Sunday, 20 December 2015

Don't Open Till Christmas

Title: Don’t Open Till Christmas
Director:  Edmund Purdom
Released:  1984
Starring: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne, Gerry Sundquist, Mark Jones, Kelly Baker, Caroline Munro, Kevin Lloyd, Pat Astley, Wendy Danvers

Plot: A serial killer is targeting anyone dressed as Santa in London, leaving Chief Inspector Harris (Purdom) to try and track down the killer while seemingly being taunted and offered clues by the mysterious reporter Giles (Lake)

Review:  For some reason when I think of British horror my mind for some reason always seems to go images of gothic castles and period set horror, no doubt thanks to the films of the legendry “Hammer Films”. As such it’s kind of refreshing to find a London set Festive slasher while also another of those titles eclipsed by the “Silent Night Deadly Night” franchise.

Opening to a POV killing being carried out by the killer, this is a film which really wastes little time getting started as even in the opening credits we have harm coming to a Santa….okay it’s a doll which is set on fire and slowly melts while the opening credits roll, but from here its back to more Santa slaying fun, while teasing the idea that the whole film is shot from a killers POV, which sadly it isn’t but atleast director Purdom makes up for it by having another cool kill, this time seeing the Santa being killed via a well-aimed spear while worse still in front of his daughter Kate (Mayne) and whose boyfriend Cliff is soon being suspected of the killings due to seemingly always being in the same place as the murders.

A pretty sleazy offering which might come from some expecting something more classy from a British production, but this film has a real “Christmas Evil” style of sleaze to it as the cobblestone streets and tourists spots are traded for shots of Soho and peep shows, even the first Christmas tree which see is a pathetic stick with a few decorations hung off it which even Charlie Brown would have been embarrassed by. Its off course only the more surprising that the film is as sleazy as it is with Purdom only agreeing to star in this film if he could direct aswell, so the fact that the film turned out the way it did when he had this level of control is pretty surprising.

Where it seems his focus was though for this film though was in finding ever unique ways to kill Santa’s which he really racks up quite the bodycount doing so as they are slashed, stabbed, set on fire and one even has his penis slashed while using the urinal which comes seemingly out of nowhere. There is also an impressive electrocution which is far more spectacular than any previous time I’ve seen this death on screen and next to the roasted Santa makes for a real standout moment for the film. Overall the gore is pretty light with the occasional splatter of blood, but none of the kills feel any less effective for holding back on the splatter.

Where the film really comes apart is with the actual tracking of the killer with Chief Inspector Harris bumbling his way through the case while never seemingly managing to get any kind of a solid leads, with his only ones often coming from the suspicious reporter Giles while the killer himself only taunts Harris further by sending him a wrapped gift with the titular "Don’t Open Till Christmas” message on the label. Elsewhere we get further bumbling from Kate and Cliff which isn’t as focused on the killer either as you’d expect with Kate’s father being killed as I mentioned already and Cliff being a prime suspect. Instead the pair hang outside a tube station busking and Cliff even tries to con Kate into doing porn, when he takes her to his friends porn studio and is essentially just an excuse for Pat Astley to show her boobs which I guess for fans of her work in porn and sex comedies was nothing new and seeing how long this scene is dragged out, with her often being barely covered by a little Santa cape while her being threatened with a straight edge razor brought to mind memories of the equally sleazy “New York Ripper”.

So what inspires someone to go on a Santa killing spree? Well once more its down to Santa being caught in a less than traditional position as like “Christmas Evil” its catching Santa having sex, in this case the killers father cheating on his mother and in full Santa gear no less, before bizzarly acting like he was wrong and knocking his wife down the stairs in a strange little flashback which also sees a child being given a switchblade for Christmas! True this might seem like a spoiler, but its clumsily tacked on the end similar to “Silent Night” almost as if Purdom suddenly realised that he’d spent too much time killing Santa’s and not actually spending any time explaining why the killer is doing what he’s doing.

