Black Christmas

Black Christmas

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Some say Black Christmas was the first modern slasher movie. We think it’s a little more complicated than that – more of a psychological thriller with feminist overtones, not to mention a killer cast. But if you’re looking for a horror film with real Christmas spirit, leave it to the writer-director of A Christmas Story (yes, really!) to get you in the mood.

Come join us by the yule log as we unwrap this thrilling package.

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Black Christmas (1974)

Episode 11, 2 Guys and a Chainsaw

Todd:  Welcome to another edition of 2 Guys and a Chainsaw. I’m Todd. I’m Craig. And today is December 1st. We thought we kick off the holiday season with a series of Christmas themed horror films. Starting off with what I think is the epitome of the Christmas themed horror film, Black Christmas. 

Craig:  Yeah. It’s one of the big ones. And just to 

Todd:  be clear to everyone listening, we’re talking about the original Black Christmas from 1974, directed by Bob Clark. Correct. And not the newer one. Have you seen the newer one? I have. 

Craig:  It it’s Not as good, Todd. In fact, I I don’t think I would even recommend it. Okay. There the things some of the things that are are unique and good about this, They changed, and it it it didn’t work, at least, in my humble opinion. 

Todd:  You mean the remake actually screwed up the original? 

Craig:  Well, I know. I mean, 

Todd:  it’s hard to believe, but that 

Craig:  I don’t know. You know, even standing alone, Even standing is its own movie. It’s just not a very good movie. It’s it’s very typical slasher, in which, You know, is is what this film is, in a way. In in a way. You you know, they kind of credit Halloween with With establishing that kind of pattern for slasher movies, this actually came before. So maybe the slasher genre owes a little bit to this, but it’s unique in its own way too. 

Todd:  Yeah. I I sort of feel like this one, it it’s sort of the forgotten one. 

Craig:  Right? Yeah. And I don’t know why. I mean, it’s got, you know, people in it that you’re I recognize, you know, some pretty big names, people who’ve gone on to do some, other big stuff, and it wasn’t really received well Initially, I think it did moderately well at the box office. Critics hate it, but that’s no surprise. Critics aren’t usually big Fans of horror, but, over the years, it’s kind of established a cult following, and I think we horror fans are aware of it, but, general public maybe not so familiar. 

Todd:  Like you said, it has names in it that we’d recognize, and a director, Bob Clark, who this is not first Christmas film. Oh, right. He did, a Christmas story. 

Craig:  You know what? I think I knew that at one point, and I had completely forgotten. Now that you say it, I remember. 

Todd:  So, you know, Bob Clark, we have to thank for the dark and the light side, both of holidays, in my opinion. I mean, yeah, you know, Bob Clark had a great career. He did porkies. You know, he’s done both comedy. He’s done the horror. He did a great Sherlock Holmes movie. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it called Murder by No. No.   Starring Christopher Plummer. And if you’ve seen enough of these Bob Clark films, you see a lot of visual the visual style is very similar between all of them. It’s almost as though he shot on the same film stock Uh-huh. With all of them, but in same sort of camera lenses and just the same style that I really appreciate. It’s this classical filmmaking style as far as the cinematography and the way that the shots are lined up and stuff goes. It’s very straightforward, but he adds his own twist to it To really make it his own and to kinda modernize it for 19 seventies, you know, late 19 seventies, 19 eighties. This guy also did Baby Geniuses. Okay? That was one of his that was It’s the last movie.   So Wow. He’s had his hits and he’s had his misses, but he’s a really good director, and I really like what he does. 

Craig:  Yeah. I I mean, I think this is a a quality film. The Acting is good. The cinematography is good. The story is pretty simple, but, effective. I think overall, it’s It stands out as as being a quality film. 

Todd:  And, you know, you mentioned Halloween. It’s clear that John Carpenter has seen this film that was inspired by. I think Halloween came out a few years later or maybe a year or 2 later. Right. Either 79 or 80, if I recall correctly. And this well, this was 1974. Mhmm. And it starts Very similar to how Halloween starts.   Yeah. With that point of view, camera angle of this guy Coming up to a sorority house. And we know he’s a guy because we can hear the breathing. Right. Right. Kind of that Uh-huh. Kind of sinister Point of view shot coming up to the sorority house, the Pi Kappa Sigma house, and it’s Christmas time, and there’s a big party going on inside. Mhmm.   And he peeks in the window, And he looks around, and then we see these arms out in front of him as he grabs the trellis and climbs up into the attic of that house, and that sets it up. 

Craig:  Yeah. And that’s really kind of what, You’re right. Halloween made use of that, but this one takes it even farther in that really when the killer is around, We only ever see from the killer’s POV. You never I mean, you get little glimpses of the killer’s hands or maybe a little bit of silhouette and shadow, but very little. We never see, the killer straight on, and I think that’s a really effective thing. The the writer, of of the movie was not on board with that idea. That was the director’s idea. But when it When all was said and done, the rider ended up being very satisfied and thought that that was actually the right way to go.   And I agree. I think it’s it’s it’s kinda cool. Oh, yeah. 

