Hey all! I’m back with my next installment on the list: the holiday slasher classic Black Christmas (1974).
First off, I want to say that this is not only a horror classic, it’s also a damn great film. Every time I watch it my appreciation for it grows. It pioneered the use of killer POV shots, which had been done the decade before in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960),
but it had never been employed in a slasher flick before. Whether or not that had an influence on John Carpenter, who would gain acclaim for his steadicam killer POV shots in Halloween (1978), is potentially up for debate. But I’ve read that Clark and Carpenter worked together on a project after this film and there was a discussion between the two men that may have inspired Carpenter to make his seminal slasher classic.
The film also should be noted for its themes of female empowerment by tackling a subject such as abortion, which is very uncommon in the horror genre, and originating the horror trope of the “final girl”. Bob Clark, who went on to direct another, albeit
slightly different, holiday classic, A Christmas Story (1983), proved to be ahead of his time with this perfectly paced, genuinely creepy, holiday horror film. Perhaps he was Shane Black before we had Shane Black? Who knows.
Ok, onto the scene! This is the first kill of the film and it involves the shy, innocent, perhaps not sorority material, Clare Harrison (Lynn Griffin). After the girls in the sorority hear one of “Billy’s” creepy, profane, threatening phone calls, Clare gets disgusted with Barb’s (the scene-stealing Margot Kidder) antagonizing of the caller and decides to go up to her room to pack before going home for the holidays.
On an editorial note: I had to merge two scenes together to create this video because Clare gets attacked in her room and then the film cuts away to the party going on
downstairs for a length of time. So the beginning of the video is Clare starting to pack but not noticing the menacing figure hiding behind the plastic clothes protectors in her closet, who eventually attacks her by wrapping the plastic around her head. And the second part of the video is the end result of the kill, which is an iconic image and will become a recurring motif, and (SPOILERS!) will actually serve as the ending shot of the film.
If you have been reading along you may have noticed my totally (ir)rational fear of
being suffocated, a la the plaster kill from Tourist Trap (1979) that appeared on this list at #19, so it should come as no surprise that I find this kill to be terrifying and it legitimately affects my breathing when I watch it. Thanks, Bob Clark.
Something else to note about the film, in general, is the cast includes the great Olivia Hussey, playing the protagonist, Jess, who carries the emotional weight of the film, John Fucking Saxon (yes, that’s his
proper name), and the previously mentioned, amazing, Margot Kidder, who is endlessly quotable and steals nearly every scene she’s in.
Check this movie out if you can. It’s a really good one.
Ok, I’ll shut-up! I hope you enjoy the scene and don’t forget to check back on Monday to find out which scene is #15 on the list of the Best Horror Movie Kills of All-Time!