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Black Christmas (1974)

It is said that when John Carpenter asked Bob Clark what he would have done had he made a sequel to Black Christmas, he said would have had Billy caught and go on to escape a mental institution a year later, only to return to the house and have it all start over again. Only this time, on Halloween night. Sound familiar? It's very easy so see the inspiration that John Carpenter took from this film when he made Halloween, just 4 years later. With cinematography elements such as the point of view from Billy’s perspective and the long lingering location shots, only Carpenter could go on to utilise these techniques to a much higher standard, in my opinion. With the exception of John Saxon as lieutenant Ken Fuller, I found the rest of the cast to be very poorly written. The house-maiden played by Marian Waldman being the biggest culprit, very cartoonish and unconvincing with her performance. The constantly reoccurring hidden alcohol bottle gag wore very thin with me quite quickly and felt tonally out of place here. Olivia Hussey plays final girl Jess and for all her performance is rather strong, it is massively over shadowed by her unnatural English accent. I'm not sure if this a thing in older American films or if the actors were told to enhance or exaggerate their accent for the benefit of American audiences, but people do not speak like this. I found this to contain more than its fair share of irrelevant scenes that feel like they are there for filler purposes, all in order to add more depth to a very thin plot. The pregnancy sub-plot for instance feels pointless. As well as the extremely over bloated call tracing sections, this one in particular massively distrupts the dramatic tension with its insistence in showing us how the phone line is being traced. This is something that happened more often than not and causes serious harm to the film, cutting away from genuine moments of tension to show scenes these that could have all been done in one conversation, rather than being repeatedly drawn out and shown on screen. This film does an elaborate job of trying to insinuate that Peter is the killer throughout the films runtime and it’s not until the closing moments that this is revealed to not be the case. It is here we see Billy in the attic and the phone slowly starting to call out over the rolling credits. I found this to be the most well handled element and moment in the film. This not only confirms that Peter is innocent but that Jess killed him unnecessarily out of fear for her life. It also leads us to the conclusion that Jess will most likely not make it out of this situation alive due to everyone leaving, with her in bed and Billy still inside the house. This is such a small scene that provided so much context yet lingering questions in such a miniscule amount of time, it's a shame the rest of the film was not as strong as these closing moments. It's not hard to see why this film is considered an important one in the genre and how influential it would be of films that came after it, but that doesn't necessarily make this a good film. Conceptually, it has everything right, it just doesn't follow through with its execution. The poorly written characters and dialogue, along with multiple off screen kills and filler scenes cause this to feel rather cluttered in its final presentation. For me, I think this is possibly one of the more overrated films I have seen in horror. It has its moments of quality but was done better in every way possible, just 4 years later.



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