Todd:  It’s a really good call in a couple ways. I mean, it it’s a good call because it keeps a little bit of a mystery, at at least for us as to maybe the killer that we see in the movie later on. But then you’re right. It’s just that notion that you don’t see him in the shadows. It’s that whole deal that we talked about before about how sometimes less is more Yes. And letting your imagination fill in. Even when we get outside of his POV and there’s a murder or killing going on, we don’t get more than a glimpse of a hand or an eye, right, or or anything like that. And the murders themselves are actually very tame.   They’re not tame in what they are. Right. I mean, people are getting Stabbed people are getting, you know, suffocated, but you it really mostly happens off camera. Mostly. 

Craig:  I mean, you get little glimpses, glances, Glimpses, of of the violence and gore, but it’s not the central focus. And again, you know, that was clearly a very intentional decision that was made, and it is. There Whether it be in literature, whether it be in film or whatever, I really think that sometimes leaving things to the imagination can be far scarier. One of the examples I always use is, funny games. Have you seen Funny Games? I haven’t. It’s it’s a home invasion movie, and it’s kinda typical in that way. But most of the violence and it’s Extremely violent, but most of the violence takes place out of frame. You will have the, it’s a family.   In the family, The action will be going on and and their tormentors. But as soon as the violence starts, all of the people move out of frame, but The camera stays, and so all you you hear everything, and it’s very effective in that movie, and it works it works Tier 2. 

Todd:  Yeah. Hearing things is sometimes even worse. Right. You you when you hear those screams and then your brain is left to the imagination, you know, that’s another thing I think this film does very effectively is the use of sound. Mhmm. We do, we hear, we see shadows, we hear creaking noises both in the silence, The the sort of not so quietness of an old house. Mhmm. 

Clip:  You know, 

Todd:  this is one of those movies that does a really good job of making the house a character. 

Craig:  Yeah. Yeah. And I thought, you know, it’s really a very stereotypical kind of movie sorority house, you know, this big old House and, it it’s decorated for Christmas. It just it feels very real. You know? It it feels like they’ve stepped into an actual Rority House and and just kind of filmed their their story, and it works. Yeah. And it’s cozy too. 

Clip:  Don’t you 

Todd:  get a cozy, yeah, homie. That’s it’s such a good Christmas movie if it wasn’t for people getting murdered. 

Craig:  I know. And that’s funny. You know, the opening shot is just, you know, this it’s, an outside shot of the house and the snow is falling, and the title comes up and it’s black Christmas and it’s kind of in this festive holiday font. I mean, it feels very much Like, you’re getting into a holiday movie, but then it gets into the brutality right away. I mean, the first murder, I think, is not even 10 minutes in. No. It’s really quick. Again, it’s kind of that juxtaposition of having a setting that seems safe and secure and then putting people in peril there.   It’s kind of a it’s a convention that gets used a lot, but well done. 

Todd:  Yeah. It’s really good. And that first murder is really what sets in motion. The plot really focuses around that first disappearance Yes. Is what it is to everyone else. Claire, Claire Harrison is the girl who goes upstairs to pack her things. This is, of course, Christmas time, and this is a sorority house. And so they’re all gonna be going home for Christmas.   Some of them are staying, and there’s a house mother in as well who’s coming in and kind of giving them their last that they’re doing a little exchange before they go. 

Clip:  Here we have the queen of Vodvos. Okay? Hey, Mary. Why is it that oh, Mary’s event. I’ve got a shopping. You know I think the store must take tacky lessons this time of year. I’ve never saw such a bunch of stuff. Missus Mac, come in the other room. We’ve got a surprise for you.   Come We got the room. We got a surprise for you. I don’t know if you have 

Todd:  another compliment. This girl goes upstairs to pack her things and, of course, gets killed. Mhmm. And immediately hustled up to the attic. Out of sight, so nobody finds a body, nobody anything. And so when her father shows up the next morning Looking, you know, looking for her and he’s she’s not there, that starts into motion, this question, which is juxtaposed with this that apparently they’ve been having for a little while now, which is that creepy caller Right. Who’s been making these prank calls to them. Really, really interesting. 

Clip:  Yeah. 

Craig:  And the first the first time that we get a call is before the 1st murder, and and they say that they’ve been getting these calls. And they call the guy on the other line, The moaner. And, the 1st call is kinda your typical nasty prank phone call. You know? A lot of It just kinda gross sexual stuff and 

Clip:  He’s expanded his act. Could that be 1 person? Oh, Claire. That’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doing their annual obscene phone call. 

Craig:  Now maybe you’ve seen this movie multiple times. This is really only my 2nd time seeing it all the way through. I I’m a little confused. Was the initial collar that they had been dealing with for a while. Is that the same guy as the killer, or is it just a coincidence that they had been getting weird phone calls and so they weren’t really particularly surprised when the killer started calling. 

Todd:  Yeah. That’s a really good question. I think it’s left ambiguous, and it may be even be a fault to the script. I don’t know where, Oh, it’s that moaner again. And as we learn out later in the movie, spoiler alert, this is the moaner calling from upstairs. But When they get that 1st phone call, which is clearly the same night that we see through his point of view, him coming into the house, either he was calling Previously, maybe he sort of set this up. Well and 

Craig:  the reason that I wondered is because the nature of the calls changes. You know, you get that first one that’s very sexually suggestive and gross, but then The calls that come after that aren’t like that anymore. It’s it’s still strange, but, instead, the person on the other end of the line is Speaking in different voices, sometimes a feminine voice, sometimes a masculine voice, and not the same voice throughout a call. It’s like He’s having a dialogue with either somebody else who we don’t know is there or himself using different voices. So I don’t know. I I I guess it’s not an easy question to answer. 

