Also known as: Unsane (US alternative title) Release Date: October 27th, 1982 (Tortona, Italy premiere) Directed by: Dario Argento Written by: Dario Argento Music by: Goblin (credited as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante) Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma
“Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?” – Peter Neal
Tenebrae or Unsane, as its also been called, is one of the Dario Argento movies that I’ve seen the least. In fact, it’s probably been twenty years since I last watched it. I kind of regret not revisiting it sooner, though, as my experience with it this time was pretty incredible.
While it’s not the best of Argento’s stories, it is one of his best directed films and it has some of the best visuals he’s ever done outside of Suspiria and Inferno.
This isn’t as stylish as his earliest giallo pictures but it feels more fine tuned and refined. It feels like the giallo style actually adapting and moving into a new decade. Now while the style was starting to disappear into the ’80s, this kept it alive for a bit longer and I think that’s because it feels like a more mature film. It certainly shows that Argento had really found his stride and in some regard, it almost plays like an Italian version of an early ’80s Brian De Palma neo-noir picture.
It’s almost uncanny that this was able to look so clean yet be so gritty and raw at the same time.
I think that some people may see this and think of it as watered down when compared to Argento’s earlier work but I think he really just tried to make a more palatable movie for a wider audience. Granted, Argento also doesn’t betray himself, as the finale gets incredibly bloody. However, the more reserved tone actually sets the climax up perfectly, as seeing an immense amount of vibrant red blood spray across a plain, white wall is pretty fucking jarring in an awesome way.
Additionally, this film features amazing camera work. There is a long tracking shot done by crane that is breathtaking to see and it has held up tremendously well. Also, some of the shots during the murder sequences are fantastic. The moment where you see cloth tear to reveal a woman filled with terror just as blood splashes across her face is, hands down, one of the best shots Argento ever captured.
Lastly, the score by three of the four members of regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, is one of their best. The film’s main theme would even be sampled by the French band Justice for two songs on their 2007 album Cross.
While this isn’t my favorite film of Argento’s from a story or even visual standpoint, it’s still a breathtaking experience that hit all the right notes and made me appreciate the director even more.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: Dario Argento’s other giallo pictures.
Release Date: May 25th, 1994 Directed by: John Landis Written by: Steven E. de Souza Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr. Music by: Nile Rodgers Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizando, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, John Saxon, Alan Young, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen McHattie, Michael Bowen, Al Leong (uncredited), Al Green (cameo), George Lucas (cameo), Joe Dante (cameo), Ray Harryhausen (cameo), John Singleton (cameo)
Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 104 Minutes
“[his last words] Axel, you on a coffee break? Go get that son of a bitch.” – Inspector Todd
The words “they waited too long” definitely apply to what was Beverly Hills Cop III.
This was one hell of a dud that lost many of the key players and only brought back Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Gil Hill… just so they could kill him in the opening sequence, and Bronson Pinchot, who only appeared in the first movie in two very minor scenes.
Additionally, this closing chapter in the franchise was mostly devoid of any real humor, as Eddie Murphy barely told any jokes, barely did his signature laugh and kind of just zombie walked through his scenes giving one of the flattest performances of his career.
In fact, his scenes with Bronson Pinchot actually show how dry Murphy is in this, as Pinchot steals the scenes right out from under him.
Judge Reinhold was made to look like a total doofus and they ignored what was established with his character in the previous film, which saw him open up and reveal that he was a gun nut similar to Eugene Tackleberry from the Police Academy movies. Here, he just carries a tiny pistol, looks the opposite of badass and pretty much just acts like a total dope.
Being that this was directed by John Landis is absolutely baffling. Landis is a top notch director that made several classics over the course of a decade and a half before this movie. I’m not sure if the script ended up getting butchered or if a lot was left on the cutting room floor but this is, hands down, one of the worst things Landis has ever had attached to his name.
Harold Faltermeyer didn’t return to score this film and man, it really shows. The score is generic as fuck and the famous Axl Foley theme is reworked and completely destroyed by brass instruments, completely taking away from the funky synth grooves that we got in the first two pictures.
