This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Creepy phone calls lead to gory violence in Bob Clark’s holiday favorite, Black Christmas

Nitehawk Cinema
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Friday, December 21, and Saturday, December 22, 12:10 am

American-Canadian filmmaker Bob Clark might be best known for the holiday favorite A Christmas Story, but he also directed another, very different yuletide cult classic, Black Christmas. Clark, who had previously made Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and would go on to make such wide-ranging fare as Rhinestone, Turk 182!, Porky’s, and Baby Geniuses, assembled quite a cast for the 1974 horror flick, also known as Silent Night, Evil Night: Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey, Bunny Lake Is Missing), Margot Kidder (Sisters, Superman), John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Art Hindle (The Brood, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and Andrea Martin (SCTV, Pippin). The story is set in a sorority house run by Mrs. MacHenry (Marian Waldman), who lets the young women pretty much do whatever they want (while regularly sneaking drinks herself). A series of obscene phone calls has some of the sisters on edge while Barb (Kidder) is much more bold, challenging the twisted voice. After Clare (Lynne Griffin) disappears, the other women start growing more concerned, including Phyllis (Martin) and Jess (Hussey), as do Phyllis’s boyfriend, Patrick (Michael Rapport), Clare’s boyfriend, Chris (Hindle), and Olivia’s lover, Peter (Dullea), along with Clare’s prim and proper father (James Edmond) and local police lieutenant Kenneth Fuller (Saxon). With Christmas approaching, the body count starts piling up, as do the genre clichés, but it’s all in good fun.

Written by A. Roy Moore and shot in dark, eerie killer’s-point-of-view creepiness by former documentary cinematographer and longtime Clark collaborator Reg Morris (A Christmas Story, Empire of the Ants), Black Christmas is a choppy yet scary slasher flick, evoking the giallo tradition exemplified by Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Clark keeps things mysterious as the brutal murders unfold while also avoiding the key question: Why does no one ever check the freaking attic? Red herrings abound as Carl Zittrer’s sinister score ups the tension. Inspired by real murders as well as urban legends, Black Christmas, which was remade by Glen Morgan in 2006 (with Andrea Martin as Ms. MacHenry!), should be a seasonal tradition in every household, but for now you can check it out in its annual screenings at Nitehawk Cinema, December 21 and 22, as part of the Holiday Show Spectacular, which continues through the end of the year with such other Xmas classics as Scrooged, Fargo, Hook, Little Women, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

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