Todd:  Yeah. It’s a very schizophrenic thing, and I don’t think the movie ever really solves that question, but it is an interesting one you bring up, Especially having seen it a couple times, well, if this was the not the 1st call, then where did the previous calls come from? Right. Yeah. It’s I don’t know. It’s hard to Well, maybe this guy is a little more sort of a thoughtful and planned out kind of guy than we think. Although the nature of the Calls and the nature of everything that goes on that seems to suggest we’re talking about sort of a schizophrenic lunatic. 

Craig:  Right. He keeps calling and he keeps making references. He’s saying In a kind of childlike voice, mommy, mommy, and then in a in a kind of harsh female voice yelling, you know, Billy, don’t do that. And, then sometimes there’s the sound of maybe a baby crying or something. Agnes is a Right. There’s and there’s this whole But that’s part of what I don’t or part of what I like about it is that they never explain that. 

Clip:  Mhmm. 

Craig:  I think that not knowing is kind of creepier. I In fact, the remake goes way into that backstory. You you do see the killer throughout, and you get lots of Flashbacks to the backstory behind these these weird phone calls. And in the remake, it’s you know, this kid was abused by a terrible mother, and There was sexual abuse and there were I don’t know. I think maybe he was responsible for the death of a little sister or something like that, and that’s what drove him to the breaking point. And you do see him throughout the course of the film. And I don’t know why they made this choice, but, like, the killer is, like, Terribly jaundiced. Like, he’s he looks like an Oompa Loompa.   And and it just it’s it’s it’s silly. It it’s it’s not nearly as suspenseful, as as this film is. I didn’t like it nearly as much. 

Todd:  What’s funny, you know, everything you were describing except for the jaundice, it was what My brain was imagining when when you’re trying to sort of piece together this character, because you hear this childlike voice, you hear this mother’s voice, you talk about There’s talk about the baby, and, oh, what did we do? And, oh, we don’t tell her what we did, and don’t let Agnes know. Your your brain is just filling in this backstory of this character so much more effective. And if there had been some flashback scenes in here, it would’ve totally killed it for you. 

Craig:  Yeah. Yeah. It it does. And, you know, like you said, the things are suggested. You kind of put the pieces together. It’s almost at least the sense I got of it was, kind of a Norman Bates kind of thing where, this this killer is kind of, you know, speaking from his own character, but also kind of playing the role of his mother. And there’s the another psycho connection. The 1st girl that he kills, He takes her up to the attic, and he puts her in a rocking chair where she remains for the rest of the the movie.   And he interacts with her at times And and rocks her in the chair. He gives her a little baby doll to hold. I think he says mommy around her sometimes. So it kinda gave me that Norman Bates Kinda feel. And then something I didn’t you know, I’ve seen 

Todd:  this movie enough times, but it wasn’t until this time through it’s always something new, you know, and that’s how you know it’s a good movie. Yeah. It wasn’t till this time through, that last scene that sort of pans out from the house, it just hit me that this first body has been on display In the top window of this 3 story sorority house this entire time, anybody with a pair of binoculars Or maybe who would even just get close enough to the house and bother looking up in that window would have seen the figure that they’ve been looking for the whole Right. 

Craig:  Well, no. It it bothered me a little bit. I tried not to let it bother me because I knew that it would, you know, throw a big wrench in the plot. But not only is the 1st girl’s body up there, But the house mother eventually gets murdered up there, and her body remains up there too. There the police are involved. The whole town is, like, formed a search party. Everybody’s looking. Nobody ever thinks to look in the attic of the house.   No. I I I guess that kinda makes sense. I guess your first thought wouldn’t be, oh, they’ve disappeared into their own home. Yeah. But if you were, you know and and eventually, they don’t find the sorority girl that is is missing, But a local woman also comes to the police station to report her young daughter missing, and the search party does find that girl in a park. So they know there’s a killer out there, but, they don’t they don’t think to check the attic. Oh, well. 

Todd:  Yeah. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition. I mean, especially once the police get involved. And this is another thing about Bob Clark’s films is that he likes to inject a lot of humor into them. And this movie is just dripping with humor. 

Craig:  Oh, yeah. And it’s dark humor, but it’s really funny. And not even all of it is is that dark. Some of it’s just just straight up funny. Yeah. I I read that, Clark claimed That he rewrote a good amount of the the original script and that it was it was him who inserted that comedy in there. And it’s it’s a dark film, and it’s a spooky film, but you’ll but you’ll laugh. We laughed.   The comedy we’ve we’ve watched some other movies recently where the comedy is kind of Put front and center. And that’s not the case here. You know, this is it’s suspense. It’s it’s horror. There are just little moments, of light hearted comedy, and and they work. 

Todd:  Well, you know, I think the pace of the movie has a lot to do with that. This isn’t one of those films where, oh, no. Somebody’s missing and then Almost everybody conveniently is acting normally again 5 minutes later. A lot of these slasher films, oh, no. We discovered Sherry’s body. And then about 10 minutes later, everyone’s acting as though their friends are dead. You know? This is like a genuine concern and really sort of this tone across the film where The the father who’s looking is is staying at the sorority house a little bit, and they have to kind of entertain him. And in the meantime, he’s not approving of Almost anything that’s going on here.   1 of the girls is like a perpetual drunk. She’s played by Margo Kidder, and her name is Barb. And, she’s making lewd comments and talking about watching turtles have sex at the zoo. 