In fact, when the brass gets real heavy in the score, it almost sounds like its trying to emulate a James Bond movie. I guess that’s fitting as Bronson Pinchot essentially plays a ripoff of Q and Axl Foley has a bunch of weird gadgets to use ala Bond.
I think that the franchise should’ve just ended with two. This proves that it’s really, really hard to catch lightning in a bottle for a third time.
Rating: 4.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.
Release Date: September 4th, 2004 (Germany) Directed by: Michael Palm Written by: Michael Palm Cast: Edgar G. Ulmer (voice, archive footage), Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Ann Savage, John Saxon, William Schallert, Arianne Ulmer, Tom Weaver, Wim Wenders
Edgar G. Ulmer Preservation Corporation, Mischief Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), 77 Minutes
While I was perusing the offerings on the Criterion Channel, I came across this documentary about filmmaker, Edgar G. Ulmer.
This guy made magic in three of my favorite genres: horror, science fiction and film-noir. I believe that this documentary may actually be included on the Criterion Collection version of Detour.
What’s neat about it is that it features interviews and conversations with a lot of well known directors and actors that worked with or were influenced by Ulmer’s work behind the camera.
This also features his daughter who gives more intimate details on Ulmer, his life, her life as his daughter, as well as talking about her time in front of the camera with her father directing.
I really liked the conversation here between Joe Dante and John Landis. I also enjoyed the parts with John Saxon, Ann Savage, Roger Corman and Wim Wenders.
This was just a solid piece of work that really went through the man’s career with insight from some of the people who were there and others who had their own unique insight.
I couldn’t find a trailer for the documentary, so I put a trailer for Detour below, as it is my favorite Edgar G. Ulmer picture.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other documentaries about horror, sci-fi and noir filmmakers.
Also known as: Vendetta dal futuro (original Italian title), Atomic Cyborg (France), El destructor (Mexico), Hands of Stone (Netherlands), Arms of Steel (Norway), L’enfonceur (Canadian French title), Cyborg (Slovenia), Fists of Steel (UK), Destroyer (Spain) Release Date: March 26th, 1986 (France) Directed by: Sergio Martino Written by: Sergio Martino, Sauro Scavolini, Elisa Livia Briganti, John Crowther Music by: Claudio Simonetti Cast: Daniel Greene, Janet Argen, John Saxon
National Cinematografica, Dania Film, Medusa Distribuzione, 94 Minutes
“When I get through with you, you’ll have to wipe your ass with your nose” – Raul Morales
This film had more international titles than it had extras!
But this film can have as many titles as it wants, as it is a pretty badass and ridiculous flick that has a plot that’s all over the map but doesn’t suffer because its supposed to be a smorgasbord of everything that made ’80s action movies so much fun.
Let me summarize the insane premise: An evil CEO sends a cyborg to assassinate a scientist. The cyborg fails so the CEO sends his other cyborgs to take him out. The cyborg hides in a desert diner with a chick that’s horny for him. All the while he draws the ire of the tri-state arm wrestling champion that wants to prove he’s the strongest man in the desert. The evil CEO is John Saxon and he has a really big laser.
This motion picture is insanely enjoyable and one of the best Italian post-apocalyptic, “knock off everything under the sun” movies.
There’s even a scene where the good cyborg has to arm wrestler a guy that looks like Bear Hugger from Punch-Out!! The insane part about this scene is that the loser gets their hand trapped in a shackle while a diamondback rattler bites them to death.
Now this is just about everything you’d expect from an Italian Mad Max wannabe but then it’s so much more. It’s part Terminator, part RoboCop, part Over the Top and 100 percent toxic masculinity. Plus, this came out before RoboCop and Over the Top, so it’s like the writer/director Sergio Martino was psychic. I mean, he ripped off something that didn’t yet exist!
Speaking of Martino, he’s a guy that directed a lot of the top Italian schlock. You know, the type of schlock that gives schlock a good name and inspires people like myself to find endearing things within movies that the general populace could never tolerate. He’s done giallo, slashers, spaghetti westerns, other post-apocalyptic movies and pretty much something in every cool sub-genre that matters to fans of grindhouse, exploitation, horror and action films.
