it’s not very good, and that you’d rather talk about something else, like which JOHN SAXON film is best. (It’s Enter the Dragon, of course. Merry Christmas.) See larger image Black Christmas [Blu-ray] New From: $29.90 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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