Craig:  Oh, god. And she’s she’s just fall down drunk through the whole thing. 

Clip:  There’s a certain species of turtle that can screw for 3 days without stopping. You don’t believe me, do you? Well, I mean, how could I make something like that? Barb, dear. I I I, no. Really. They just 3 days, 24 hours a day. Can you believe that? 3 days? I’m lucky if I get 3 minutes. Do you know how I know this? Because I went down to the zoo, and I watched them. It was very boring.   Well, actually, I, didn’t stay for the whole 3 days. I went over and I watched Watch the zebras because they only take 30 seconds. Premature ejaculation. 

Craig:  And, you know, Margo Kidder, that’s one of the big names. Was this pre Superman, or is this post Superman? I mean, she she became a pretty big name there for a little while. 

Todd:  I think it’s just pre Superman. 

Clip:  Gotcha. Yeah. I 

Craig:  mean, she’s she’s very young and and beautiful. She she still looks Maybe a little bit too old to be in a sorority, but she plays the character well. She’s the brazen one. You know? The one who’s always smoking, always drinking. They throw a party for under a Christmas party for underprivileged children. She’s giving booze to the kids. She’s a funny character, and, I was kind of you know, I’ve seen the movie before, but it’s disappointing when she goes upstairs to go to bed And you know you that you you’re not gonna get any more 

Clip:  of 

Craig:  her because because she’s a fun presence in the film. 

Todd:  Well, the other person I really enjoy watching is Olivia Hussey. 

Craig:  Oh my god. She’s gorgeous. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. She, of course, was famous for Romeo and Juliet. I remember that was always the version that they would show us in high school, and she was very young and so pretty in that. And I kinda fell in love with her then. And then, you know, I I know that she’s kind have worked consistently, but it hasn’t been a lot. The things that I, remember her from are this and Romeo and Juliet and It.   She was, one of the lead character’s wives, in 

Clip:  Oh, that’s 

Craig:  right. Stephen King, film. 

Todd:  Mini series. 

Craig:  Yeah. And she was good in that too. Yeah. She’s kind of the central character. She she’s kind of the final girl Uh-huh. Of of this, and she’s so pretty and so soft spoken, and, you really get attached to her. 

Todd:  She’s almost the most she’s again almost the, Jamie Lee Curtis of this film as well in that she’s the more innocent ish. 

Craig:  Ish, But I I also like her in this. And, you know, it it almost had kind of a women’s lib feminist kind of feel to it. You know, she’s this, Yeah. She’s a soft, beautiful girl, but she’s strong willed and strong minded. She calls her boyfriend at the beginning and says that she has urgent news, and he said he can’t meet her until the next day. When she finally does meet him, he’s a concert pianist. She goes to where he’s rehearsing, and, she tells him that she’s pregnant, but that she plans to have an abortion. And, he is very, very much against that.   Later on, he comes back after he fails his recital. 

Todd:  His recital for 3 people? Right. 

Craig:  He he does poorly because I guess he’s worried about the baby or whatever. He comes back to her, at the sorority house and says, you know, I’m I’m quitting the conservatory, And we’re going to get married. And she says, no. We’re not. And I I you know, I’ve got my own dreams, and I’ve got my own things I wanna do, and I don’t want This baby, and that’s the end of it. You know, she really kind of she holds her own. 

Todd:  She does. She doesn’t falter. But she plays it very real. You know? It’s It’s like this would go down in real life. Yeah. She’s not screaming off the wall. Don’t you dare tell me what to do. He’s he becomes a very sinister person in this, and that keys in pretty heavily into the plot.   You know, when he doesn’t when he doesn’t make his his recital doesn’t go well and after his argument with her, He goes back to the conservatory and smashes the piano in with Yeah. With this I mean, that was a little much. 

Craig:  Right. And then, you know, when she says, no. I’m not gonna I don’t wanna marry you, and, You know, he’s saying 

Clip:  Jess, let’s get one thing straight. You You are not going to abort that baby. Peter, you’re not gonna tell me what I can and cannot do. Jess, if you try getting an abortion think you better leave. If you try getting more bored get out. You’re gonna be very sorry. 

Craig:  Yeah. Very ominously. And then he leaves, and it That raises red flags for the police, and it kinda has you as the viewer kind of wondering, maybe this guy was unhinged already, and so maybe he is the killer. Who knows? 

Todd:  Yeah. He does become the, Red herring killer, throughout it, but but there’s very good choices here being made. The abortion thing was really handled well. It was hinted at in the beginning and then it kind of you know, they talk about it openly. I think it’s interesting then there’s a very, Again, it’s these subtle moments that make this movie a great film as opposed to just a cool film. Mhmm. There’s a moment where the carolers come to the door, and This is much later in the film, when Jess, who’s is played by Olivia Hussey, is pretty much alone in the house waiting for the phone call because they’re trying to trace where these calls are coming from by this point. But she opens the door, and there are killers out there as children.   And you can see in her face. And you know based on what she’s talking about earlier, There’s this moment where she’s maybe hesitating about her choices. She’s seeing these kids in front of her. Did did you get that kind of feeling for that? 