Hands of Steel is a hell of a ride. It has pretty good, albeit hokey effects. But considering this picture’s budget, it’s all passable and it works. In fact, the scene where the cyborg repairs his arm is pretty impressive.
While I’m sure that most people would dismiss this movie as absolute shit, the opinions and money of the regular moviegoer are why we keep getting subpar blockbusters, countless sequels, spinoffs, remakes and reboots. I’ll take Hands of Steel over some Harley Quinn dressed like a peacock movie.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other Italian post-apocalyptic movies of the ’80s.
Release Date: August 10th, 1980 (Venice, CA premiere) Directed by: Jimmy T. Murakami, Roger Corman (uncredited) Written by: John Sayles, Anne Dyer Music by: James Horner Cast: Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard, John Saxon, Sybil Danning, Darlanne Fluegel
New World Pictures, 105 Minutes
“Nanelia, the Akira believe that no form ends until all the lives that it has touched are ended, until all the good that it has done is gone.” – Shad
For a very low budget film that is obviously one of many ripoffs of Star Wars, Battle Beyond the Stars is actually… kind of good.
Now you can’t go into this expecting Star Wars quality, this is, in fact, produced by Roger Corman “The King of B-Movies”. But this still works for what it is and doesn’t have a bad look for the time, it just feels more like Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century than A New Hope.
However, it is better than those two iconic shows, as it has the special effects of James Cameron and a score by James Horner. Corman was able to attract these two men and squeezed some magic out of them just before they would go on to have bigger and better careers, a few years later. Cameron would make The Terminator and Aliens not too long after this and Horner did the iconic score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
It’s that early James Cameron magic that actually turns chicken salad into chicken shit here. Reason being, his ship designs were great and each has its own unique and cool look. Plus, the visual effects, primarily the outer space stuff, is better than what was the standard for the time. We were still a few years away from good 3D animation, as would be seen in 1984’s The Last Starfighter.
Corman also pulled together a decent cast with veterans Robert Vaughn, George Peppard and John Saxon. We also got Sybil Danning, who surprisingly, kept her shirt on the whole movie. Well, she was showing off her tantalizing bits, as much as she could without making this an R-rated film.
The only real downside was seeing Richard Thomas as the film’s young hero. Not to knock Thomas but it’s just hard seeing John Boy from The Waltons being some sort of space faring badass. But I guess Luke Skywalker was a rural farm kid so why not try to use John Boy in the same sort of role?
This is still an enjoyable movie but you really have to be into ’80s sci-fi cheese of the highest caliber.
I’ve always sort of cherished this picture because I saw it at such a young age and it was on television a lot back in the day. It has not aged well but if I’m being honest, it already felt behind the times by the time 1985 rolled around, just half a decade later.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: Other low budget Star Wars “homages” of the late ’70s/early ’80s: Starcrash, The Black Hole, The Ice Pirates, Space Raiders, Star Odyssey, etc.
Also known as: Kill Mr. Mitchell (Hong Kong – English premiere title) Release Date: September 10th, 1975 Directed by: Andrew V. McLaglen Written by: Ian Kennedy Martin Music by: Larry Brown, Jerry Styner Cast: Joe Don Baker, Linda Evans, Martin Balsam, John Saxon
Allied Artists Pictures Corporation, 97 Minutes
“Piss off, kid!” – Mitchell
The only reason people even remember this movie now is because it was featured on one of the most important episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the episode that was the big farewell to original host Joel Hodgson.
Apart from that great episode, the movie itself is absolutely atrocious. It is a massive pile of steaming shit. It’s fucking horrible, if I can be so bold.
Sure, Joe Don Baker is the man. This also has John Saxon in it. But even these two can’t save a picture that is so poorly written and horrendously directed. It is one of those movies where watching too much of it will cause your eyeballs to bleed out of your sockets. It may even induce vomiting and diarrhea.