No doubt I would be rating this movie higher if the last hour didn’t seem like such a mess with various plot threads suddenly being tied up so suddenly that it ends up coming off more than alittle confused, much like the killer suddenly choosing to add kidnapping to his list as he randomly abducts the stripper we see at the peep show earlier who he plans to sacrifice despite her not wearing anything Santa related or even remotely christmasy either.

While this might have its flaws its still enjoyable for the majority of the runtime to make it worth checking out, especially when it currently seems to be overlooked like the superior Christmas Evil. At the same time its London setting is a refreshing change and no doubt what made this film work more than had it been just another American slasher. Still for those of you who like your Santa slashers this is one certainly worth hunting down, even if it is not without its flaws.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Black Christmas (2006)

Title:  Black Christmas
Director:  Glen Morgan
Released:  2006

Starring: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lacey Chabert, Crystal Lowe, Kristen Cloke, Andrea Martin, Oliver Hudson, Karin Konoval, Dean Friss, Robert Mann, Jessica Harmon, Leela Savasta, Kathleen Kole, Howard Siegel

Plot: Bily Lenz has been locked up in a mental asylum for the last 15 years after murdering his mother and her lover aswell as gouging out the eye of his sister. Now on Christmas Eve he escapes and returns to his former home only to find that has in the time since his incarcinration

Review:  Yet another remake while one which chooses to tackle Bob Clark’s 1974 original which as I covered in my review of the original was also one of the first slasher and one which would have a much more subtle tone than the slashers which followed in its wake. The remake however is very much a different beast as here director Glen Morgan tackling his second remake after “Willard” attempts to update the plot of the film by adding a back story for Bily while also upgrading the body count and violence seemingly in an attempt to craft a more traditional slasher out of the original.

As a result of this Morgan spends the first hour of the film attempting recreate the setup of the original film while cutting out some aspects such as the abortion dilemma and the fact that everyone seemingly was a drunk. It’s also within this first hour that Morgan also randomly attempts to work in a back story for Billy as we are treated to a series of flashbacks to his childhood and the events leading up to his incarceration, however these are not shown as one sequence but bizarrely spaced out into three separate segments which are clumsily dropped into the film often at the most random of moments. What makes this worse is the fact that none of these flashbacks really add anything to the film and seemingly were only included as a way to explain why Bily is the way he is, much like Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake only with much less successful results.

Here the character of Bily still makes his unique prank calls, only now he inexplicably suffers with severe jaundice due to liver disease and which in turn means that we now have to deal with a killer who looks like he’s auditioning for a live action version of “The Simpsons”. If that wasn’t bad enough his sister Agnes is a product of his mother raping him after she locks him in the attic to stop him revealing the fact that she had killed Billy’s father. When it comes to the kills he now also has a fetish for removing the eyes of his victims. Needless to say this is a much more gratuitous slasher we have this time around as subtly is thrown out the window in favour of splatter and a healthy body count.
Surprisingly Morgan had originally planned for this film to be closer to the original, having been friends with Bob Clark and only tackling the remake when he’d got Clark’s permission to do so. However during the production he frequently found himself clashing with producer Harvey Weinstein who insisted that he make the film more gory and part of the reason why Morgan has since disowned the film. Its equally worth noting that the fact that this film was a flop along with his remake of “Willard” caused Morgan to retire from directing which as of the time of writing has yet to change.

Despite Morgan’s feelings about the gore in the film it is one of the stronger aspects of the film when it works, as several moments in particular those involving eye balls being gorged or munched on. The other kills however all come with a high level of creativity which includes a death by ice skate and a falling icicle. This film also might be one of the only occasions I can think of where someone is killed by impaled on a Christmas tree more so when most Christmas trees only have to be looked at wrong to fall over so you have to excuse my scepticism that someone could actually be impaled upon one. Most of these deaths come after the hour mark for this film and once they start happening they quickly start to rack up with no real spacing between them which would be more of an issue if they weren’t so entertaining to watch.