Craig:  There’s certainly a subtlety to her performance, and you don’t see that a lot in this type of movie. You know? It’s usually pretty in your face, and, she has a depth of character that is kind of unusual in your typical horror slasher film. And I think that kind of Her performance alone, I think, kind of elevates the film in a way. So, yeah, I agree with you a 100%. 

Todd:  You know, if you wanna see Olivia Hussey in a good horror movie, she did, would have been mid to late eighties. There was a made for TV cycle. Oh, great. Like cycle 4, And it was a prequel. I think they’ve since made another prequel, like, fairly recently, but this was the 1st sort of prequel that went back to try to explain Norman Bates and how he became who he was, and Olivia Hussey plays his mother. Oh. And it is just an out. Honestly You 

Craig:  know what? I’ve seen it. 

Todd:  Have you? 

Craig:  That is so funny. Yes. I have seen it. And and and Norman Bates, is is that the one where he’s, like, calling a a radio therapist or something like that? 

Todd:  I believe so. Mhmm. Yes. 

Craig:  Oh, I have seen it. That’s right. 

Todd:  And she is good in that movie. Good in that movie. Yeah. And just and it’s actually As I remember, it was a really good movie, but I haven’t seen it. No. It’s been so long. I have no idea. We can’t vouch for that, folks. 

Craig:  Yeah. It’ll end up 

Todd:  on a later episode. We’ll see. You know, talking about the house being a character, another thing that it just just the sound designer on this film, which is spot on, Is that in a lot of movies, when you’re quiet your quiet house is a quiet house. Mhmm. There’s no sound. Maybe the sound of a person walking through it or whatever, but that’s it. 

Craig:  Right. 

Todd:  But in this house, there’s a cat in there. It’s an old house, so it just creaks on its own. Right. It’s a drafty house, so, you know, wind kinda gets in the windows. And there’s never a moment of absolute silence in this house. Right. Even in the most suspenseful quiet scenes where they’re going around, You still hear this rush of wind kind of, like, blowing outside like it’s a stormy day. You still hear still hear hear these creeks that really have nothing to do with anybody moving around.   It it really does a good job of setting it up like it’s in your own home. 

Craig:  I agree, and the quiet is really emphasized by the fact that the score is really limited. Mhmm. There’s not a whole lot of score. There is some, in some of the murder scenes and and leading up to some of those scenes, and the score itself is really cool. It’s a a really, discordant, piano sound, and and I read that, the the way that the musical Guy, creative Composer. The composer. I’m getting all technical on you. The the way that he created the sound was that he attached silverware to the piano strings, and it gives it this really kind of Creepy, rattly sound.   It’s it’s very effective. But again, it’s used very sparingly, and a lot of the times it’s just focused on the Quiet in the stillness. 

Todd:  Yeah. In fact, you pretty much know someone’s gonna die when you start hearing those those sounds because that’s about the only time it it comes in. Right? 

Craig:  Yeah. And the other, you know, the other thing. And, again, this is very coincidental, but it’s a movie. You deal with it. Every time there is a murder, there’s something going on that masks the sound. You mentioned the Carolers. There’s a murder when the carolers are there. The 1st murder occurs during a party, and they’re all, screaming and toasting and other things.   The only little qualm that I had about the quietness of the house is that you find out at the end of the film, I think we’ve already mentioned that the calls have been coming from inside the house. Mhmm. And sometimes, Jess, the main girl, sometimes she’ll be talking to the guy on the phone, and there’s nothing else going on, and there’s nobody else in the house making noise, and I kept thinking, why wouldn’t she hear him? Like, she’s listening on the phone, but her other ear is free. And In the phone, you can hear he’s screaming and moaning and 

Todd:  Making a lot of noise. 

Clip:  Right. 

Todd:  And these calls aren’t coming from the attic. They’re coming from just the line upstairs. Yeah. And and I I 

Craig:  think that a couple of the times when he’s on the phone, is he actually committing the murder at the time? 

Todd:  At least once. We know that. Because that’s what was 

Craig:  her name? Phil? Phil. Mhmm. Played by another very recognizable Actress Andrea Martin, who has gone on to do tons of stuff, she’s in, the My Big Fat Greek Wedding movies. Very recognizable. In fact, She came back for the remake. She plays the housemother in the remake. 

Todd:  And how about that housemother? Yeah. 

Craig:  She’s played for the comedy, and I’m so glad she is. Unabashedly so. Oh, yeah. She’s just the she’s this little but rotund kind of woman. And in Every scene, she’s constantly searching out these hiding places where she’s hid these bottles of booze. And she tries to, you know, Put on the the face of the responsible house mother, but really behind anybody’s back, she’s cursing like a sailor and swirling her, Whiskey. Very funny. I read that they wanted, Bette Davis for that role. 

Todd:  Oh, gosh. 

Craig:  It would have been very different. It would have. I liked this lady. She was funny. Good good character actors. 

Todd:  And and when she dies, they don’t really realize she’s missing, do they? They just kinda figure she’s left. 

Craig:  Yeah. I think that she was gonna be leaving too. I mean, that’s the thing. The the disappearances are kind of explainable because people are leaving. 

Todd:  Which is like life again. Right. 

Clip:  You know? You don’t track of everybody all the time. 

Todd:  Oh, he must have left the party. Oh, she must be sleeping or whatever. Sometimes she is in the room. You think she’s sleeping, but she’s, you know, been stabbed by a crystal Unicorn. Unicorn. That happens. 