Yet, I still love Baker and Saxon and for some reason I’ll never understand, I love to torture myself with the worst movies that Earth has to offer. Maybe I should see a therapist but my Uncle Grapes once told me that “therapist” is spelled the same as “the rapist”. He spent a lot of time in a sanitarium though because he tried gluing cats to his naked body to “blend in with the bears”.
So what’s really wrong with this shit pancake of a movie? Well, a lot… frankly.
To start, lets talk about the action. There is a car chase that is so slow and boring that Crow T. Robot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 commented that it made “…Driving Miss Daisy look like Bullitt.” Also, watching Mitchell (Baker) do anything athletic, like running away from gunmen and such, was laughably bad. Although, we get that scene where he waves down a helicopter and it drops a shotgun down to him. I mean, who doesn’t want a shotgun dispensing chopper overhead when bad guys got you surrounded? Maybe that part of the action was kind of cool.
You also have to sit through one of the most awkward and strange sex scenes in movie history. Plus, it is accented by the horrible Mitchell theme song that just won’t go away from the time the picture starts till the very end of the credits when this turkey stuffed with crap finally ends.
Honestly, these could have all been different songs throughout the movie but they all sounded the same and I had to be on suicide watch for 37 days because that’s how long it took to get them out of my head.
Mitchell really is friggin’ dreadful. That being said, it has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. And the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.” Ew… gross, Mitchell!
Release Date: October 14th, 1994 Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Wes Craven Based on: characters by Wes Craven Music by: J. Peter Robinson Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Miko Hughes, Tracy Middendorf, David Newsom, Fran Bennett, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, Marianne Maddalena, Sam Rubin, Sara Risher, Nick Corri, Tuesday Knight, W. Earl Brown
New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a sequel of sorts to the original series but it is also a standalone film. Reason being, it is supposed to exist in the real world, as Freddy Krueger evolves from being a monster on the screen to manifesting in the real world to terrorize Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the first and third films in the series.
The film is a reinvention of the Freddy Krueger mythos. This is why I am reviewing it as its own thing.
Freddy enters our world, after being killed off in the film series. He needs fear to exist and if no one is making movies, he will evolve beyond them. The premise is bizarre but it gives the franchise a bit more originality and energy to give the audience something compelling and new.
For some reason, Freddy has evolved physically, as well. His scars are very different, he sometimes wears a trench coat and he no longer wears a glove, as his claws have grown organically out of his hand. Additionally, he now has a razor on his thumb. He looks more primal overall but I’m not a big fan of the trench coat.
The film also feels more serious than any of the previous chapters. The ante is upped creatively and it brings more realism to a horror fantasy.
Langenkamp was great, playing herself and having to deal with her child being terrorized and her husband being murdered. Her husband in the film was played by her real life husband.
As for the kid, Miko Hughes was stellar. He was a good child actor in a time when many weren’t. Also, he is the youngest potential victim Freddy has ever gone after on screen.
There are less deaths than normal but the real world feel adds more to those scenes. There is just something sinister and wrong in the scene where the young kid sees his babysitter dragged across the ceiling and gutted by Krueger. Robert Englund as Freddy, was at his evil best.
Watching Heather have to protect her very young son from a monster she unknowingly helped create, is more interesting and emotional than watching another slasher film full of mostly unlikable teens getting slaughtered for the umpteenth time.
I don’t know if a sequel to this could have ever materialized and been as good. It was best that this formula only lasted for a single film. And ultimately, it was a really good film.
A Nightmare On Elm Street was my favorite horror film series, as a kid. Today, it still ranks up there and I consider it to be the best of the big horror franchises of the 80s. Sure, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser and several others are great but nothing is as imaginative and as creative as the world Freddy Krueger lives in.
Freddy Krueger is a force of nature, in the films and in reality. He went on to be a pop culture icon and even had the highest grossing independent film of all-time.. twice!