The other main issue here is that none of the girls are particular distinguishable from each other, as they all share seemingly the same personality while once more seemingly been cast for their looks than their acting abilities as unlike the girls of the original I couldn’t really tell who anyone was especially when none of them really have any sort of basic character to define any of them. Infact the only character who gets any sort of character is our crazed killer Billy and that’s more down to the gratuitous amount of flashbacks we get more than anything else.

Consider that Morgan gave us the wonderfully daft Final Destination 1 & 3 I was expecting more from this film, hoping that the critical lashing it had received had been uncalled for. Sadly though this film fails to improve upon the original, though its hard to say if the fault lies with Morgan or the interference from Weinstein, more so when the finish film is left so uneven as it tries to find a place between the two ideas of how the film should be shot.  As such this is now just another failed remake while one scattered with hints of how much better it could have been.

Friday, 11 December 2015


Title:  Celia Aka Celia: Child of Terror
Director:  Ann Turner
Released:  1988
Starring: Rebecca Smart, Nicholas Eadie, Victoria Longley, Mary-Anne Fahey, Margaret Ricketts, Alexander Hutchinson, Adrian Mitchell, Callie Gray, Martin Sharman, Clair Couttie, Alex Menglet, Amelia Frid, William Zappa, Feon Keane, Louise Le Nay

Plot: Celia (Smart) is a nine year old with an active imagination growing up in 1950s suburban Melbourne, who constantly escapes into a fantasy world to escape the ongoing troubles around her, while society deals with both the fear of communism and the rabbit plague.

Review:  This might be the vaguest Alt. Christmas movie I’ve covered to date, especially when the sole link we get to Christmas is in the opening scene which see’s Celia’s class breaking up for the holiday, while the blackboard reads “Merry Christmas” that’s it! No Christmas trees or celebrations, just some festive words on a blackboard. So while the link might not be the greatest, it does however mean I get to cover this obscure Australian film which sits amongst the likes of “Lord of the Flies” and “War of the Buttons” with a playful dark side which at the same time left me wanting to compare this film to arguably Peter Jackson’s best film “Heavenly Creatures”.

 Right from the start director Ann Turner wastes little time in showing the audience an insight into the psyche of Celia which see’s here escaping from her troubled home life via her active imagination which see’s slime covered monsters lurking outside her window, while at the same time sharing a tight bond with the three Tanner kids who live next door and whose parents communist beliefs keep them isolated from the community. Its also through her eyes which we see various adult events unfolding from affairs and barbeques through to events happening in society such as the rabbit plague highlighted through news reel footage which really helps to capture the time period and especially the tensions of the time.

Its worth pointing out that this isn’t a horror film as for some reason the distributors were seemingly keen to market it as judging by the alternative “Child of Horror” title, no doubt the result of them not knowing how else to sell this film, which is understandable when it constantly seems to exist in its own unique world were Celia can switch between blood pacts and childish feuds with her cousin Stephanie (Frid) and her committing and covering up a violent murder with little concern for the consequences of her actions, while the mock hanging she carries out with her friends is awhole other thing entirely. That being said the film is frequently a fascinating and surreal film.

The feud with Stephanie continually makes for one of the pillars of the film here as they engage in a series of tit for tat exhanges, with their rivally seemingly spawned out of their polar world views as Celia fights against the rule governed world of adults, while Stephanie is more happy to submit and more often use them to get a Celia often via her policeman father. However this being said she too has her own bad seed moment when she chooses to brand Celia’s rabbit seemingly out of pure spite. For some reason these confrontations usually around the quarry where Celia and her friends prefer to hang out for no real reason, especially when there is nothing of any real interest there apart from an old shed and it was a setting that I constantly thought would lead to some big moment, but sadly it’s just a setting and nothing else.

