Archive for Black Christmas

Horror by Year: 1974

Posted in Horror by Year with tags , , , , , , on April 10, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

This is my first Horror by Year blog where I’ll give my top picks of the whatever year I go with. No reason for starting with 1974, but this was a fantastic year for the horror genre. There are certain films I haven’t seen and some I haven’t seen in a while to fairly rate. So at anytime this list can be edited. I don’t wanna add films to reach a certain number. So I went with my 6 favorites of the year.

6. Silent Night, Bloody Night- *** Out of 5

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5. Frightmare- **** Out of 5

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4. House of Whipcord- **** Out of 5

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3. Living Dead at Manchester Morgue- **** Out of 5

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2. Black Christmas- ***** Out of 5

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1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre- ***** Out of 5

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Black Christmas (1974) Review

Posted in Black Christmas, Christmas Themed Horror Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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BLACK CHRISTMAS

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- If This Movie Doesn’t Make Your Skin Crawl it’s on too Tight!

Release Date- December 20th, 1974

Running Time- 98-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Roy Moore

Director- Bob Clark

Starring- Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Doug McGrath, James Edmund and John Saxon

Released in 1974 Black Christmas has gained a massive cult following over the years and is now rightfully seen as a horror classic and while I hold the film in high regard I don’t hold it as high as some fans of the movie do. John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween is often cited as the first slasher film and the one that paved the way for the slasher flicks of the 80s; the latter is fairly accurate, but not the former. There were other slasher flicks prior to Halloween with Black Christmas being one of them and one can even cite the Gialli as an inspiration for many slasher flicks since they two have a lot in common in the basic structure, but it was Halloween even if not the first slasher was the one that made a whole lot of money opening the door for the slasher flick.

Black Christmas and Halloween often get compared with some people calling Halloween a knock off film, which really isn’t true. Both films focus on suspense and tension rather than action and gore, but the truth is both films are actually quite different and any similarities aren’t that close for Halloween to be called a knock off film. Like I said they have a few things in common, but the basic style of the films are quite different. Bob Clark once stated he told John Carpenter about doing a sequel where the killer breaks out of an insane asylum, but it was Irwin Yablans who came up with the Halloween setting not Carpenter or Debra Hill and while I’m not calling Bob Clark a liar and even he’s gone back on what he said, but I don’t think Carpenter stole anything from Bob Clark.

Black Christmas is a style of film that sadly is mostly forgotten in the days of more violence and more gore and less on suspense. As much as I loved the 80s the decade started off great, but soon drifted off into mindless violence, but even with that the 80s was still an excellent era for the horror genre, but nothing can top the 70s. What I loved about 70s horror is not only were these movies horror flicks, but they also had a touch of drama and in the case of Black Christmas also a little bit of comedy.

The screenplay by Roy Moore is very smart and creative; the script has a simple idea, but is very well thought out and relies more on being subtle rather than spelling out everything for the audience. The “Billy” character is a mystery, which really makes things chilling. You can get some info based on the phone calls, but then again how much of this is true and how much are the ramblings of a lunatic? Billy’s motives are never made clear and sometimes that can slightly hinder a movie when nothing is explained, but when too much is explained the mystery is taken away, but Roy Moore gives just enough detail to retain the mystery of the villain.

I personally believe that Roy Moore’s intention with the phone calls is to give the viewer some insight to the character of Billy and what he’s saying as incoherent as it is has something to do with his past and I think the final outcome is highly effective, but you can also simply see it as some lunatic that has such a warped mind and his rants mean nothing, but the script was really intelligent. Even though I think the things Billy says has some kind of meaning he’s still a mystery; where did Billy come from? Does he go from town to town stalking and killing people to recreate a murder from the past? Or does the sorority house have some kind of meaning for him and it’s obvious Billy is insane, but does he have moments where he can maybe sort of function in reality? Did he possibly escape from an asylum? You can let your mind run away with you while watching the movie and that makes things more effective, but Roy Moore also delivers just enough insight that we don’t feel as if it’s a cop out.

The characters each have their own identity and while they may not have the most depth they aren’t however faceless victims, which for me always makes a movie better since if we at least care for the characters a little bit it makes the suspense play out much better. Besides writing a solid horror flick, Roy Moore also is able to add some drama and comedic elements and they all work and never feel out of place.

