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Cat’s Cradle: A Different Christmas Story

Holiday films come in all genres from action to romance. Genres can easily fall under the holiday banner without losing that core element of what defines them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in holiday horror films.

There is a slew of horror films that fall under the holiday banner, with lists dedicated to cataloging them. Gremlins often come to mind when it comes to horror and the holidays. Though, this season viewers should look back at the seminal slasher, “Black Christmas.”

Directed by Bob Clark, famous for his family film “A Christmas Story,” the film follows the members of a sorority as they are slowly picked off by an unseen assailant; It is a well-filmed horror classic steeped in a Christmas setting.

The film acts as a bridge between generations of horror and its respective fans. The film’s plot centers around the sorority sisters and the adults attempting to solve the disappearances of their chapter sisters.

Often, conflict arises between the differing viewpoints of teens and adults, with encultured ideas of independence and family dynamics clashing. This is found in frank discussions of sexuality and drinking that still appear in modern horror plots

“Black Christmas” was released at the end of the height of the Cold War with features like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers'' and “Night of the Living Dead” which placed horror on the scale of a community threat, leading into a generation of horror interested in the individuals—often teens—like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.”

“Black Christmas” draws from several inspirations including the folk tale of the “Baby Sitter” and real-life murders committed by “George Webster” to create the story of a killer hiding in the home. While the core mystery and cinematography borrow from the giallo film genre. 

Particularly, “Black Christmas” uses some elements seen in giallo films of Mario Bava like “Bay of Blood” where point-of-view shots mark the movement of the killer. The plot of an unknown killer draws from films like “Blood and Black Lace,” where the killings are shrouded in mystery. 

A throughline can be drawn back to the first slasher film, “Psycho,” with its core mystery. While the shower scene in “Psycho” and the killing of Barb in “Black Christmas” uses a similar editing style to emphasize death. 

Given these influences, “Black Christmas” has made its own mark in the horror genre. The intro of the film is replicated in “Halloween.” The casting of John Saxon as a police lieutenant mirrors his role in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The kills on display mimic later slashers, as every item becomes a tool for the killer

The phone tracing sequence brings a William Fredkin attention to solving the mystery of the obscene caller and resembles the tone of films like “Manhunter” and “Silence of the Lambs,” while the short glimpses of the killer mirror the actions of Frank Zito in “•Maniac!

“Black Christmas” is not only a rare example of a good holiday horror film, but also one of the best of the genre. Since its recent 4K re-release, there hasn’t been a better time to go back and watch this macabre film wrapped in a bright, festive bow. 

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

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