Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” is a rightfully beloved and thought provoking piece of horror cinema that is still extremely relevant to the women of today.
It’s always easy to write off horror movies as solely for entertainment fun. There are certainly ones that are simply there for the sake of entertainment, but to reduce them all to just that would be a disservice to the genre as a whole. Horror movies have often echoed the issues of the times that they were made. Looking back, some of horror’s greats have created films that speak to the social and political climates of era in which they were created. The creators’ anxieties, fears, hopes, and observations are thus embedded into the film.
Romero gave us Night of the Living Dead, Craven gave us The People Under the Stairs, Hooper gave us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and so on and so forth.
Some horror films are subtle in their messages and themes, while others are overt in what they’re trying to say. One could sit and list many horror classics that are beloved and respected that have deep meanings that deserve to be uncovered and analyzed. In fact, the subtext and analysis of these films makes them all the more dear to the viewers. These films can give comfort in times of great strife and upset — bringing about catharsis, and making the viewer feel spiritually cleansed and at ease.
In 1974, Bob Clark gave us a little film about a group of sorority sisters being terrorized by an unknown assailant during the Christmas season.
Black Christmas is a creepy and sly look at the terror involved in being a young woman, and it still rings true today for many, many viewers.
The film mainly follows heroine Jessica “Jess” Bradford, played expertly by Olivia Hussey, a woman that is ahead of her time. Even in today’s society, she would still be considered radical for her thoughts, actions, and attitudes toward traditional gender roles that are unfairly imposed on women. In addition to Jess, the piece is peopled with more vibrant characters who refuse to stick to the stereotypes of the time. This includes Margot Kidder’s brash and foul-mouthed Barb, who refuses to be the acceptable demure and simpering portrait of a socially acceptable woman.
The framework of Black Christmas is based on society’s grave oversights when it comes to the safety and well-being of women.
Even though Black Christmas was made in the 70’s, the issues that the film presents still persist.
The young women in the film continually alert the police that there is something dangerously wrong going on. Clare goes missing, and little is done in respect to her disappearance. In the midst of Clare’s mysterious absence, another girl who was walking home from school disappears as well. The sorority sisters receive continuous vulgar and threatening phone calls that are constantly disregarded and brushed off.
It’s nothing new for the police to shrug off the concerns of women only for there to be deadly results. Most of the film features Jess’s fraught pleading with the police to be taken seriously. She is aware that there is something desperately wrong, and so are her sorority sisters and those associated with them. But there is very little outside help to be found for the young women. John Saxon’s Lieutenant Fuller is the only person on the police force who takes the girls’ plight seriously. But alas, one believing party can only do so much when irrevocable damage has already been done.
There have been numerous times that women will notify police in the hours, days, weeks, and even months before they are brutally murdered by a man — whether that man be a boyfriend, an ex, an old friend or acquaintance, or stalker.
The way the police are dismissive of the sorority girls parallels an extremely real problem that is still an issue in this present day.
For example, in October of 2018, Melvin Rowland murdered Lauren McCluskey. McCluskey was a 21 year old student at the University of Utah. Rowland, 37, was McCluskey’s ex and a convicted sex offender who had done time in jail. Earlier in the month, McCluskey had broken up with Rowland after learning that he was lying about his age as well as his past as a convicted sex offender. McCluskey called police six times in the ten days before her murder. Rowland was seen stalking around the university campus, hoping to catch McCluskey and confront her. Rowland went on to fatally shoot McCluskey in the head in a campus dorm while she was with friends.
Lauren McCluskey is not the only woman that has suffered a similar fate.
33 year old Laura Stuart warned police about her ex 18 times leading up to her brutal murder. Three days before Stuart was murdered, she informed police that her ex was threatening to “finish her.” Stuart’s ex, Jason Cooper, stabbed and kicked Stuart after attacking her on the street. Stuart succumbed to her injuries in the hospital two days after her run in with Cooper.
Shana Grice, 19, filed a report against her ex for physically assaulting her, only to have her report dismissed after she had failed to disclose she had been in a relationship with the man who had assaulted her. The police fined her for her “false report.” Months later, the ex, Michael Lane, had stolen a key and broken into Grice’s apartment. The police responded by simply ordering that Lane stay away from Grice. One short month later, Grice was found with her throat slit and her assailant had attempted to burn her body. Unsurprisingly, Lane quickly became the police’s chief suspect.
Banaz Mahmod, a 20 year old woman, went to the police on five different occasions before her father and uncle orchestrated her rape and murder. Mahmod’s family had forced her to marry an older abusive man when she was only 10 years old. The family was aware of her treatment and did nothing to stop it. Years later, Mahmod left her husband and fell in love with another man. Mahmod’s father and uncle felt that her actions had dishonored the family, and she soon learned about their machinations, prompting her to go to the police. Mahmod was dismissed every time she sought the police’s help. Her murder was typified as an honor killing.