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How Black Christmas Led to the Creation of Halloween

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When trying on the historical past of the slasher style, it appears to start out for a lot of with John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978. Sure, there was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, but it surely’s remembered extra as a psychological movie fairly than as a straight-up slasher. There was additionally Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Noticed Bloodbath from 1974, however there may be a lot insanity happening, that to label it as merely a slasher is to do it an injustice. Halloween began the phenomenon that might carry horror by means of the Nineteen Eighties, of a masked madman looking down youngsters till solely the ultimate woman is remaining. Whereas Halloween is little question a traditional that deserves all of the accolades it will get, it’s additionally not the primary to ship horror in such a approach. 4 years earlier, Bob Clark did it first with Black Christmas, and one fateful dialog with John Carpenter might have impressed the latter’s personal creation.


The late Bob Clark’s most well-known movies aren’t within the horror style. Black Christmas isn’t even his hottest Christmas film. That distinction would go to 1983’s A Christmas Story. Additionally identified for the 1981 raunchy comedy, Porky’s, Clark received his begin in horror with 1972’s Youngsters Shouldn’t Play With Lifeless Issues and 1974’s Deathdream. It could be the second movie he made in 1974, nonetheless, that might alter the style.

What Is ‘Black Christmas’ About?

Black Christmas tells the story of a madman, referring to himself as Billy, who has damaged right into a sorority home and located shelter within the attic. Whereas there, he makes maniacal prank cellphone calls from the house’s second line to the unsuspecting girls standing simply toes beneath him. He then slips out of the attic at a number of factors and begins to kill everybody in the home one after the other. It’s a daunting movie, with a killer whose face we by no means see, whose identification is rarely revealed. The scariest half undoubtedly are the cellphone calls. They’re nonsensical, but violent and foul, with Billy talking in a number of implausible voices. Earlier than it will affect Halloween, Black Christmas would begin the “calls are coming from inside the home” trope that in some way will get extra consideration with 1979’s When A Stranger Calls, regardless that Black Christmas did it first and higher.

One of the best proof of Black Christmas’ affect on John Carpenter and his imaginative and prescient for Halloween comes from Bob Clark himself. Within the Nineteen Seventies, Clark and Carpenter have been mates who admired one another’s work. One query from Carpenter to Clark about Black Christmas could also be liable for what would later develop into the slasher growth.

How Bob Clark Impressed ‘Halloween’

In 2005, in an interview with Icons of Fright, Clark was requested if there have been ever plans for a sequel to Black Christmas. “No, I by no means meant to do a sequel,” he stated. “I did a movie about three years later, began a movie with John Carpenter, it was his first movie for Warner Bros. (which picked up Black Christmas), he requested me if I used to be ever gonna do a sequel and I stated no. I used to be by means of with horror, I didn’t come into the enterprise to do exactly horror. He stated, ‘Effectively what would you do for those who did do a sequel?’ I stated it will be the subsequent yr and the man would really been caught, escape from a psychological establishment, return to the home and they’d begin once more. And I’d name it Halloween.”


Sound acquainted? John Carpenter’s Halloween begins with six-year-old Michael Myers killing his sister on Halloween evening in 1963. Fifteen years later, once more on Halloween evening, he escapes from a psychological establishment, goes again to his deserted childhood dwelling, and begins to kill once more. Clark’s sequel concept and what Carpenter did are precise.

RELATED: The Subsequent Step within the ‘Halloween’ Franchise Ought to Be a TV Sequence

The similarities don’t finish at this quote. Whereas Carpenter has by no means stated if he was impressed by Black Christmas and Bob Clark’s sequel concept, proof might be discovered of Clark’s affect when evaluating the 2 movies with one another. Halloween famously opens with the killer’s POV, utilizing an early Steadicam shot that tracks the killer as he walks as much as a home at evening, enters the house, takes out a knife, walks upstairs, places on a masks, and stabs a teenage woman to dying, earlier than strolling again downstairs and outdoors. The shot ends when the masks is pulled away and a younger boy is revealed to be the assassin.

