One of Los Angeles’ finest horror traditions has once again come and gone, but not before dispensing copious amounts of yuletide fun and fright. Last night the New Beverly Cinema screened Black Christmas (for the eighth consecutive year) along with Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 (for the first time) as part of their annual Grindhouse Holiday Show and Bob Clark tribute. Needless to say, horror fans in L.A. are a lucky bunch.
Having attended in the past, my friends and I were prepared for the evening. By that I mean we purchased tickets ahead of time because the event usually sells out, and it did. The host and programmer, Brian Quinn, mentioned around 50 people were turned away for the screening of the first movie, Black Christmas. (There was plenty of empty seats during the 2nd film.) While the folks who were turned away had to walk back to their cars through a bitter wind, inside the theater was a packed, enthusiastic and WARM crowd.
Before the films started, Brian held a raffle that included prizes ranging from VHS tapes from Johnny Ramone’s personal collection to snowglobes. Random, but fun. After a few brief but poignant words about the importance of being able to enjoy film regardless of what’s going on in the world (which is so true) Brian also hinted at the possibility of a holiday horror marathon in the coming years. Yes. Please. We need that to happen.
Before the films started we were treated to trailers for Christmas with the Kranks, Die Hard and Django (which is showing there Dec 21-23. Django Unchained will open there on Christmas day. By the way, the theater is owned by one Quentin Tarantino.) The original Die Hard trailer nearly brought the house down. Yippee Ki Yay! After about 45 minutes of housekeeping, repertory cinema at its finest began.
Often considered one of the first and best slasher films, Black Christmas is credited with creating a host of norms or, more accurately, what went on to become genre clichés. Unlike many of the copycats down the road, this film still has considerable staying power and re-watchability. I see it every year around this most festive time and it still manages to send a chill or two down my spine.
It’s Christmas time at a sorority house and the girls are enjoying their break by boozing it up, exchanging gifts, talking about boys and answering obscene prank calls. What starts out as a series of perverted phone calls quickly spirals into something much more sinister after one of the girls goes missing. Of course, the audience knows through some creative POV camera work that she isn’t missing at all, just kind of… misplaced.
Director Bob Clark creates an atmosphere of extreme unease throughout the film. The script is witty, clever and features several laugh-out-loud / cringe-inducing moments involving a young Margot Kidder (Superman) as a slutty sorority sister with no manners and a big mouth. Marian Waldman, who sadly only appeared in a few films, provides welcome comic relief as the House Mom, who hides bottles of liquor around the house not unlike a squirrel hiding nuts in the forest. The performances all around are pretty solid, minus a few rough but important moments that veer into ABC Afterschool Special territory. Interestingly, Clark had to fight to keep his ending in tact. It’s safe to say he made the right choice. For my money, the final shot of the film is one of the most chilling and disturbing moments in all of horror.
After a short intermission, we moved right into the night’s last film, but not before a good portion of the audience left. While I can’t blame them, I couldn’t pass up a chance to see a 35MM print of something as insane as what was next.
Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2:
Shot over a 10-day span in Pasadena, California, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 is an entertaining mess of low-budget crap. Make no mistake: this is not a good film. What it is, though, is a film that is so outrageously bad that is transcends itself into that special place in B-movie heaven. Whereas Black Christmas earned the audience’s respect and admiration, the theater was full of laughter just 5 minutes into SNDN2. It’s that kind of film. There is no way to take it seriously.
The first 45 minutes are a scene-by-scene recap of the entire first film, Silent Night Deadly Night. The story is told using a series of flashbacks by Ricky (the original killer’s little brother who is all grown up now) to a psychiatrist. Yes, nearly half of the running time the film is a series of flashbacks of the source material. It’s like watching a more tightly edited version of the first film. In many ways, you are getting two movies for the price of one.
Eric Freeman’s acting performance as Ricky is without a doubt one of the worst performances in genre history. So bad, in fact, that it spawned the “Garbage Day!!!” YouTube sensation. Keeping in mind that despite everything in the movie being laughably bad (it’s on par with Troll 2) the film still manages to entertain once Ricky gets going. It’s like a trainwreck that you just can’t stop watching. Ricky goes ape with knives, umbrellas and even a set of electrified jumper cables all the while delivering a virtuoso performance for the ages.
Bottom line: If you like bad holiday horror, Yule love this film.
And just like that, another amazing night of holiday horror at the New Bev was over. Until next time…