In this review, I will cover the first three films in the franchise.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984):
Release Date: November 9th, 1984 Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Wes Craven Based on: characters by Wes Craven Music by: Charles Bernstein Cast: Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, Robert Shaye (voice, uncredited)
New Line Cinema, Media Home Entertainment, Smart Egg Pictures, 91 Minutes
The original film was written and directed by the series creator, Wes Craven. This is the film that cemented Craven as a horror maestro. While he had some solid successes before A Nightmare On Elm Street, this film was his first massive hit.
Being created during the height of practical effects, this film features some technical marvels from a filmmaking standpoint. Craven and his crew used several rotating sets to achieve a few different effects and it turned out to be pretty stellar. Also, they were very inventive on how to achieve things visually on a film with such a small budget. This film is a must-see for any film student just for the special effects alone.
In regards to the horror, this is the scariest film out of any of the Elm Street movies. It is dark, it exudes terror and Freddy is a lot more sinister in this. He gets funnier as the series rolls on and almost becomes a twisted anti-hero.
In the first film, he is still frightening. Robert Englund was the perfect actor for the role of Freddy Krueger and he would get more comfortable with the character in each installment. But whether it was Englund not being too comfortable yet, Craven’s direction or both – the character of Freddy is on a different level of dread in this chapter.
Heather Langenkamp was great as Nancy and was always a delight every time she showed up in one of these movies. Johnny Depp was pretty decent as Glen and this was his first film. Amanda Wyss did good in the role of Tina. The film also featured John Saxon, formerly from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and the Canadian slasher film Black Christmas, as Nancy’s dad and the top cop on the Springwood police force.
While this film is a technically savvy and paved the way for a lucrative franchise, I found the ending to be odd and kind of pointless. Nancy basically wins by telling Krueger that she takes away any power she gave him and he disappears into a cloud of dissipating photons.. or something. Her mother then sinks into her bed as a skeleton, waving goodbye. It was probably fine for the time but it plays horribly today. It just feels obvious that Craven hadn’t really thought the ending through before shooting it. Besides, Nancy defeating Freddy by ignoring him wasn’t really effective, as we got five more sequels in the regular series, A New Nightmare, Freddy vs. Jason and a remake years later.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985):
Release Date: November 1st, 1985 Directed by: Jack Sholder Written by: David Chaskin Based on: characters by Wes Craven Music by: Christopher Young Cast: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Lyman Ward, Robert Shaye (uncredited)
New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 85 Minutes
Freddy’s Revenge or as it should be retitled, Freddy’s Big Gay Hilarious Gangbang, is a bizarre movie. It ignores the rules established in the first film in an effort to be completely different and to not retread the same story. While I respect the filmmakers’ efforts in not making a clone film, all it did was create a lot of confusion about the established rules and mythos.
The main character is Jesse Walsh (played by Mark Patton). Jesse is a loner and an outcast but weirdly, the hot ginger girl in school likes him.. a lot. In fact, she deals with way too much of his shit and Freddy’s shit just over her high school crush. Besides that, Jesse wants to spend more time with his new guy friend, Ron. He even runs away to Ron’s house after he freaks out about the girl being ready to bang him.
Many consider this to be the gayest horror film of all-time and rightfully so. It is amazing at just how gay it is and that’s not a knock, it is actually pretty fucking cool.
From Jesse and Ron wrestling each other’s pants off, to Jesse’s flamboyant sexual dance while cleaning his room, to the leather bar, to the school coach getting murdered while being tied to shower pipes as his ass is repeatedly slapped by a towel, to Jesse constantly whining about Freddy being “inside him”, to Jesse wanting to sleep in Ron’s room, to Jesse screaming like a girl, to Freddy emerging from Jesse’s body during one of the most obligatory gay exchanges in cinematic history, this is certainly a pretty gay but extraordinarily fabulous movie. Wikipedia has more information on the homoerotic subtext here.
The film lacked almost everything that made the first film scary. However, it had some of the best effects. For instance, the aforementioned scene where Freddy emerges from Jesse’s body was insane and still plays pretty well today. Even if Jesse’s body was replaced by a robotic dummy, it was there, on the set, and it looked more real than anything modern CGI can do.