The other main antagonist for Celia here is her father with who she has one of the more complicated relationship with as he constantly scoulds her for not following the rules or for her friendship with the Tanner’s especially when he finds out that they are communists. He’s also responsible for her losing her beloved pet rabbit “Murgatroyd” under the rules being enforced by the authorities as part of their attempts to curb the rabbit plague, however when given the chance to reclaim him, he’s happy for her to believe that he has died, despite finding him a couple of minutes earlier. These scenes of high bastardry being countered by scenes of her being taken fishing which only makes it the more confusing how we are supposed to feel about this relationship.

Due to Celia’s behaviour throughout the film its hard to know if this movie should be classed as a “Bad Seed” movie, especially with the events of the film being largely seen through her eyes, while her blonde hair and plats certainly bringing to mind Rhoda Penmark. At the same time a lot of her activities are carried out with her gang of sorts, making it more of a kids gone rogue movie.  

This is far from the most action packed or gory film which means that those horror fans looking for their bad seed fix might find themselves sorely disappointed as it features neither but the interactions between the characters and occasional set pieces really help to carry this film which does at time feel a lot longer as a result than its surprisingly short runtime and what stopped me from rating this film higher. That being said it has enough interesting and occasionally shocking moments to make this one worth hunting down,  more so when it’s the kind of film which is sadly not made enough in these times were films seem to fall into the category of high drama or blockbuster its films like this which make it so much fun to hunt down and experience these movies.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Silent Night

Title:  Silent Night
Director:  Steven C. Miller
Released:  2012
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, Ellen Wong, Lisa Marie, Courtney-Jane White, Cortney Palm, John B. Lowe, Rick Skene, Brendan Fehr, Andrew Hughes, Kelly Wolfman

Plot: A serial killer Santa is on the loose in a small Midwest town picking off citizens on Christmas Eve and it’s down to the local police force to track him down before it’s too late.


Review:  A remake of sorts of the classic festive slasher “Silent Night Deadly Night” which unlike the original seemingly slipped under the radar for most horror fans, no doubt thanks to its direct to DVD release which inturn mean that it avoided any of the controversy that the original film was greeted with. This of course makes it only the more of a shame as this is one of those great rarities a decent horror remake!
It’s worth pointing out that going into this one I had no idea that it was actually a remake, happy to see another Santa Slasher and it only dawned on me after several scenes came off more than a little familiar. At the same time here director Steven C. Miller is clearly keen not to just remake the original shot for shot and here instead gives us an original plot and throws in fun nods to the original when he can. While largely successful it does however mean that the references range from clever such as a sheriff commenting about it being “Garbage Day” to slightly more clumsy as seen with his attempts to work in the catatonic creepy grandpa which comes off misplaced with the scene feeling like it has been forced in especially when unlike the original it has no importance to the plot in the slightest.
While the original focused on the psychologically damaged Billy and the events leading up to his psychotic breakdown, here it’s a much more straightforward story and inturn meaning that the film wastes little time before our killer sets to work as we open to him using his home made electric chair on one of his victims after the great opening sequence showing him assembling his Santa suit. From here it essentially a chain of ever more inventive kills while Aubrey (King) tries to track him down which is no easy task when the town is full of Santa’s for the annual Christmas parade. Even with the killer in the towns midst it soon becomes apparent that he’s not the only crazy in town as we also get the drunk and bitter Santa Jim played here by the continually underrated Donal Logue and who here provides a fun red herring.
While the original spent its time building up the background of Billy and trying to explain how he ends up going on his murderous rampage, here such things are much more of an afterthought with Miller much keener to rack up the creative kills and keep the film moving at a brisk pace than explain why his killer is doing what they are doing. As such when we do finally get an explanation its feels like much more of an afterthought and thanks to its placement in the film as an epilogue of sorts feels clumsier than if it had it been placed in a more prominent position.  On the flip side the kills here are truly inventive as the killer proves himself more than capable with his axe while getting equally creative with a string of Christmas lights and more memorably a flamethrower while the real standout death comes via the use of a woodchipper
While the kills are all surprisingly good it’s equally surprising to see the film shot like an 80’s slasher as we get a healthy dose of gore and splatter, let alone gratuitous nudity which seems to equally be as much a rarity in modern horror as old school splatter and here its used in such a way that it adds to the film rather than feeling exploitive. Again it’s a credit to Miller that he also shies away from reproducing any of the classic kills from the original outside of a girl being impaled in a pair of antlers, though if only one kill was to be carried across I kind of would have preferred for it to have been the sled decapitation which is sadly absent here
Unquestionably it’s a great cast which Miller has assembled here with Malcom McDowell chewing the scenery as the town sheriff while getting the best line of the film when he belittles the killer for bringing “a flamethrower to a gun fight”. Equally on good form is Jaime King who here makes her third appearance in a horror remake, having previously appeared in the remakes of both “My Bloody Valentine” and “Mother’s Day” and here proves herself a great final girl as the deputy determined to learn the identity of the killer with whom they she might share more of a link with than first seems.

