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Merry & Messed Up: “Black Christmas”

December 8, 2009

Olivia Hussey receives a disturbing holiday greeting in "Black Christmas"

Hi, welcome to my Christmas series! It’s for people who don’t like Christmas. For twelve dreary days, I will be sharing ten of my favourite off-kilter Christmas movies, with two musical interludes. Sound like fun? Well, screw you.

The first day of Christmas: “Black Christmas”

Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) is a horror classic that pioneered much of what we’ve come to expect from slasher flicks. While the film is largely forgotten (it has nowhere near the mainstream cache of John Carpenter’s later Halloween), many of its pleasures have gone on to become regularly quoted cliches. Olivia Hussey brings the same patrician delivery from her role in Romeo and Juliet to Jess, a college girl with boyfriend troubles. This time Hussey is a sorority girl running away from a perverted serial killer instead of one-half a star-crossed Shakespearian couple, but her sameish plucky girlyness serves well to outline Jess, who is not only fighting for her life but also for the right to buck society’s expectations and abort her unwanted pregnancy. Her unconventional home — an all-girls house where lewd jokes are encouraged and alchohol flows freely — becomes a threat itself, as a male power from above routinely punishes the female characters and Jess has to wonder, and quickly, whether or not to trust the men in her life, all of whom range from sketch to scary to just inept. But if you think this is a feminist fist-pump, watch out. The film is just like the killer, and it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from. The Christmas setting actually heightens the tension, the snowy campus is dark and oppressive and the holiday cheer emanating from the stupid side-characters focuses the fear in Jess’s disconcertingly large eyes. For anyone who’s ever dreaded their home over the holidays, Black Christmas is both fun and true. Be afraid and trust no one.

Merry & Messed Up: Because Christmas is for everyone, even those who hate it.

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