Similarities Between ‘Halloween’ and ‘Black Christmas’

Black Christmas additionally begins with a gap from the killer’s eyes. This was earlier than the Steadicam, so right here the digicam operator designed a rig and hooked up it to his head. It’s used to provide us the shot of Billy strolling as much as a sorority home at evening, earlier than climbing a trellis and coming into the house by means of an attic window. Halloween would have extra POV photographs from Michael’s perspective peppered all through the movie, as would Black Christmas.

black christmas 1974
Picture through Warner Bros. 

The resemblance of Halloween to Black Christmas doesn’t cease at intelligent digicam methods. There are a lot of similarities to be discovered within the precise story as effectively, outdoors of Clark’s sequel synopsis. Many might be discovered within the antagonist for every movie. Each killers cover within the shadows. Whereas Billy might not put on a masks like Michael Myers does, we by no means see his face outdoors of fast darkened glimpses. Most significantly, neither seemingly have a motive, which makes all of them that rather more scary. Positive, Michael Myers by no means speaks and Billy by no means shuts up, however whereas Michael can’t voice the rationale for his rage, Billy’s phrases are incoherent psychosis that the viewers can’t make sense of. His phrases are proof extra of how deranged he’s than of a motive.

One other massive similarity might be discovered within the destiny of each killers. Black Christmas ends with a suspect being killed by our closing woman, Jess (Olivia Hussey). As she lies in mattress, affected by shock, the police who’ve come to rescue her go away to assist another person, leaving Jess on their own. It’s then that the cellphone begins ringing once more. The flawed man has died and Billy remains to be alive. Because the digicam pulls away from the home, the cellphone retains ringing, leaving us with an open ending. Does Billy come down from the attic and kill Jess? Does he get away?

Halloween doesn’t give us an identification swerve, however after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) repeatedly assaults Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shoots him off a balcony, it’s revealed that Myers has disappeared. He has walked away and survived. The final photographs take us all over the place Myers has been on this evening, along with his heavy respiratory taking part in within the background, pulsing like, say, the ringing of a phone. The place did Michael go? Will he kill once more? Will he be caught?

However It is Not a Ripoff

A dead body with its head wrapped in plastic

That doesn’t imply that Halloween is a ripoff of Black Christmas. This isn’t a blatant case of copying, corresponding to how Friday the thirteenth admittedly tried to clone Halloween a number of years later. Even Bob Clark doesn’t assume that Carpenter ripped him off, telling Icons of Fright, “No, that’s not likely true. The reality is John didn’t copy Black Christmas, he wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. Halloween is his film and apart from the script got here to him already titled anyway. He appreciated Black Christmas and should have been influenced by it, however under no circumstances did John Carpenter copy the concept. Fifteen different folks at the moment had thought to do a film referred to as Halloween, however the script got here to John with that title on it.”

John Carpenter’s movie is its personal authentic beast that invents its personal distinct terrifying monster, and regardless of the similarities, there are numerous variations between the 2 creations as effectively. Black Christmas takes place nearly totally in a sorority home, whereas Halloween explores suburbia. Billy speaks and is wild and chaotic, whereas Michael is quiet and calm.

John Carpenter didn’t must steal from anybody. He’s confirmed numerous occasions, by means of classics corresponding to The Factor and Huge Bother in Little China, that he’s a inventive and masterful filmmaker, and an excellent musician as effectively. Nonetheless, did Bob Clark’s Black Christmas sequel concept follow him and are available again to him years later when alternative arose? It certain appears a powerful risk. It’s not far-fetched, both, to say that, with out Black Christmas as an inspiration, Halloween would have appeared and performed out in a different way. Black Christmas has undoubtedly impressed many movies. Halloween is just probably the most distinguished. Although Black Christmas helped to start out the slasher style, it wasn’t the primary. Halloween didn’t piggyback off its concepts both. It merely perfected them and made it mainstream.


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