The Friday Afternoon Movie: Black Christmas

Alright, this is it. This is the last Christmas post. Maybe. I think. Alright, at least from me it’s the last Christmas post. Either way, let it be known that the FAM stops for no man, woman, child, or holiday. The FAM is an intractable juggernaut; a force of nature. While the mighty wheels of Industry may grind to a halt on this day, the FAM is unwavering.

“Agnes, it’s me, Billy.”

Yes today’s FAM, in keeping with the holiday spirit, is Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, starring Margot Kidder. On the face of it Black Christmas seems like a typical slasher flick: sorority girls, creepy phone calls, and plenty of screaming. But it manages to overcome the limitations of it’s genre, making for a genuinely unsettling experience. Most of this is no doubt due to the masterfully crafted character of Billy. Never really seen, except for a brief shot of his eyes, the girls are only aware of his presence through the aforementioned phone calls; horrible, growling, squealing phone calls; his mood constantly shifting; pleading, threatening, angry, pitiful phone calls. Meanwhile, the viewer is much more in tune with Billy, his every deed played out from a first person perspective. Indeed, that may be Black Christmas’s greatest trick. We are complicit in these terrible acts. We are, in some ways, the perpetrators. It is only afterward that we are startled awake, left to the realization of what we’ve done, when that awful voice is heard through the receiver.

Black Christmas has achieved rightful cult status. In fact many may only know it from Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Clark himself is, of course, better known for another holiday classic, 1983’s A Christmas Story. His first Christmas outing, though, deserves more. It’s easy to dismiss Black Christmas as a simple slasher but to do so would ignore the superb sense of dread that he manages to achieve; to overlook all the subtleties and ambiguity that Clark was smart enough to include. So much is left unfinished and so little closure is provided to the viewer and justifiably so. After all the horrible things we’ve done to these girls, what solace do we deserve?

One Response to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Black Christmas”

  1. the.bricoleur Says:

    Around these parts the Christmas season does not pass without a double-feature of Black Christmas and Christmas Evil.