While it might be remake here Miller really has crafted a film which stands on its own merits, giving the fans of the festive slasher another film to add to their collection, though by the same quality it’s doubtful that none horror films will find much here to hold their attention, especially as its not trying to be meta or break the mould but this is one which is worth giving a watch even with the horror remake stigma, though it will no doubt leave you wishing that more of horror remakes were like it.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Top 6 Christmas TV Specials

The Christmas special is one of the trickier episodes for any series to tackle, especially as the writers are faced with walking that tightrope between festive cheer and sickening Smoltz.
So here are six of my festive themed episodes which I like to revisit, while frequently managing to bring a fun warped view of the holiday season.
How I Met Your Mother – How Lily Stole Christmas
This show has the distinct honour of manging to kill any enthusiasm I may have had for the show with its final season, which was essentially a drawn out middle finger to the fans who had stuck with the show even as it was becoming little more than a twitching mess with the audience being told that we wanted Ted and Robyn to end up together (we didn’t) while Jason Segel mugging for the camera as he continued to convince himself that he was funny which like Lily’s “Son of a Beesh” quote really made you wonder who was actually running this show. That being said this episode continues to be a delight each year, even if it contains many of the issues which bugged me about the show as Segel spends most of the child acting like a man child which is only the more concerning when you think that this character will somehow end up a judge.
The episode itself has Ted trying to track down Lily after she finds an old answer machine message of him calling her a Grinch (the show using this as a replacement for Bitch) and in revenge steals the winter wonderland she sets up in the apartment and leaving Ted with the task of tracking her down before Marshall gets back home. At the same time Robyn is left trying to nurse a sick Barney who refuses to accept that he has a cold and leaving her to spike his tea with codeine.
It’s a fun episode throughout while crammed with festive cheer and no heavy moral weight as the other Christmas specials would have, mainly at the hands of Ted playing the father role for the group and leaving us the audience wonder why we are supposed to be rooting for him in the first place. Here though it’s about embracing the gaudy side of Christmas as the apartment is filled with Christmas lights, while Ted’s frantic search for Lily ensures that the episode keeps a great pace and ensuring that it’s always fun one to revisit to even if the finale left you wondering why you stuck with it all these years.   
Black Mirror – White Christmas
Created by satirist Charlie Brooker who prior to creating the series gave us the Big Brother with added zombies “Dead Set” and with this series gave us a technology based version of The Outer Limits / Twilight Zone.
While episodes of the show featured one story, this Christmas special instead mixed up the format by giving us a trilogy of tales which as the episode progresses may be more interconnected than first seems. At the same time Jon Hamm gives an amazing performance throughout especially during the segments which take place between the stories as he prepares Christmas dinner with Joe who he shares a remote outpost in the middle of the snowy wilderness with and who has no idea how or why he got there.
Like the rest of the series this special has a real dark edge to it while crafting at the same time a great trilogy of tales all of which come with their own twist which makes each one more memorable than the last, though it’s doubtful that you’ll ever feel the same out Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” again.
The Big Bang Theory – The Santa Simulation
 Here we have a show which bizarrely has managed to find a niche in making great Christmas episodes in much the same way that “The Simpsons” have with Halloween. As such there was a battle between this episode and “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” who memorably saw Sheldon give Penny a rare hug when she gave him a signed (and used) napkin from Leonard Nimroy.
What won this episode a place on the list though was how much of Sheldon’s background we find out as he is forced to take part in a festive themed game of “Dungeons and Dragons” in which the group have to rescue Santa Claus from a pack of ogres while along the way solving Christmas themed puzzles. Its after each of these puzzles is solved that Sheldon shares a small piece of his childhood christmas’s ending with the heartfelt confession of how he’d asked Santa to bring back his recently deceased Grandfather “Pop Pop” who had been his inspiration to get into science.