Freddy’s Revenge is a bizarre installment to the series but the bizarreness is what makes it special, unique and definitely worth a watch.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987):
Release Date: February 27th, 1987 Directed by: Chuck Russell Written by: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell Based on: characters by Wes Craven Music by: Angelo Badalamenti, Dokken Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Heiden, Penelope Sudrow, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor
New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 96 Minutes
Dream Warriors is my favorite film in the series. Wes Craven came back to write the story, which was then tweaked and fleshed out by Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and so many other projects).
This chapter pretty much ignores the second film, it goes back to the rules and mythos of the first movie and expands on it. It brings back old characters, introduces new characters and blends them together well. You care about the old, you care about the new and there is almost perfect harmony with the cast.
This is my favorite group of teens out of any of the films. Actually, they are my favorite group of any teen group from any horror film ever. They were all unique, interesting and had a great dynamic.
The film introduced us to Patrica Arquette as the lead heroine Kristen. It also brought back Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon as Nancy and her father. Laurence Fishburne shows up in this as an orderly at the rehab center where the teens are.
This movie introduces the concept of being able to control dreams in an effort to combat Freddy. Each teen also has a special power or skill set that makes their interactions with Krueger more interesting.
The one thing this film did, that set the stage for every film after it, is that the dream sequences got really elaborate and a lot more creative. We didn’t just have some guy taking teens to a boiler room in their mind in an effort to slash them to bits. We now had Freddy using their fears and things about them to torture them in unique ways. You like puppets? Well, you get strung up by your tendons like a puppet. You like TV? Well, you get killed by a TV. You like titties? Well, titties lure you to Freddy.
Dream Warriors is the perfect Elm Street film. It has everything and it also stars the most iconic characters in the series and opens the door for the future of the franchise.
Also known as: Silent Night Evil Night, Stranger in the House Release Date: October 11th, 1974 (Canada) Directed by: Bob Clark Written by: A. Roy Moore Music by: Carl Zitter Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin
Film Funding Limited of Canada, Ambassador Films, Warner Bros., 98 Minutes
Some people have referred to Black Christmas as the first slasher film. It is hard to say what the first one was, as people have varying opinions on what exactly makes a slasher. If you consider pictures like Halloween and Friday the 13th to be the true slasher formula, then Black Christmas would be their godfather. In fact, the similarities between Black Christmas and Halloween are undeniable. Also, When A Stranger Calls borrows a lot from this picture. Needless to say, Black Christmas was a highly influential film on the horror genre.
The film takes place in a sorority house over the Christmas holiday. The girls keep getting strange and perverse phone calls. As the story progresses, one girl is murdered in the attic. Then the housemother is killed when she discovers the body. The police start investigating the missing girl and suspect the phone calls are related. More girls die, more weird phone calls happen and it all comes to a big crescendo once it is revealed that the killer is making the calls from within the house.
Directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to make the beloved A Christmas Story and Porky’s, this movie was the best of his career. Granted, Clark also gave us those atrocious Baby Geniuses films. But Black Christmas is an exceptional piece of work.
There were a lot of really artistic shots and the overall cinematography was impressive. The film had the warmth and welcoming feel of Christmas, all while generating a real sense of terror. The famous shot of the killer’s eye at the end is still one of the best moments in horror history. Clark really knew what he was doing with this film and he executed it brilliantly. Not only does Black Christmas still stand up today, over forty years later, but it is better than any modern horror picture in recent memory.
It is also worth mentioning that the performances by Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder were outstanding. It is easy to see why Kidder went on to have a pretty good career through the 70s and 80s. Keir Dullea, Hussey’s possibly psychotic love interest, gives one of his most memorable performances since he was Dr. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then you have John Saxon, who came across as a much kinder and less drunk version of his detective character from the first and third A Nightmare On Elm Street movies. Also, you get to see a young Andrea Martin before she went on to become one of the stars in the great sketch comedy series SCTV.
Slasher pictures aren’t really known for being great pieces of filmmaking. However, Black Christmas really breaks that mold and it set a standard that was hard for others to measure up to.