Holiday Horror

Black Christmas (1974)

I’m home now for winter break and my dad and I decided to get into the holiday spirit with a light, family-friendly Christmas movie. Then we realized that’s not us, threw Frosty out the window, and popped in Black Christmas. And what a treat this was.

I had never seen Black Christmas before and I had expected a crappy b-horror, I’m not sure why, maybe it was just the title or maybe it was based on my dad’s track record with movies. I was totally wrong about it, this is actually a pretty good, fairly scary and well done.

Black Christmas uses a fairly typical slasher formula: sorority house is getting creepy calls, they start getting killed. However, I wouldn’t call this a formulaic, predictable slasher in any sense. This movie takes slashers and puts some interesting spins on it. My dad and I were talking about it afterward and we said that the movie really could have a PG rating if it weren’t for the language used by the killer and some of the girls. All of the kills are done off screen, so you don’t see anything particularly graphic until the climax of the movie.

black christmas.jpg

*spoilers from here on out*

The movie begins with a party at the sorority house that is coming to and end and the girls get a creepy call. It’s revealed that this has happened a couple times already (unclear how many calls or how often the calls come in). One girl (Barb, played by Margot Kidder) gets a call from her mom saying that she shouldn’t come over for Christmas because the mom has a new boyfriend or something along those lines. Barb asks the other girls if they want to stick around for a couple days at the house before heading out for a ski trip. Meanwhile, another girl (Clare, played by Lynne Griffin) goes upstairs to pack because she’s leaving the next morning to go home. She thinks she sees something in the closet and goes towards it, only to be killed by someone hiding in there. Clare is the girl we see on most posters for Black Christmas (photo below) and we actually see her quite a bit throughout the movie. Her father comes to look for her at the house since she didn’t meet him the next day. The girls start to get more nervous about Clare since no one can find her and the police get involved. Scenes of them looking for Clare and trying to figure out what could have happened to her are punctuated with a shot of her dead in the attic of the house.

black christmas 2.jpg

Most of the movie is spent watching Clare’s father, boyfriend, and the other sorority girls search in vain for Clare. Police lieutenant Fuller (played by John Saxon) takes on the case and tries putting the pieces together. They continue to get creepy calls and we occasionally get shots of the killer (named Billy in the credits but he’s never really named within the film). It’s unclear for the first act of the movie who our heroine is but Jess (played by Olivia Hussey) slowly shows herself to be our main character. Jess goes to meet her boyfriend Peter (played by Keir Dullea) and tells him that she is pregnant and going to get an abortion. I thought this was really incredible for a movie from the mid-70’s. Jess stands her ground against Peter, who wants to keep the child, and stays true to her decision. She argues that there are still a lot of things she wants to do with her life and that having a child would impede those goals. Peter offers to quit school, get a house, and marry Jess and she tells him that though he might be willing to change/quit his plans, she’s not. This was so wonderful to me, for a movie to even breach the subject of abortion is pretty incredible but for it to be in this manner, a woman deciding to have one and sticking with that decision no matter what everyone else says, is just fucking awesome.

The calls start to become more personal to Jess, mentioning children and even quoting some of the things Peter had said to her. At this point, we know that the house mother has been killed but the characters are still just trying to find Clare. When a local girl goes missing, Fuller decides to gather a search party. Unfortunately, they find the young girl dead (we only see the mother’s reaction and not the body). Everyone goes back to the house, feeling more and more like maybe Clare is dead. Barb kind of freaks out a little bit, she’s pretty drunk and feels guilty about Clare’s disappearance. They tell her to go to bed, but this ultimately leads to her demise. Another cool thing about this movie is that the most we see of the killer are his eye and his hands. We really have no idea what Billy looks like except for his weird eye.

BlackChristmasBilly.jpg

Jess keeps getting these awful calls and goes to the police to report them. There’s this idiot of a desk clerk at the police station who kind of bungles a lot of the situation in this movie. Fuller gets word of the creepy calls and taps their home phones. Jess just has to keep the killer on the phone long enough for them to trace the call. As the calls get more specific and therefore more creepy, we start to think that Peter may actually be the killer. He hadn’t been on screen any of the times a call came in and why else would the killer want to torment Jess on her decision to get an abortion? Fuller wants to investigate Peter but he’s nowhere to be found. Jess is the only one awake (and alive) in the house at this point and another call comes in. They manage to trace it and it turns out…the calls are coming from inside the house! The police try to warn Jess and tell her to get the fuck outta there but she wants to get Barb and another girl (honestly forgot her name, sorry) out with her. The only graphic scene in the whole movie is when Jess goes upstairs and finds Barb and the other girl murdered and bloody in Barb’s bed. There’s a really creepy shot of Billy hiding behind the door, looking at Jess through the slit between the door and the wall. Jess runs downstairs but realizes that she has essentially locked herself in with the killer.