Craig:  Yeah. By yeah. At the end of the movie, they still don’t know that she’s dead. No. I mean, she’s just hanging up there, in the attic, which they still haven’t checked. And so yeah. So they they never as far as we know, they don’t find out that she’s dead for a while. 

Todd:  Well and The the film too is is nice in that I’m like, I’ve seen a lot of sorority house type horror films, and They always end up with a pillow fight 

Clip:  and all. 

Craig:  They’re in the showers 

Todd:  and stuff. Right. They’re they’re playing goofy games or they’re on the Ouija board or things like that. This is totally like a sorority 

Craig:  house would be. Yeah. These girls seem very real. Now, of course, Olivia Hussey is very beautiful. Margo Kidder has a very unique distinct look. But beyond that, The girls just look like real girls that you would know. You know, the the lady I just mentioned, Andrea Martin, she’s, you know, got glasses and curly hair. She’s not Stereotypically gorgeous.   She’s cute. She’s pretty, but 

Todd:  But you’re not stereotypically mousy either. Right. 

Craig:  No. Just very real characters. 

Todd:  Then they, of course, interact with the policemen. And, again, More of the nice subtlety in here is that actual college feel where these are kids removed from the town. Mhmm. You know? There are a few little jokes, a few little comments they’re made about townies Yeah. And about people from the town. And you get the sense they’re at a town that’s maybe they’re a little Midwest, maybe they’re a little more Southern. Well, it’s never really said where they 

Craig:  are, is it? It no. But it feels very suburban. Mhmm. 

Todd:  And the, the the police station’s Heather Small. There are 2 detectives there, a few policemen. 

Craig:  Yeah. There’s lieutenant Fuller who’s played by John Saxon who 

Todd:  Always ends up in these movies. 

Craig:  Always ends up As the cop in these movies that he, played, Heather Langenkamp’s dad in a nightmare on Elm Street. Again Yeah. The the police officer searching out. Yeah. 

Todd:  For the murder, Larry. 

Craig:  For the killing killing But he’s good. I mean, I I like him in this, in this. 

Todd:  And and that other cop who sort of played for comic relief as well. Although as I realized again in this film is sort of responsible. His bumbling kind of screws over Jess at the end. Yeah. Because he’s the one and we only hear it, And we only see his shoulder, but he’s the one who says, alright. Now you be sure to, you know, lock everything up and make sure everything’s good. And he just looks in on her And flips the light off in her bedroom Right. Leaving her pretty much forgotten and vulnerable in the house when nobody intended to do that. 

Craig:  Yeah. The way that it plays out is, you know, we figure out very early on that the the killer is in the house. That’s not hidden from us, the audience. But, of course, the girls don’t know, and so they kinda get picked off 1 by 1. Claire gets picked off while she’s packing, then the housemother, you know, she’s looking around and She stumbles upon Claire and then she gets killed. Margo Kidder’s character is drunk, passes out in bed, and she gets killed there. And it’s, you know, it’s paced well so that there is a murder every so often, but eventually, we get down to the final girl, Which is Jess. And the police have been trying to trace the phone calls, and they finally do.   This was a little moment of unintentional hilarity For me, the the tracing of the phone call. Now I don’t know if this is really how this ever worked, but it was hilarious. It was like, in order to trace the phone call, Jess had to the guy on the line because the guy who was doing the tracing had to find where it was coming from. And in order to do that, he had to run around in what looked like a huge warehouse full of switchboards and find the one that was currently in use and plug into it. Funny. What he was following 

Todd:  When he was running and doing that, it’s it’s completely unclear to me. 

Craig:  I have no idea, but it made the process. It made me appreciate phone tracers. If it’s really that difficult of a job, not only is it complicated, but it’s aerobic. And to run around, check all the Different outlets. 

Todd:  Well, the thing I’ve always found funny is, oh, it’s always such a hassle to trace them, but the phone company doesn’t ever seem to have any trouble billing you. 

Clip:  Oh, you get that bill that you don’t remember. 

Todd:  We used to get those bills and and listed on. It was every phone number that was, that was called 

Craig:  and done. But, anyway, so then she’s the last 1 in the house. The cop calls. He’s not supposed to tell her that the killer is in there, but he can’t convince her to get out, so he finally spills that information. But she still thinks that 2 of the girls are still alive upstairs. She doesn’t realize that, Barb and, 

Todd:  Phil had been dispatched. 

Craig:  Had had been dispatched. And so she wants to go and and check on them. So she does. She goes up there. She finds Their bodies and that is when Billy, the killer, makes his appearance to her. And that’s kind of, I think, probably the most iconic scene from the film. You just see through the crack in the door, his wide glaring eye, and he’s kind of doing his whispering mumbly thing, and she sees him. 

Todd:  It’s a crazy looking eye. 

Craig:  Yeah. 

Todd:  It is the craziest. It’s the kind of eye to give you nightmares. Right. 

Craig:  And it funnily enough, Nobody knows who that is. 

Todd:  Bob Clark couldn’t remember. Yeah. Couldn’t remember who it was. Photography couldn’t, yeah. 

