Expect these Christmas films to come thick and fast now as we towards the big day itself, and we seem to be watching films quicker than I am writing about them. This time around we have the romance, the musical, the war film, and of course a couple of slasher flicks. We can’t seem to let that go. I assure you, though, these are all Christmas-related. Enjoy.
He’s in the attic! We know that early, the sorority sisters do not have a clue, as they continue to receive obscene phone calls from the unknown sleaze. Followed by most of the girls disappearing (and being murdered) one-by one. The true marvel of Black Christmas is in it’s final moments, revving up the tension and horror, filling the room with an almighty suspense and fear – the likes of which you don’t see often enough. Even as the detective investigating discovers the killer is in the house long, long after we do, the dramatic impact is terrifically chilling. This was made in 1974, and paved the way for many such horror movies featuring the clandestine slasher (Yep, like Halloween). The hairs on my arms were standing throughout the film’s final scenes, hoping long after the lingering credits roll that Olivia Hussey’s character makes it out okay.
A kind of luke-warm slasher film with some rather funny looking blood, has a disturbed man going on a murder spree dressed as Santa. Christmas Evil, indeed. Harry witness a Santa-clad daddy feeling up his mom as a child, and of course this knows the guy’s mental configuration out of sync as he grows up. His grown-up obsession with dressing like Santa only adds to his character’s warped outlook on the world. He even has a book where he can log the children that have been bad or good. His bitter brother is onto him, not before Harry has a meltdown at the toy factory he worked at. Standard stuff, nothing special, but something a little different if there is nothing on the TV.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are a living, breathing, singing, dancing part of the history of film. And Judy Garland is a household name in the genre of course. Meet Me in St. Louis was directed by Vincente Minnelli, who would later marry Garland. Set at the turn of the century, Esther is in love, Rose is awaiting a proposal, and other such familiar scenarios ensue. Sing-song aside, and there are some memorable numbers, there are some magic moments here too, including the help turning off the lamps in an attempt to spend more time with the smitten, and a picturesque closing sequence.
All That Heaven Allows is classic romance melodrama slap bang in the middle of the fifties. Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson tackle the age gap romance, and the actors and story-telling capture this. The relationship between the young landscaper and widow shine a light on the social perceptions of such an affair, which in turn has strong repercussions on her own grown up children. I say grown-up, they respond to their mother’s new-found love with child-like behavior. Tensions form between the couple, the screenplay allows character insecurities to surface, but thankfully, following a near-tragic accident, the two of them reunite to give a hopeful future another go.
A kind of forgotten World War II drama, featuring the baby-faces of many a household name – Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley, John C. McGinley etc. And not forgotten in the negative sense, this is actually a very decent watch. The soldiers’ grim discovery of frozen dead propels the narrative, and the movie snowballs into steady drama, with some fine performances from those familiar faces. There’s a kind of Christmas truce, and some minor celebrations later, but for the most part A Midnight Clear encapsulates a somewhat alternative and grounded view of the influence of war.
Here are the first four parts if you have not read them – which of course you have!
Follow the marathon on Twitter: #50FilmsChristmas
See the full list on Letterboxd: 50 Films for Christmas