It’s an episode which manages to combine some real emotion with some great jokes including Sheldon taking his revenge on Santa by leaving him in the dungeon and ending with a vengeful Santa shooting him with a cannon in one of the episode highlights, which for that reason alone makes this one of my favourites to revisit.
Family Guy – A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas

While I don’t tend to watch the show much anymore this is still a great episode back when the show was slowly being revived thanks to the cult following its DVD’d were creating.
This episode sees Louis trying to ensure the family have a great Christmas only to find things going wrong at every turn as Peter accidently gives away the families presents to charity and the turkey burns (along with half the house) which suprisingly doesn’t faze her until she can’t find any paper towels and it causes her to have a breakdown and embarking on a rampage. Meanwhile Stewie is keen to please Santa who he belives is omnipotent in the hopes he will get plutonium in return.
I love the continuing issues which build up to Louis’s meltdown, while the running joke of Peter constantly tuning into the fictional special “KISS Save Santa” only adds to the high joke count, especially when KISS are present to voice their cartoon selves and at one point use an electric guitar rift to save Santa from pterodactyls makes me wish that they would actually make this special…god knows they’ve lent their name to everything else.  
South Park –  Woodland Critter Christmas
For a show which seems determined to offend everyone, Matt Stone and Trey Parker really have a soft spot for Christmas especially when the specials have frequently proven to be some of the best episodes of the show, let alone how the show got originally picked up with their original short film “The Spirit of Christmas”.
 While on the surface this episode might seem like such a play on the cutesy Christmas animal cartoons, it soon decends into a depraved game of one-upmanship as they somehow continue to find new and inventive ways to make this special more and more offensive as Stan is forced to help the cute forest animals unware that they are all Satanists! The fact that it has a festive and happy narration only adds to the seriously warped humour here, as the most grotesque acts are spoken about with the same innocence you'd expect from this voice over usually associated with more traditional Christmas imagery. But hey what were we really expecting from the guys who gave us Mr Hanky the Christmas poo!
Blackadders Christmas Carol

Blackadder is one of TV's legendry bastards, so having already crossed four time periods over the course of the series, it seemed that he was the perfect choice to play the Scrooge character in this festive special.

The twist here is that we open to Blackadder as an actual good person and a far cry from any of his ancestors and who here like Scrooge finds himself being shown his ancestors aswell as his future self as the Grand Admiral of an galaxy spanning empire while discovering that by being mean things would actually work out a lot better for him. Its a journey which does include seeing a future Baldrick in a thong but its such a fun twist on the classic tale, let alone allowing us to revisit some classic versions of Blackadder. True this one might be lost on those not familiar with the character but for the established fans its a fun festive treat. 

So there you have my festive favourites, but what's going to be on your TV this Christmas?

