5 Frightfully Festive Facts We Learned From Yuletide Terror
Canadian publisher Spectacular Optical already made a strong impression on fans of cult pop culture with Kid Power! and Satanic Panic, but the third collection from editors Paul Corupe (Canuxploitation.com) and Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) takes the company in a frightfully festive new direction. Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television collects 25 essays and interviews, exploring a broad range of topics within a very narrow subgenre. As an added bonus, the main text of the book is followed by nearly 200 Christmas horror reviews, including some titles that will be unfamiliar to even the most seasoned horror veteran. While we don’t want to spoil any holiday surprises, here are five intriguing facts we learned while reading this lively and informative collection.
1. Black Christmas wreaked havoc on phone lines
In the book’s first essay, Nightmare USA writer Stephen Thrower investigates the history of Black Christmas, which he describes as “the first stone-cold classic of Yuletide horror.” As fans of the film will recall, obscene phone calls play an important role in the proceedings, inspiring U.S. distributor Warner Bros. to create a promotional phone line for the release. Bombarded with 7,000 calls in a single night, this line caused disruptions to phone service, prompting N.Y. Telephone Co. to request an immediate end to this all-too-effective publicity stunt.
2. Silent Night, Deadly Night got Dudley Moore’s attention
In his history of Silent Night, Deadly Night, its four sequels, and the 2012 remake (Silent Night), Michael Gingold recounts the public outcry that greeted the original film’s theatrical release (relevant newspaper articles can be glimpsed in Yuletide Terror, but also on various home video releases and in the gatefold for Death Waltz’s vinyl release of the soundtrack). In fact, this controversy received such widespread attention that Dudley Moore referenced it while promoting 1985’s Santa Claus: The Movie, joking that his film’s title character is “a chainsaw murderer.”
3. Christmas Evil director Lewis Jackson hates slasher films
As you could probably guess from watching Christmas Evil, writer-director Lewis Jackson is harsh critic of Christmas—although he spent a decade collecting Santa paraphernalia for the shoot—and the United States. However, you might not guess that he also despises slasher films. While the success of Halloween was instrumental in getting Christmas Evil (then known as You Better Watch Out) financed, Jackson took most of his inspiration from a more esoteric source: New German Cinema auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
4. And All Through the Night was scored to be less scary
When the Tales from the Crypt TV series debuted on HBO in the summer of 1989, it got off to an incredibly strong start. Particularly notable is the seasonally ill-fitting And All Through the House. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this episode—about a deranged maniac in a Santa costume—is still regarded as one of the show’s best episodes, but writer Fred Dekker (who previously wrote and directed Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad) tells Janisse that the episode was intentionally scored (by Alan Silvestri) to be less scary, as Zemeckis was afraid to unsettle viewers.
5. Hammer Films gave Peter Cushing the gift of disappointment
In the late ’50s Hammer Films established a profitable partnership with actor Peter Cushing, joining forces on a string of movies loosely inspired by the Universal monster craze of the ’30s and ’40s. As Kim Newman explains in “A Hammer Film for Christmas,” the Dickens-inspired Cash on Demand was an attempt to let Cushing stretch his acting muscles. Unfortunately, the company ultimately decided to suppress this robbery mystery for fear that a successful release would steer Cushing clear of future monster movies.
Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television is available now through the Spectacular Optical website.