BLACK CHRISTMAS at the Hi-Pointe Midnights this Weekend!
“Filthy Billy, I know what you did nasty Billy!”
This weekend St. Louis audiences will have the opportunity to see BLACK CHRISTMAS in its big screen glory as part of the Destroy the Brain monthly Late Night Grindhouse film series. It will be screened midnights in a 35mm print at St. Louis’ fabulous Hi-Pointe Theater (1005 McCausland Avenue) this Friday and Saturday (December 8th and 9th). The pre-show begins at 11:30.
BLACK CHRISTMAS was one hell of a claustrophobic and bleak holiday gift that gave me the genuine willies when I saw it just down the road from the Hi-Pointe at the Esquire cinema back in 1974 (when the Esquire was still a single-screener). I was 12 years old. It’s not nearly as blood-soaked as some of the Late Night Grindhouse‘s past offerings but BLACK CHRISTMAS, generally acknowledged as the forerunner of the “slasher” genre, is so graphic in its imagination that you don’t even need to see any gore or murder. BLACK CHRISTMAS holds up spectacularly well and everyone should thank the Destroy the Brain guys and the Hi-Pointe theater staff for the opportunity to see this blood-curdler on the big screen. Basically BLACK CHRISTMAS tells the tale of a group of sorority sisters that are hounded and harassed by a mysterious obscene crank caller. Circumstances take a disturbing turn when one of the poor gals winds up missing (She’s the one up in the attic throughout the movie! With the plastic bag over her head!). Up next is an investigation and the appearance of a few more dead bodies, ultimately leading up to a finale that will forever be etched in your mind when you tuck under the covers and prepare for sleep (which may actually never come).
BLACK CHRISTMAS was made before the thousands of cliches of the slasher genre became typical, and it set the tone & atmosphere for years to come. HALLOWEEN has the mystery of who the killer is nearly down pat; it was a holiday horror with a stalker and anonymous phone callers but it came out a full four years after BLACK CHRISTMAS. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS took the nerve-strumming concept from BLACK CHRISTMAS and used it for the opening act, where “the calls were coming from inside the house.” Many slashers to follow would use BLACK CHRISTMAS ‘ “Is that you?” line when a character would wonder who is lurking about. Today, the creepy caller often gets spoofed (SCARY MOVIE) or updated in the form of a less effective cell phone (SCREAM). The Canada-filmed terror of BLACK CHRISTMAS has influenced so many subsequent shockers that it feels like a crime that it is rarely seen as the powerhouse it deserves to be acknowledged as.
Upon initial release in the US the titled was changed to SILENT NIGHT EVIL NIGHT because the American distributor worried that the title BLACK CHRISTMAS might cause the film to be mistaken for a blaxploitation film (!). However the film didn’t do well under this new title and it was changed back to BLACK CHRISTMAS, and was a success. BLACK CHRISTMAS sports a stellar cast that includes Olivia Hussey (ROMEO AND JULIET), Margot Kidder (acting drunk and slutty), John Saxon (acting drunk and studly), Keir Dullea, and Andrea Martin (who would play the house mother in the forgettable 2006 BLACK CHRISTMAS remake). Add to the mix director Bob Clark, one of the most eclectic independent directors ever, and a born storyteller (the man was responsible for A CHRISTMAS STORY, PORKY’S, and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS). No doubt, if Bob Clark could’ve copyrighted the slasher movie concepts and cliches that he created, he would’ve been just as famous as John Carpenter or Wes Craven, maybe even more. If you really want to spend a week hiding under your covers, track down Clark’s 1972 Monkey’s Paw/zombie riff DEATHDREAM (aka DEAD OF NIGHT)which is, believe it or not, even scarier than BLACK CHRISTMAS.
We hope to see everyone at The Hi-Pointe Theater (1005 McCausland Avenue) this Friday and Saturday (December 8th and 9th). After watching BLACK CHRISTMAS, ’70s horror at its most inventive and creepy, a ringing phone will never seem the same!
The Hi-Pointe Theater site is HERE
Destroy the Brain’s site is HERE
The Facebook event page for the Friday night show is HERE
The Facebook event page for the Saturday night show is HERE