I would hate for people to judge Bob Clark on his later flicks such as Baby Geniuses as well as The Karate Dog; there is no doubt these movies were horrid, but with Black Christmas and Deathdream, Clark proved himself a worthy filmmaker. Maybe he just got lucky? I don’t have the answer for that, but Black Christmas is prime example on how to make a chilling horror flick and sadly this is something we hardly see anymore. As much as I love the 80s that did start using nudity and gore to make up for weak filmmaking. From the very opening scene Bob Clark sets a tone and is able to deliver some of the best feel of tension in any horror flick I’ve ever seen; some people might see Black Christmas as slow paced, but I disagree. To me a slow paced movie is one where there are scenes in which the movie doesn’t move forward. Every scene in Black Christmas somehow moves the movie forward in either story, characters or suspense.

I’m not sure what happend to Bob Clark with his later movies, but with Black Christmas he hits all the right notes as the movie has this amazing sense of dread that is present through-out the entire movie and even if a scene or two might be a little slow it never gets boring due to the eerie feel. I’ve seen a lot of horror flicks in my life and very few have managed to be as chilling as Black Christmas. That’s why I go back to what I said earlier on how I’d hate for people to judge Bob Clark on some of his later films since at one point he made some classics of the horror genre. Tragically Bob Clark was killed in a car accident with his son in 2007 by a drunk driver, but his legacy will forever live on with Black Christmas, which is prime example on how to make a horror movie. I’d advise any filmmaker to study Black Christmas to learn how to structure a movie.

Unlike most films of its type Black Christmas has solid acting and cult Icon John Saxon delivers an excellent performance, Olivia Hussey makes for an excellent and sympathetic final girl and Keir Dullea is rather creepy in another excellent performance in Black Christmas, but it’s Margot Kidder and Marian Waldman that really stand out with hysterical performances.

Overall Black Christmas is one of the more chilling horror movies you’ll see and what it lacks in violence it more than makes up for with suspense and a chilling feel through-out and Billy makes for one of the most chilling villains in any horror film. Its movies like Black Christmas that reminds me why I love the horror genre as much as I do.

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Black Christmas (06) Review

Posted in Black Christmas (2006), Christmas Themed Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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BLACK CHRISTMAS

** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Terror Is Coming Home for the Holidays

Release Date- December 25th, 2006

Running Time- 92-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Glen Morgan

Starring- Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kristen Cloke, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lacey Chabert, Crystal Lowe, Oliver Hudson and Andrea Martin as Barbara MacHenry

Horror purists weren’t too happy about a remake to Bob Clark’s 1974 cult classic Black Christmas and with good reason, but I’m actually not against remakes for the most part, now that doesn’t mean I like the idea that every classic and cult classic has to get a remake, but really remakes are no different than the sequels that dominated the 80s and 90s; both are made to cash in on the success of another movie the only difference is one continues the story the other starts it over. Black Christmas for the longest time was an almost forgotten movie, but over the years it gained a massive cult following and in time that audience grew larger and larger.

Don’t go in expecting the remake to be anything like the original; truth it outside of a few aspects Black Christmas 06 is a totally different movie and feels more like a remake of your run of the mill mid to late 80s slasher flick. Everything that made the original film such a classic of the genre is nowhere to be found in the remake and while the original Black Christmas is prime example on how to make a horror film the remake is one of those movies that sort of falls into the category of so bad its good, well sort of.

What made the original so great was the fact writer Roy Moore doesn’t explain every last detail to the viewer and Billy was very much a mystery. If you listen to what Billy says you can get some insight, but not the whole story, you get just enough info again to get some insight into his psychotic mind, but it still keeps the character mysterious or you can just see what Billy says has nothing more than rants by someone who is clearly insane, but Glen Morgan creates a whole backstory for Billy and thus takes away any mystery the character had in the original. I wouldn’t want Morgan to simply do a rewrite of Roy Moore’s script, but I think he missed what made it such a wonderful screenplay; Billy and Agnes are explained in full detail, but the worst part is the backstory, which was idiotic and silly.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween also had a backstory, but in my opinion at the end of the day Michael was still Michael, but in Black Christmas everything that made Billy so chilling is lost and the phone calls in the movie were rather pointless since everything is already explained the phone calls offer nothing for the movie and feel as if they are just there for the sake of it.