Craig:  But, but And then it’s it’s kind of a chase through the house and then not really a very long one. No. Usually, in these, you know, kind of movies, that that last chase is is pretty extensive, and there’s usually, you know, some struggle and then a runaway and then catch you again in more of a struggle. This, he just kinda chases her for a little bit. He gets his hands on her hair once and pulls her down, but she’s able to get up and away, and she goes down and locks herself in the basement. And he, at first, is is pounding on the door, but eventually, he stops. And you hear footsteps walk away, and you hear the back door close. 

Todd:  Then in the sort of shadow of the basement windows, you see a figure coming down and is trying to get in. 

Craig:  Right. 

Todd:  And that is, as and then a hand breaks through to actually come in, and it turns out to be Peter, Jess’s boyfriend. And this is a point at which we’re also maybe wondering if if there’s isn’t going to be some strange reveal here. 

Craig:  Mhmm. It could be. It could be. I mean, it leaves it. You’re still wondering. It doesn’t seem so. 

Clip:  No. 

Craig:  I mean, you think you know what’s going on. You think that there’s a different guy in the house, But the way that the pieces fall, plausibly, it could be the other guy, and that’s what, Jess is left thinking. You know? She doesn’t know, and and, she thinks that it is him. 

Todd:  And so the cops end up coming in because they’ve traced The call 

Craig:  and And they hear screaming as they’re coming in. 

Todd:  They break down into the basement, and they find her with him on his with Peter in his lap, and she’s holding a poker from the fire. And he’s bloody, and she’s got some blood on her. And at first, you think they’re both dead Uh-huh. But then her eyes flitter, and they take her away. And From there on, again, it’s a beautiful moment in the soundtrack where everything is almost told to you off screen sound. We see Jess in the bed, And the doctor is sort of bent bent over her and pulls up and says, oh, it’s gonna be a few hours before she shuts it. Right. Yeah.   And, the cop is like, well, we’ve gotta deal with all this press and, oh, let’s get them out of there. And the doctor’s like, don’t worry. I’ll sit here and wait with her. But then the father of, the 1st girl, Claire, who’s sort of been hanging around the whole time, faints probably at the prospect of having Right. 

Craig:  They say he’s in shock. We have to get him to the hospital. 

Todd:  So that gets the doctor out of the room, and he you know, then the other person who’s in the room helps him with him and takes him downstairs, and you sorta hear everything happening. And Everyone sort of forgets about Jess upstairs. Right. And, anyway, they think they’ve solved the problem. Right. 

Craig:  They think they have the killer or he’s he’s dead, So threats gone. Yep. And then it just slowly pans back out of her bedroom where she’s, you know, sleeping peacefully on top of the bed, and And it pans down the hall back up to the, ladder for the attic, which we have seen multiple times. We know that’s where Billy has been hanging out. And once again, we hear the creepy mumblings, the creepy giggling. We cut to a shot outside the house where there’s a police guard standing outside, but the house is completely dark. And the very last thing we hear is the phone ringing again. And every 3 time the phone is rung before, it was either right after or during one of the murders.   So poor Jess. I don’t know. 

Todd:  It’s a slightly ambiguous ending, but I think we’re just meant to put the puzzle pieces together there. 

Craig:  Yeah. When the distributor saw the ending, they wanted the they wanted the director to change it. What they wanted, which didn’t happen, you know, the Bob Clark stood his ground, but what they wanted to happen was for Jess to be left Alone in that room with Chris, who was the boyfriend of Claire, the the first one who had died and who had been around and searching throughout. Jess was gonna be left in there with him at which point he was going to say, don’t worry, Agnes. It’s me or something like that. And then they’re right. Right. Right.   So they wanted Chris to be the killer, but, 

Todd:  That would’ve cheapened the heck out of 

Craig:  this one. So. Wow. And that would’ve been it would’ve been So out of left field that it would have felt like you’ve been punked, 

Todd:  you know, like Well, there would have been so many loopholes, 

Clip:  you 

Todd:  know, because he was with the search party and, You know, we had seen it just once you start doing POVs, once you know the murderer’s hideout, you know, and that he’s pretty much up there most of the time, It becomes very hard. 

Craig:  And besides, nobody in a coat that glorious could possibly be a murderer. 

Todd:  I guess he still has that 

Craig:  coat. That’s right here. 

Todd:  But it is a glorious fur coat. Sign of the times. Well, other signs of the times too, the the filmmaking style, you see a lot of zooms. 

Clip:  You know, 

Todd:  that’s not something you see very often, but they’re done very effectively. They’re not done quickly in order to shock or anything. This is what a lot of horror movies this time we’re doing. Yeah. They’re they’re done very slowly. And Bob Clark, has a very nice style of taking his time, and He does it in a way that’s interesting and that maintain suspense instead of extending the movie and making it boring. Right. I felt a lot like Fargo When I was watching this movie, and it’s some of it’s just slice of life.   Yeah. And it’s it’s sort of slice of life boring, but it’s not boring because it’s not Played boring. Right. You know, I think of all the unnecessary bits in the police station when, when the girls are messing with The kind of bumpkin cop, and, he writes down fellatio. Mhmm. She tricks him into writing fellatio down as part of the phone number, and he doesn’t know what that is. Right. And he comes in, he talks to the detectives, and then, you know, he hands him the phone number and he leaves.   You don’t really know what’s going on, but the shot lingers in there, and the detectives are giving each other looks, and they’re, like, laughing. Right. And, like, you know, like, what is this? And the and the scene should have ended. And they go back in and they It’s about this number, you know, and they kinda talk about it. It’s just that sort of in the same as Fargo. In the midst of these horrible things happening, these people were investigating these terrible crimes, Life still goes on. Right. You know? And life stills, interestingly enough, not like in the movies, goes on kind of as it always does.   People don’t stop and sit around and huddle in fear all the time whenever something happens. Eventually, you know, you kind of continue your daily routine in this in the midst of it. And this movie does a really good job of that, I think. Not just in the police station, but in the search party scenes, in the scenes in the house. Right. 

