Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black Christmas

(Bob Clark, 1974)
Never immersive or cathartic, this distinctly gamey horror film is pure entertainment, saturated with craft and intelligence. The tension between amusement and anxiety that is Clark's trademark has never been more extreme than it is here, as a sorority house full of humorously incompatible types finds itself menaced by a ranting, slobbering, obscene-phone-calling killer from within. What an awesome cast! From Margot Kidder to Kier Dullea to Andrea Martin to Doug McGrath, everyone is clearly having a ball as they tense against type, and no one dominates - Lynne Griffith is still stealing scenes a full hour after she's been murdered. Yet the star of the show doesn't even appear onscreen - very few of the slasher films that "Black Christmas" prefigured are as adept in honoring the ambiguity of their psycho, and the integrity of the conception pays off in spades at the end, with a set piece even more haunting and controlled than the rest of them.

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