Ahead of its release next week in paperback, Bloody Flicks’ own Paul Downey and co-author David Hastings sat down to answer some questions about their definitive account of the Black Christmas films.
How did the book come about?
PD) About three years ago in late 2019, I had looked at getting some interviews with cast members from Black Christmas (1974), for a series of articles I wanted to run on my website. After an initially positive response, I felt there was the making of a larger project.
Coupled with the fact that there had never been a definitive account of the film, I decided to embark on putting together a book solely about the original. From here my curiosity peaked and I looked into the 2006 remake and the recently released (at the time) 2019 film and again was pleasantly surprised by how many people wanted to talk about those films, given their troubled or rushed productions.
I had been speaking to Dave, on and off about and he offered to help in any way he could. Being a filmmaker and a big fan of slashers helped with the more technical aspect of the book, and he came up with the idea for an academic piece around the film plus adding those finer details that only a filmmaker can spot.
DH) I remember Paul discussing the project over one of our many geeked out skype chats, and at the time I was busy on a film I was in post-production on, but the thought of discussing Black Christmas made me cheekily ask if I could write something for Paul’s book. Of course, like the film itself, Black Christmas has this unnerving ability to draw you in and get involved, and like the film’s narrative, I found myself getting drawn into the book more and more, which Paul kindly agreed to. And before we knew it, we were interviewing some of the cast and crew on Skype, and suddenly realised we had a whole book to write! It was scary but great all at the same time!
What makes Black Christmas stand out in the horror genre?
PD) Black Christmas, nearly 50 years since its release is still one of those films that still gives me chills. It carries a certain atmosphere and is bold in its choices.
Clark was such an underrated director, with his ability to flit between twisted macabre to great comedy. Much the same as Halloween (1978) it continues to be that unattainable slasher that filmmakers, even today are still trying to replicate.
DH) I think from a filmmaker point of view, it’s so simple yet so effective in style, tone and visuals. Everything and everyone work together to help create a sense of absolute dread, which clashes with the colourful lights, drinks and festivities we all associate with Christmas time. We may think of all those as safe, things that bring us happiness at this time of year, yet Bob Clark managed to infiltrate that easily and make Christmas just as dangerous as Halloween time.
How long did it take you to write?
PD) I would say, with the research, the interviews and putting it together, around 3 years has been devoted to this project. It has been an exercise in patience plus persistence as you have to do some chasing for information and interviews.
DH) I remember we were in the midst of this terrible pandemic as it first came along, where we were skyping with the cast and crew then. And that has been nearly 2 and a half years now. It’s been a while, but I think that has helped make the book even more informative and enjoyable. Patience is a virtue I guess.
Tell us about your background in writing?
PD) For me I have been writing about horror for over 10 years, on and off for magazines and websites, and decided 7 years ago to start my own site Bloody-Flicks.co.uk. By growing this, networking within the genre and attending film festivals I have gained a wider knowledge of the genre and it has opened many doors for me in terms of writing.
This book just felt like the next step in writing journey.
DH) I’m more a screenwriter and have worked on various films and various genre, but I recently completed my MA in Film and Screen Studies back in 2019, so that kind of helped me merge these two disciplines of writing together for the book. Being creative, yet somewhat objective, as well as writing the academia section of the book. But I have enjoyed writing the book so much and it’s given me the itch to continue In the future again!
What were your favourite chapters to construct?
PD – This is gonna sound weird, but I really enjoyed revisiting and deconstructing the remakes, as they have such notorious productions that the stories that came out of them were truly fascinating to me.
DH) I absolutely loved researching and writing about the original film. It was so much fun, and we even learned a few new things that we hadn’t known about. So constructing the book and importing those new revelations was quite an honour to be tasked with. I hope we did Bob and the whole company both in front of and behind the cameras of Black Christmas 1974 proud.
What is one bit of advice you would give writers looking to write about movies?
PD) Try to have a clear vision about what you want to achieve and don’t worry about rejections, it’s all part of the journey.
DH) Never give up. There are so many new stories wrestling to get out of your minds as writers, and it may take time sometimes (it did for us), but you have to believe in yourself and your ideas. You are a superstar and deserve to have your words read.
What surprised you about putting the book together?
PD) Just how meticulous you have to be and I have to credit Dave and our proofreader Leyla for fine-tuning some parts of the book that were a little rough around the edges.
DH) I agree with Paul, you have to be meticulous and wrestle with some editorial decisions we made along the way. But credit to Leyla and Peter for their stunning contributions.
What are your next projects?
PD) I have just signed a contract with BearManor to do a tell-all book about Jaws: The Revenge, another juicy, troubled production.
DH) I’m back in the edit suite finishing off my latest film, You Are My Sunshine, and still finishing another feature entitled Advent. But me and Paul have discussed what we can possibly work on together next book-wise and we’ve been putting feelers out, but we’re not saying yet as it’s still very early days. But I do want to write a book about the making of the 1996 film Loch Ness too, which I’m excited about.
It’s Me Billy: Black Christmas Revisited is available now from BearManor Media.