Let me know in the comments section.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Black Christmas

Title:  Black Christmas
Director:  Bob Clark
Released:  1974
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Lynne Griffin, Marian Waldmn, Keir Dullea, Art Hindle, John Saxton, James Edmond

Plot: A sorority house finds themselves being plagued with continual and frequently disturbing prank calls from an unknown caller. However its not long before things start to take murderous turn as the girls soon find themselves being preyed upon while Lt. Fuller (Saxton) tries to track down the source of the calls.


Review:  Not only the first of the festive slashers, this film also has the distinction of being one of the first slasher ever while inspiring in its wake the likes of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”. Despite this “Black Christmas” has never had the same following that “Silent Night Deadly Night” has despite coming out after it and even the superior “Christmas Evil”.

Directed by Bob Clark who over the course of his career would give us numerous cult movies including “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” and the legendry teen sex comedy “Porky’s” and its sequel before being resigned to directing TV movies and more ashamedly the “Baby Geniuses” films. This film however really catches him in his prime as a director with this surprisingly tense and subtle slasher a style which would be lost on the later slashers of the 80’s which became more about the kill than the tension leading up to it.

Opening to the girls of the sorority house throwing a Christmas party while a mysterious stranger climbs into the attic before shortly afterwards the girls receive the first of the films prank calls. These calls are less the humerous variety and more of a madman’s ramblings seemingly intercut with records of screams and other disturbing noises all which unsurprisingly leave the girls as freaked out as it does annoyed by these calls which keep coming. This is a great setup for the events of the film while further topped off by one of the best kills of the film as Claire (Griffin) is killed with plastic wrapping before being placed in the attic and displayed in a rocking chair.

Unlike so many of the other Holiday slashers this film was a surprisingly subtle film and despite featuring a spattering of memorable kills this film is really more about building tension and suspense than focusing on the slasher working his way through the girls of the sorority house. That being said its not free from its share of truly random moments including several characters seemingly always drinking including most memorably the house mother who has hidden bottles all around the house to ensure that she is never without a drink. Barb (Kidder) meanwhile seemingly also never stops drinking from the first time we see her at the opening party to the next day when she is hosting with her foul mouthed boyfriend amusingly dressed as Santa a party for underprivileged kids, one who she is soon seen also giving alcohol to as well. 

The killer here really brings something special to what could have been otherwise a run of the mill slasher as not only do we ever fully see who they are, with an eye and a hand being all we get to see of the killer outside of his shadowy outline. At the same time Clark perfectly distracts us with Jess’s boyfriend Peter (Dullea) a neurotic pianist who is struggling to deal with the fact that she wants to have an abortion. The fact that Jess is also the final girl and that the pure and virginal Clare is the first to die equally mixes things up and breaks the so called slasher rules before they even came into play.

The kills throughout are all creative from the opening plastic sheet suffocation to one of the girls being stabbed by a glass unicorn in one of the more creepy scenes, as her screams are drowned out by carollers while such scenes ensure that things are kept interesting especially when the killer is kept solely to the house which could have limited the film or descended into drawn out chase scenes which surprisingly it never does.

The cast are all likeable enough in their various roles with John Saxton especially standing out as Lt. Fuller who seemingly is the only cop capable of making anything happen in this town, especially when his fellow cops are so quick to dismiss the concerns of the girls when they attempt to report Claire’s mysterious disappearance, though why no one ever thinks to check the attic is beyond me and ensuring that the killer always has somewhere to hide out and generally set out grim displays with the bodies of his victims. The fact that seemingly the only way to track the killer is by keeping him on the phone while they trace the call at the telephone exchange certainly keeps the chase tense, especially as the calls become increasingly deranged and aggressive as the film progresses.

The downside to the film lies in its second half where the film really starts to falter thanks to some poor pacing and poor handling of the cops attempts to find the killer as the final half of the film feels like it could have been trimmed down which might ultimately have made me enjoy this film more than I did.
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