Support Us!
$2
$3
$5
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

SEE THE NEWEST CONTENT BELOW!

SEE THE NEWEST CONTENT BELOW!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Other ‘Black Christmas’ – Revisiting Thomas Altman’s Unrelated Christmas Horror Book from 1983

In pursuit of the rare novelization of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Thomas Altman’s book of the same name is bound to come up sooner or later. Some might even purchase the 1983 novel, thinking it and Lee Hays’ adaptation of the 1974 screenplay are one and the same. Sadly, at least for fans of Clark’s movie, these books bear no connection other than their shared title.

Before tossing out or selling that copy of Altman’s Black Christmas, however, maybe reconsider. This vintage curio not only has its own merits, it’s also a guaranteed source of gruesome horror set around the holidays.

Set in upstate New York in a thinly populated town called Murdock, Black Christmas starts on December 23. A local teenager named Jennifer Powers is walking through Kelly’s Wood, on her way to meet with her high-school sweetheart Rick Lerner, when she’s brutally slaughtered by a mysterious assailant brandishing an ax. Sheriff Edward “Bud” Dunsmore is quickly on the case, but with murder being virtually unheard of around these parts, he’s out of his element. As for the mayor, James Kontakis is an image-conscious politician; he wants this unsightly incident scrubbed from the public mind before Jennifer’s death affects him in some way. 

Altman (real name: Campbell Armstrong) knew how to draw a whole picture with his words, and for this reason alone, Black Christmas is an involving read despite it being under 300 pages. Putting everyone’s innermost thoughts and feelings on display leads to a dark cloud hanging over Murdock — even before the killing begins. Sheriff Dunsmore makes his marital issues known from the first few pages, as he remembers to buy last-minute gifts for his wife Eleanor and his daughter Nancy. He describes Mrs. Dunsmore as a “problem at this time of year” before adding: “hell, Eleanor was a problem all year round.” Don’t, for a second, believe the feelings aren’t mutual; Eleanor has, for a long time, known something is off about her marriage.

While the sheriff is the protagonist, Altman didn’t always focus on him. Chapters are broken down into different perspectives, including those of the victims before meeting their untimely end. Other characters among the living and beyond the Dunsmore clan include former boxer Frank Cutter, misunderstood town outcast Billy Cole, and a glass-eyed ex-con named Dan Hamilton. Frank is a drunk whose interest in far younger women has gotten him into trouble with the law. Hence his reluctance to come forward about finding Billy in the shed behind his café, in possession of the bloody ax used by Jennifer’s killer. Lastly, Dan Hamilton is a wife beater, and his sudden return to Murdock promptly jeopardizes Sheriff Dunsmore’s one chance at real happiness.

It isn’t Rick and the object isn’t a stick, a short pole, whatever.

It was an ax.

Along with Nancy, Dan Hamilton’s ex-wife Alice is the other important most woman in Sheriff Dunsmore’s life. Bud and Alice’s secret affair, no longer a secret once Dan catches wind and threatens to tell Eleanor the truth, came about when the sheriff helped put Dan away. As in real life, though, the legal system is crummy, and Dan has resumed threatening Alice following his short stint in prison. His reemergence coincides with the first murder, so could he be the killer? Or is Dan a red herring? Either way, Alice’s life is in danger.

Black Christmas doesn’t mince words when it comes to the actual murders. Jennifer, who was ten weeks pregnant, was hit thirteen times with an ax — the number “13” is a cryptic clue — with two of those blows “slicing into the core of the baby’s life.” Jennifer doesn’t even receive the worst of the assailant’s aggression; the additional victims are more viciously rubbed out. One woman’s remains, left on the Dunsmores’ porch, is described as a “broken scarecrow in a wintry field.” The sheriff is so horrified by the sight that he’s thankful when snow covers the scene. Perhaps the most heinous and personal killing involves another woman’s corpse being mounted on a large church cross and revealed to everyone during Christmas Eve services. There’s not a high body count to speak of, but it’s quality over quantity here.

The resulting grief isn’t glossed over; three deaths so approximate to each other are gonna affect everyone in such a small town. Word spreads like the common cold, infecting the 7,000 or so folks of Murdock with paranoia and outrage. Their sense of safety is ripped right out from under them, and their faith in the systems set in place to protect them is incrementally destroyed. Seeing the sheriff be taunted, even humiliated, by the killer makes the townspeople more concerned. On top of that, the first two victims have direct ties to Nancy. If a sheriff can’t protect his own daughter, how can he keep strangers safe? The villain is calculating and knows how to disrupt complacency on every level. 

Had this been more of a traditional slasher, the sheriff’s daughter might have become a “final girl” type of character. Perhaps more authentically, Nancy slips into a deep state of mourning before her father ultimately sends her away for her own safety. That doesn’t mean she’s out of the story for good, but most of the time, readers are stuck with the wearisome Bud. He certainly has a lot going on in his personal life, and his moral choices will make or break a reader’s attachment and ability to care. He himself is a victim, and an imperfect one at that.

“You’ve got yourself a lunatic out there, Sheriff. A real basket case. This kid was struck thirteen times.”

Black Christmas has the deliberate pacing of a ‘70s horror movie. So much of Altman’s writing here was, as mentioned before, made up of wordy descriptions. He carries on about people, places and events both vital and superfluous to the story. On the plus side, the murder scenes aren’t ephemeral; Altman was sure to stay on the women’s executions so the reader hasn’t a chance to forget them. A typical slasher movie might show the violence and outcome on screen for a couple of seconds, whereas Black Christmas’ prefers to linger.

Overall, this Black Christmas leans heavier on the procedural aspects of the crime than it does the action and thrills, but the book doesn’t shy away from lurid violence. The vivid language can be as beautiful as it is destructive, and the characters are refreshingly disagreeable. The story meanders to an extent before making a dash for the exit. That ending feels too quick and unsettled, yet the screwy motive and bold choice of killer are each something to look forward to.

Thomas Altman’s Black Christmas is best known for being what it isn’t, and that’s a tie-in for a ’74 cult film. Apropos of Christmas horrors that are as black as coal, though, this novel can easily hold its own.

black christmas

The post The Other ‘Black Christmas’ – Revisiting Thomas Altman’s Unrelated Christmas Horror Book from 1983 appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/books/3742643/the-other-black-christmas-revisiting-thomas-altmans-unrelated-christmas-horror-book-from-1983/

No comments:

Post a Comment


Support Us!
$2
$3
$5
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!



The Top 10 Streaming Scary Movies of Today (According to Netflix)

Given that Netflix really is the master of their own data, how many times a viewer streams The Ridiculous 6, or what films don't get watched all the way straight through, or how many times someone watches an episode of Bill Nye Saves the World, it was easy for them to come up with the list based on just one percentage: 70 percent.

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!


Top 5 Original Horror Movies of 2020 (Even During a Pandemic)


3 Frightening Clowns Not from the Underworld or Magical Hell


3 Viral Videos Proving Spiders Are Still Scary as Hell


Stephen King Adores These 22 Horror Films


3 Super Stories on 'Halloween' and Horror That'll Make You Want to Wear the Mask

xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#'