It’s been a long Christmas holiday, and your humble narrator chose to take a week off from the box office wrap, but I didn’t use the time to go check out Letters from Iwo Jima, or Children of Men. And I didn’t stay home and watch It’s A Wonderful Life. No, instead, I went and saw Black Christmas.
As my most ardent, possibly deranged, fans know, I’ve been struggling recently with the realization that I am a movie snob. But I’ve generally liked the stuff that Glen Morgan and James Wong have done, all the way back to The X-Files. And is there any greater B-movie glee than that chick getting hit by the bus in Final Destination?
So I thought that their remake of the 1974 Christmas-themed slasher flick (which was directed, ironically, by Bob Clark, who would go on to make the perennial holiday classic A Christmas Story. Go figure.) might give me a little push down the road to recovery. But lest you think my review is somehow disingenuous, or that I’m just trying to win your respect back, let me put your fears to rest. I know you never had any respect for me, and Black Christmas is, without question, an objectively bad movie.
And yet, there is one circumstance in which I highly recommend it.
Some Friday night, if it’s still playing, get some friends together, call a cab, and go to a bar around eight-thirty or nine. Have a few drinks, and then take a cab to the theatre. And not the big multiplex with the high-back, reclining seats. Go to that one that’s a little closer, but the seats aren’t as comfortable, the floors are sticky, there’s no cupholders, and the sound and projection aren’t that good. Don’t worry, it won’t matter for this movie anyway.
Hopefully, there will be a decent crowd. DO NOT go to a matinee. I was both frightened and disturbed by the number of eight year olds watching the movie with their parents. You want the teenagers that snuck into the movie. You may laugh hysterically at the trailer for Blood and Chocolate, but the real show will begin about ten minutes into the movie. The people around you will begin to shout at the screen. And, in my experience (which is vast), most of the things they say will be pretty funny. And as the movie goes along, they’ll get funnier. Your friends will join in. If you’re lucky, popcorn will be thrown. And you will have a great, great time.
Ladies and gentleman, Black Christmas is the first truly worthy grindhouse classic I’ve seen in a long, long time. It is not just bad, it is gleefully bad.
People are talking about grindhouse movies because of the upcoming Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature, Grindhouse. For the uninitiated, the Wikipedia defines it thus: “Exploitation films, also known as Grindhouse cinema or trash cinema, are a genre of films that typically sacrifice the traditional notions of artistic merit for a more sensationalistic display, often featuring excessive sex, violence, and gore. Such films have existed since the earliest days of moviemaking, but they were popularized in the 1970s with the general relaxing of moral standards in cinema in the U.S. and Europe.”
I went to my first grindhouse show a few years ago, a double feature of Pieces and Nightmare. Four hours of the most retchidly, offensively bad cinema you can imagine, and it was one of the great movie theatre experiences of my life, because there were at least fifty people there and it was like sitting with the cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
And I tell you, this is where Black Christmas belongs. It doesn’t need time to date itself or anything. For one thing, it doesn’t beat around the bush. At all. You know how, in slasher movies, there’s always that first murder that’s usually someone irrelevant to the plot (see any Friday the 13th movie), and then nothing happens for twenty minutes while they set up the plot? Well this girl is still irrelevant to the plot, which could be summed up like this: “Claire? It’s Kelli. Where are you? Is that you over there?” (stabbed with an icicle), “Kelli? It’s Melissa. Where are you?” (trowel to the head) “Melissa? It’s Eve-” (impaled on a Christmas tree) (I’m not kidding). So that first death doesn’t matter, but since there’s no more plot to develop, they just commence with the absurdly graphic violence.
And there aren’t even any ‘creepy-music-I-think-she’s-going-to-get-killed-but-WAIT! It’s just a cat in the closet!’ moments. Every time you think someone’s going to die, they do. The characters- and I use the term loosely- are a fantastically dimwitted group of sorority sisters looked after by a housemother (Andrea Martin, of the ’74 original and, oddly enough, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) who forbids swearing but pays no attention as one girl drinks tequila until she throws up on the coffee table.
They are killed off in increasingly ridiculous fashion with startling rapidity, and yet Morgan and Wong just roar past any opportunity to duck out early with some graciousness (or perhaps mercy), instead drawing the movie out fifteen or twenty minutes longer than it ever should have been. Thirty at the most.
So as we watched this majestically awful film, two of my friends, in spite of the many small children surrounding us, began to make some off color jokes in what was not, shall we say, their indoor voices. And nobody shhhh’d them, or said anything. Some people laughed. And all through the theatre, you could feel the vibe that they wanted to join in. Like I said, it was the early crowd.
And even though we came out complaining about dropping ten dollars on it, and we were right to complain, I’d pay six bucks to see it again on a double bill with, say, Cannibal Holocaust.