Glen Morgan has done some good work and he’s best known for writing episodes of the X-Files and Final Destination, but as I stated before with his script for Black Christmas he missed everything that made the original so excellent. The characters in the original may not have been the best developed, but they were interesting and had their own identity, but in the remake all the characters are so miserable they’re better off dead and they are all basically the same. Kelli (Cassidy) is the only character that sort of stands out from the rest and is fairly likeable. The screenplay by Morgan very much has faceless victims; at least in the original you could maybe root for some of them whereas here the sooner they die the better.

As director Glen Morgan fairs just as bad; the original Black Christmas had a great sense of eerie atmosphere and always had the feel of looming danger, but Glen Morgan never establishes any sort of tone for the movie and he seemed unsure if he wanted to make a campy flick or a suspenseful flick. Everything in the direction is sloppy with zero suspense. Also despite running at 82-minutes (not counting the credits) it does feel a bit longer than that. Based on interviews it was clear Glen Morgan had no passion for the project and the very much shows in his lifeless direction. He’s stated he’s making a movie the audience wants with gore and jump scares and while sadly this is what the audience wants I think they also want a scary flick something this film sure as hell wasn’t. If the original Black Christmas was made today I’m sure the movie would most likely flop and be called boring by the idiot audience so I understand where Glen Morgan was coming from. But that doesn’t mean he still can’t create any suspense or some kind of eerie tone for the movie. Many of the early 80s slasher flicks like My Bloody Valentine would balance gore with legit attempts at suspense, but Black Christmas only gets the gore done right.

The backstory comes out so idiotic I couldn’t help, but laugh at most of it and the problem I had though was I wasn’t quite clear if it was meant to be comedic. I honestly can’t believe for a second that Glen Morgan thought any of this was scary or creepy, but regardless the way it comes out it’s not clear if it was meant to be campy and that’s just sloppy direction. Everything that happens in the movie I refuse to believe Glen Morgan ever had any intention of making a movie that was scary or suspenseful in any way what so ever. Black Christmas is a very poor made flick, which was surprising since even though I didn’t love Willard I thought it was fairly good and at least well made, but what the hell happened here?

After Willard was a box office flop it made it tough for Glen Morgan to get another job directing and I understand in Hollywood you need success if you wanna keep working, but I can’t respect Glen Morgan for totally selling out and pissing all over the original. By no means do I think the remake in anyways tarnishes the legacy of the original since the movie will always be there for us to view, but it does disrespect everything that made the original the classic chiller it is. Typically in my reviews no matter how negative a review I write I always try and add some positives to the filmmaking, but Glen Morgan doesn’t deserve any credit. If he went into this film with a passion for it I’d ease up, but all he cared about was a paycheck.

The kill scenes are pretty much the same over and over again, but at least there was a decent level of gore something this movie very much needed. When the victims are stabbed it’s done repeatedly and so over the top, which only makes it more hysterical and in no way scary. For some reason Glen Morgan decided to make Billy a cannibal and these scenes are probably the funniest; with the idiotic kill scenes and cannibal Billy it can provide some decent laughs intentional or not.

The cast was fairly good and slasher flicks are often known for having some very hot women and Black Christmas is no different; all the girls are hot and at least we have something nice to look at with all the idiotic moments. The performances are about the only thing really positive about the movie and while none of the performances were great or anything they are strong enough and make the material a little better than how it turned out. All the actors play their roles straight, which does also make it a little funny since everything around them is so absurd, which brings me back to what I said earlier on how Glen Morgan’s direction was unclear on what he was trying to make.

Despite my review on Black Christmas I actually didn’t hate the movie since it’s so idiotic that sometimes that makes the movie fairly entertaining. This is the kind of movie you sit back and just laugh at how idiotic everything happening on screen is, so the movie does provide a little bit of fun. Black Christmas sort of plays out like a parody of the original even if that wasn’t the intention or was it? Based on my first viewing I found the movie idiotic, but a little bit of fun whereas now I just find the movie mostly idiotic. Overall Black Christmas has some fun moments, but overall it’s mostly a dud and an insult to the original. While I can’t really recommend this, but if in the right mood it can provide some laughs due to the horrid filmmaking.

And despite my negative review I would actually watch this again since again its poor, but can also be fun at times.

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