She grabs a fireplace poker and hides in the basement and somehow Peter finds her there (still unsure how he knew she was down there). He breaks into the basement and is coming towards her when we cut to outside the house where Fuller has shown up and we hear Jess screaming. They find her, alive but in shock, with Peter dead in her arms. She’s brought upstairs and put into bed. They assume Peter was the killer the whole time and that the nightmare is now over. I am going to guess that they did not find Clare and the house mother, who’s bodies are hidden in the attic, because if they found them they probably would’ve found Billy. The last scene of the movie is chilling, as we see Jess helplessly asleep in her bed, the police are outside but no longer in the house, and we hear Billy upstairs followed by the phone ringing inside the house. The credits roll as the phone continues to ring and we see the exterior of the house and no one going to help Jess.

Overall this movie was really well done. I thought it was really interesting that we didn’t see the killer, there was no big reveal or anything. I also thought that not seeing the deaths added to the mood of the movie. If you’re looking for a slasher or a holiday horror flick, this one is definitely worth checking out. It’s got a lot of good elements and builds the story nicely.

I’d say a 4/5 for this one.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Your Final Girl

PS: If you were considering buying this movie, Scream Factory did a release of it recently that is totally worth picking up. It’s got tons of extras, including two or three documentaries on the movie, several commentaries (including a hilarious one from “Billy” where he just kind of mumbles and eats through the whole thing), and much more. Plus it looks really good in Blu-ray.

Advertisements

Holiday Horror

Jack Frost (1997)

I feel like I wanted to like this movie more than I did. Serial killer snowman? He’s chillin and killin? Hilarious. However, I thought it was a bit repetitive, tried too hard, and there is, of course, one scene in particular that I cannot overlook.

*spoilers*

The movie begins with a strange sequence of looking at a Christmas tree while a man tells a child a story. It’s actually kind of annoying, as the child is actually a man doing falsetto and the man telling the story is kind of a dick. Anyway, he introduces Jack Frost as a serial killer who’s been tormenting the nation for several months and has been finally captured. He’s on his way to being executed that night.

We then see Jack in the van on his way to his execution but a truck from a chemical company crashes into the van. Jack is about to make his getaway when the chemical truck explodes, drenching him in acid, and he melts into the snow. It’s not over, though, Jack is now part of the snow. Or he’s become water. Or maybe something else. I honestly have no clue, it’s never really explained what’s happened to him (they might have explained it and I wasn’t paying attention). He then travels to the town where he was captured and where the sheriff who put him away lives (because of course they crashed right outside the town). Jack then kills some old man then the sheriff’s son builds a snowman out of him or something? Point is, he’s usually a snowman from there on out.

jackfrost2

You know, I’m gonna stop summarizing a bit cause the movie is mostly him killing people and there isn’t a ton of story. There are some government guys that step in and try to take control of the situation but more or less bungle it. I must admit that the kills in this one are pretty funny or creative, like the woman who gets choked with Christmas lights or the kid who gets beheaded by a sled. However, the movie gets really repetitive as they realize Jack can’t be killed. They try all kinds of things to kill him, setting him on fire, locking him in a furnace, etc. Nothing works and Jack spends almost the entire movie killing people.

The thing that I did not like about this movie and cannot overlook is a scene where Jack rapes and murders a woman. In a scene that I guess is supposed to be funny, Jack pretty brutally rapes a woman, freezing her inside/on him, and killing her with how violent he is. I really can’t overlook a scene like this, that sexualizes and mocks sexual assault. After this, I kind of tuned out from the movie.

They are able to kill Jack with antifreeze in a moment that’s actually pretty funny. The sheriff’s son had made him a snack that looked disgusting at the beginning of the movie and the sheriff took a bag full to be polite. It was in his car and it turned out that since his son didn’t want him to be cold, the son had put antifreeze in it. Yes, this probably would’ve killed the sheriff. But it ends up killing Jack Frost instead.

All in all, this movie was kind of boring. It was only something like 85 minutes but I was bored after about 50. Jack Frost the character is actually kind of funny and the actor who voices him does a good job. The makeup effects on the killed characters are pretty nice, I will admit. With that said, it gets boring after a while and the rape scene is entirely unnecessary and pretty messed up.

I’d give it a 2/5.

Happy holidays and do yourself a favor, don’t watch Jack Frost,

Your Final Girl

Frankenstein (1931)

While trying to get work done alone in my room I glanced over at the box set of blu-ray Frankenstein films my dad bought me for my birthday and decided what better time to watch a classic? (Also, if you were thinking about picking up the collections Universal is putting out of the classic monster movies in blu-ray, I highly recommend picking them up. They look great and there’s lots of bonus content.) I’m not going to warn for spoilers in this one because honestly, this movie came out 85 years ago and even if you haven’t seen it yet you would’ve had to be living under a rock to not at least know the overall gist of it and probably how it ends.

