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31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 17: black christmas

Day 17 of 31 Days of Festive-Ass Flicks [CALENDAR] was the first movie that had to be subbed in because of accessibility issues. I feel like a secondary name for this project could have been “Ways in Which Netflix Randomly and Suddenly Messes with Their Customers for What I Am Sure Are Real Legitimate Reasons but to Us Seem Totally Arbitrary and Mean”.

This wasn’t just a subbing in a movie, this was, “Oh shit, this screws up DVD returns and throws off the schedule and oh oh. Shit.” Netflix pulled Santa’s Slay off of Instant and there wasn’t anything else I wanted/was willing to watch for a direct sub, so I had to order a DVD and swap around some dates and then because I was behind anyway (which is obviously my fault, not Netlix’s) it threw me off an additional day around the 16th because I had to wait for Meet Me in St. Louis. OH THE LIFE OF AN UNEMPLOYED BLOGGER IN THE MIDDLE OF A PROJECT. SO HARD.

Anyway, I ended up watching Black Christmas because I wanted to make sure that I got a holiday horror movie in here. And I watched the 1974 original instead of the 2006 remake because I don’t hate myself. [Spoilers!]

It was super, super good. And creepy. And unsettling. And quiet. And had a tiny body count compared to more recent (not just RECENT, but really starting with the 80s) horror movies ESPECIALLY because it broke the sort of accepted rule that someone’s GOT to eat it in the first fifteen minutes, if not in the first scene. This thing is SLOW, but not boring.

It set up a nice, pretty, yule-ish scene with the lights and the cold and frosty windows and the drunken sorority celebrating and then it starts to hover around uncomfortable with the first of the series of obscene/terrifying phone calls and then it just gets more and more uncomfortable. And it’s never really grisly, except maybe once, but otherwise the deaths are off-screen and subdued as the number of available victims dwindles.

I think one of my favorite aspects of this is that the police are TOTALLY involved in what’s happening — the missing girl and the phone calls — but it still keeps happening. We’re taught from such a young age by our culture that the police will protect us, that if we go to them, they will stop bad things from happening. But in this they don’t. They can’t. And I can’t help but feel that’s maybe a lesson we should all learn a lot earlier. These officers are largely well-meaning, they want to help, they’re interesting characters in and of themselves, but there’s nothing they can do to save these women. The calls are coming from inside the house. And even in the end as one stands guard to protect the sole survivor inside, the phone rings. And rings. And rings.

THAT SHIT IS SCARY.

I was really into the liberated women in this and the way they bumped against the men who didn’t want them to be. The first victim’s (Clare) father sort of implies that her being missing is better than her running off to a cabin with a dude. And she’s totally depicted as the pure one. Margot Kidder totally creeps her out and she clutches a cross in discomfort and shock/disgust. And she totally dies first. Jess is pregnant and utilizes her newly minted reproductive autonomy (Roe v. Wade, 1973) to decide to get an abortion and her boyfriend FLIPS OUT. Margot Kidder is IN CHARGE of herself and even though she’s drawn as the sort of… IDK, stereotypical 70s floozy? She is in charge. And she doesn’t care that other people judge her. She dies too — after asserting her sexuality and also getting a kid drunk.

The Chaste and The Promiscuous both die in this world. Interesting though is the difference in their deaths. Clare is suffocated with a plastic bag and displayed in a rocking chair, looking out over the winter night outside. Margot Kidder is stabbed to death with a glass unicorn in the only scene of truly visible murder and even that is subdued because of careful framing. The only gory emphasis is on the blood-covered unicorn in the killer’s hands. And then she’s found dead, displayed IN BED with another person (Phyl). SO FASCINATING.

Jess survives (at least the length of the movie) even though she wants an abortion. I feel like… we almost couldn’t get away with that now? I watch American Horror Story and, like, it took a billion damn episodes for them to even SAY the word abortion and it’s constantly, continuously condemned at every turn if not in words than in literal punishment of the women who seek them and the doctor that provided them. I don’t know how more than 35 years have passed since Roe v. Wade and we’ve gone fucking BACKWARDS on reproductive rights, but we definitely have. [If you didn’t know this was an extremely pro-choice blog, you do now! Unrestricted access to abortions for all people who can get pregnant.]

ANYWAY, this was a great movie. It was a great horror movie and a nice addition to the holiday season. ALSO, it was directed by Bob Clark who directed one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, A Christmas Story. And that’s really delightful and wonderful and he’s so skilled and awesome.

I loved Margot Kidder and her snide-ass attitude. Telling the cop the exchange on the house number was FELLATIO. And “the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are making their annual obscene phone call.” So good. I also deeply enjoyed the cop telling the other cops the fellatio thing and how hard they laughed. “What? It’s something dirty, isn’t it?”.

Also, when Peter (Jess’s boyfriend) first shows up, I was like, “Is that Malcolm McDowell?!” because I was watching it all shrunk in a small corner of my laptop screen. It’s not Malcolm McDowell, but according to IMDB Trivia, the role WAS originally offered to him. So they just hired another dude that basically looks like Malcolm McDowell. You gotta do what you gotta do. Also Jess is Juliet in the really famous/boring version of Romeo & Juliet that all of our high school teachers made us watch. And when she worked with Steve Martin, he was like, “I LOVE YOU. YOU’RE IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES.” and she was like, HAIR FLIP, “ROMEO AND JULIET?!” and he was all, “LOL NO BLACK CHRISTMAS.” A+, Steve Martin.

The last shot of the movie is really haunting. The totally unaware cop in front of the house and the ringing phone, the audience totally aware that the real killer is still inside the house with the remaining survivor. Totally creepy and excellent! But obviously the image that lives in infamy (aside from Clare’s head encased in a dry-cleaning bag) is that eye staring at Phyl through the crack in the door. So simple, so creepy.