Craig:  In the scenes, between Jess and Phil when they’re kind of the last 2 in the house, and they’re concerned and they’re worried and they have moments. Phil has a moment where she breaks down and cries, But then they also, you know, just kind of carry on. It it it does feel kind of real, and I think it’s a different kind of horror movie. It really relies more on the suspense. I would almost even say it’s it’s kind of more like a thriller, like a psychological thriller. If it weren’t for, you know, the the creepy insane guy. I mean, that’s that’s just Legitimately scary. Insanity is is a a frightening thing.   But beyond that, it it it feels like something that could Happen. Like, you you wouldn’t expect a a a slaughter in a sorority house to really happen, but it doesn’t rely on The horror cliches that so many of them do, like you said, with the boobies and lots of jump scares. There really aren’t a lot of jump scares here. I mean, there are some jumpy moments, But they’re drawn out. Like, you know somebody’s gonna jump out, but it they take their time. 

Todd:  You’re waiting for it. Right. 

Craig:  Right. And and I like it. Yeah. You don’t Really see a lot of films like this anymore, and that’s a really general statement. You know? There’s really quality Films out there. Calling this a really quality film. You know, I don’t know if I go that so so far, But it’s a good movie, and and I think that they were really successful in what they were trying to do. 

Todd:  I don’t know, man. I’d call it a quality film. I mean, I really would. It it and I get back to cozy. It does such a good job of it could be like, it could be like, for example, Gremlins. Right. Gremlins Takes place during Christmas Yeah. 

Clip:  But you’d hardly know it. 

Todd:  Right? You take out a few Christmas trees and some snow on the ground, and and I guess maybe later on in the film, it becomes a little more of a deal, but not really. This film just reeks of Christmas all the way it does. And not because of the you know, there’s a Christmas tree in every scene or whatever, but it’s cozy, and you have that feeling of, oh, this is that time of year When everybody’s kind of leaving and saying goodbye, and here we are in this house by the fire while it’s blowing and windy out. 

Craig:  Traditional Christmas music Throughout yeah. I mean, it definitely feels like a Christmas movie, which is kind of, I I think I don’t remember any movies before this that were Seasonal that were, like, centered around 

Todd:  4 films. 

Craig:  Right. Like, centered around a holiday. There have been all kinds now. You know? Halloween and April Fools’ Day and Mother’s Day. Virtually every holiday you can think of. Thankskilling. 

Todd:  Has there been a thanks killing yet? 

Craig:  I don’t know. 

Todd:  Maybe not yet. I don’t No. Just that Eli Roth Yeah. Wizardry. Right? 

Craig:  But it is. I mean, it the there and like you said, you know, he did a Christmas story too. It kind of has that same feel. It feels just like It feels like the same sort of town and community. A lot of the shots are very Similar like the outside shots of the house are very reminiscent of the outside shots of the house in a Christmas story. So it does have kind of that quaint holiday feel to it, And then you throw in the other element and, how it works, I’m not really sure, but it does. And maybe well, 

Todd:  you know, Bob Clark wrote Christmas story. So maybe he was drawing from some of those same feelings and emotions. Yeah. I mean Maybe. It’s not too much of a stretch. The they’re they’re just those Cozy earth tones throughout. This the colors are very muted in this film. 

Craig:  Yes. Natural. Very natural. Mhmm. 

Todd:  It’s really it’s really nice. I don’t know. It just feels warm. For a horror film, it feels awfully warm. 

Clip:  Yeah. 

Todd:  And I think that’s an accomplishment. You know? I really do. I I think there’s clearly a lot of care, that went into crafting it. A lot of thought behind the writing. As you said, some fantastic actresses, and actors, just doing stellar performances. 

Craig:  Yeah. The acting is really solid. 

Todd:  And and a really just nice ambiguous ending that does not disappoint. So many horror films will you you’re with them right up until the end, and then, You know? Oh, that ending sucked. You know? 

Craig:  Well and I thought that it was an a great ambiguous ending, and I, you know, I I don’t know if it would necessarily be a good idea, But it leaves it wide open for a sequel. And I guess I guess the fact that it didn’t do particularly well at the box office kind of probably Squashed any of that if there was ever any talk of it, which I don’t know. But, I mean, it definitely left it open for it. The killer is still very much there. Nobody knows who he is. We don’t know who he is. It it it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination that he would continue, on this murderous spree. But I I like the ambiguity of it, and I kinda like that It it’s not a everything gets tied up neatly, the good guy wins kind of movie. 

Todd:  Yep. I wouldn’t wanna see a sequel movie without Olivia Hussey. 

Craig:  I would love to see her. 

Todd:  Alright. Well, thank you very much for joining us on this first of our series of holiday films this December. Meet with us next week for another episode. Until then, this is Todd. And I’m Craig. With 2 Guys and a Chainsaw.

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