This movie is one of my favorites. I always loved the Monster as a kid and watching it still brings that sort of childish joy. Now that I’m older, however, I can appreciate the picture as the film it is. From the beautiful sets to the incredible shots, this movie is really rather wonderful. Sure, it’s got a certain sense of innocence to it, being from an earlier time, and isn’t exactly a shocking or even scary horror movie, but it’s certainly still worth watching. One should always go back to one’s roots, at least that’s what I believe. If you really want to appreciate horror as a genre you should look at where it began and how it’s evolved. But enough on that, back to the movie.

Boris Karloff is iconic in his role of the monster, despite there being several other portrayals and many other actors who played it more times than he did. This is probably because his performance is absolutely incredible. He brings life to the character as much as Henry Frankenstein brings life to the creature. There are a lot of subtleties within his performance that add to  our understanding of the monster. Plus, he looks stunning. Almost every shot of the monster is really rather beautiful, especially one of the first times we really see him, standing in the doorway.

frankenstein1.jpg

Frankenstein deals with the effects of creation and the power that comes with it, with Henry Frankenstein being driven mad after creating the monster. He tries to live normally with his soon-to-be wife Elizabeth but the monster finds him. He’s haunted by his creation, which is now wreaking havoc on the village. This is, of course, only because Fritz the lab assistant really pissed him off. Honestly, Fritz kinda got what was coming to him after torturing the monster like that. Not saying he had to die but like he at least deserved to get smacked around a little. I mean it was clear that Fritz was doing it because he was finally in a position of power, something he probably had not experienced before because of his deformity. Frankenstein has a lot of elements like this, mostly having to do with power relationships. We also have the scene of the monster and the little girl, where we see just how innocent the creature really is. He doesn’t mean to kill the girl, he merely thought it was part of the game. This, of course, leads to the heartbreaking scene of the father carrying his little girl into the town square and from there things are downhill for the creature.

frankenstein2.jpg

Frankenstein’s relationship with the monster is rather interesting, as he seems to despise the monster despite loving him at the beginning. As soon as the creature proves to be violent, Frankenstein disassociates from him and attempts to destroy him. That love for his creation is still there, though, and he feels bad not only for Fritz’s death but because he didn’t guide the monster properly. The monster appears to have this same conflict of loving his creator while despising Frankenstein for abandoning him. This comes to a climax as Frankenstein (poorly) fights the monster, leading to some beautiful shots of them on top of the windmill. It also leads to Frankenstein being thrown from the tower like a ragdoll in a hard to watch sequence. The windmill is burned to the ground with the monster on top and everyone goes home happy. Until, of course, The Bride of Frankenstein.

frankenstein3.jpg

It’s really rather hard to rate a movie like this, not only because it’s a classic but also because it’s a childhood favorite of mine and therefore has a rather large bias. I’ll let you guys decide what you think.

Thanks for joining me,

Your Final Girl

The Mummy (2017) (trailer)

I just watched the trailer for the new Mummy movie and I wanted to share a quick opinion of it while it was still fresh in my mind. First of all, if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCdV3esMr9M

I’d like to start off by just clearing a minor grievance with the world at large: I really hate everyone saying this is a remake of the 1999 Brendan Fraiser Mummy movie and completely ignoring the 1932 Boris Karloff Mummy. I’m a huge fan of the classic Universal monster pictures so it irritates me that people ignore them in favor of the modern takes. Not to say that I disliked the 1999 Mummy, personally, I thought it was a lot of fun and I do love Brendan Fraiser but still, respect where it comes from.

the mummy2.jpg

Now onto the trailer. From what we get so far it looks like another Tom Cruise action movie and not so much a monster movie. It looks to me like a lot of unnecessary action scenes and over-the-top destructions of whole cities. I’m interested in what the narrative behind the actual mummy is, as it’s very interesting for the mummy to be a woman. I’m just hoping that she does have a deep and intriguing back story and she isn’t a two-dimensional destructive force. I’m curious as to why the military is involved and not researchers/archeologists/etc. I’m hoping for a good reason to this and for it not to be the testosterone-fueled explosion movie it looks like. There does seem to be something going on with him waking up in that white bag and Russel Crowe looking ominous so maybe there’s a richer plot full of all the ancient curses and magic that we’re used to.

Maybe I’m just sick of Tom Cruise. It would be cool to have a Mummy movie that takes place entirely in Egypt, for instance, with a mostly or entirely Egyptian cast. That would be new and exciting. I am glad that they have a female mummy, that is a nice change of pace as most of the monsters have traditionally been male. I’m honestly all for women being the bad guy in movies, that’s part of equality. This could mean more spins on classic monster movies and in this way I’m looking forward to it. I would be severely disappointed if all of my favorite monsters get turned into big budget action movies, though.

I like what they did with the mummy’s costume, she looks pretty awesome I’ve gotta say. They seem to have turned away from the CGI and stuck to a practical effects costume, which is really cool. I hope they stick with that for future monster movies.

the mummy.jpg

Overall I’m tentatively excited to see The Mummy. It definitely has potential and I know better by now than to judge a movie solely on its trailer. Maybe this is being marketed as an action movie to draw a larger crowd. Who knows? The costuming and the female mummy are a good sign that we have some fun things in store from Universal, though the explosions, guns, and military are another sign that maybe it’s going to be a rough reboot. Only time will tell.

What did you think of the trailer? Let me know in the comments.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

 

 

The Invitation (2015)

Last night my roommate and I were suffering through the obnoxious parties going on in seemingly every room in our dorm when we decided that no work was going to get done so we might as well watch a movie. While flipping through Netflix we came across The Invitation, which was actually on the list of movies we wanted to watch together so why not? I was a little skeptical going into it, as I usually don’t trust modern horror movies, but this was absolutely worth watching and I would highly recommend it.

First of all, this is very obviously an indie movie from 2015, if that makes any sense. Lots of artsy shots and music. A very diverse cast, which was nice. It was overall very pretty and well done. The movie builds itself for the majority of it to make you think it’s more just a movie on social anxiety but right when you let your guard down it throws in the horror. The ending is super chilling.

The Invitation is about this guy Will and his girlfriend who get invited to a party by his ex-girlfriend (or maybe wife?), Eden, to reunite with all of his old friends. They haven’t seen each other in two years since Eden disappeared after some tragic incident that Will refuses to talk about. The party is being held in a house Will used to live in and he’s visibly uncomfortable throughout pretty much the entire movie. He clearly hates being in this place that has terrible memories for him but he also wants to see his old friends again. He hopes that by being here and by being with him he can start to let go of the past. The movie mostly follows him as he descends into a full on panic attack during the dinner party but while we get his social anxiety we are also getting the feeling that the hosts (Eden and her boyfriend David) are maybe in a cult. They have invited two pretty weird and awkward people to the party, Pruitt and Sadie, who just generally make everyone uncomfortable because no one knows who they are. Eden and David even go on to show everyone a video from what they call “The Invitation” which on its surface seems to be about letting go of pain and moving on. It’s mildly weird but everyone moves on from it. Everyone’s drinking wine the entire movie (except Will who obviously doesn’t want to let his guard down) and having a pretty good time. This makes Will’s panic even sharper since it’s juxtapositioned with drunken fun.

*spoilers for sure, do not read on*

Will notices that the doors are locked and that there are bars on the windows but these things are explained away by David. There’s also no cell reception (of course) and one of their friends has yet to show up. David lit this weird red lantern in the backyard and Will is super suspicious. When Will finally gets some reception he finds that he got a voicemail from the friend who’s not there saying that he had gotten to the house at seven and was walking in. This leads Will to have a fuckin meltdown at the dinner table where he points out all the suspicious things that have been happening and criticizing everyone for ignoring all the weird shit just because David has some good wine. This whole time we’ve been following Will into this spiral of anxiety and paranoia and he seems to be right, that is until their missing friend rings the doorbell and says he got called into work, apologizing for being late. We begin to think that maybe Will is just losing it, that the party isn’t some weird cult gathering but just a dinner party for friends, that maybe there have been break-ins recently and David wants to keep the house safe, that The Invitation really is just about moving on from pain. It’s revealed that Will and Eden had a son together and he died when he was five, causing Will and Eden to spiral into depression. Maybe this has all just been Will trying to cope with the incredible loss he suffered.

the invitation.jpg

After Will calms down they all gather around the table for a toast, another glass of wine, and in a sequence of Will looking at the glasses and looking at Eden and David, he gets up and slaps the wine glasses out of everyone’s hands before they can drink. Sadie, one of the weird guests no one knows, screams “you ruined it” and attacks Will. Meanwhile, one of the people at the party has already had wine and they realize that she’s foaming at the mouth on the ground, dead. Things really pick up from here as everyone realizes that Will was right, something was terribly wrong and they were in grave danger. This was all incredibly done because even as an audience member I was starting to think that Will was just crazy. He was completely right, though, and now they all have to fight for their lives inside a locked house with no one to help them.

The ending of this movie was unbelievably spooky and cool. Will and his girlfriend and one other party guest have defeated the cult members and are hugging in the backyard when they look over the hillside and realize that every single house in the area has the same red lantern in the backyard. This is happening in the entire neighborhood and who knows if anyone managed to survive it like they did.

This movie was really good and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes indie movies as well as a slow burn horror movie.

4/5