“In each of these movies, there are moments, scenes and sequences that are so precisely and skillfully designed to make us feel unsettled, horrified and afraid,” Clayton said. “We are made to feel this way even if there is nothing obvious on screen, or as far as we know off-screen, to be afraid of.” What else is scary about The Humans and Spencer? They’re both set during winter holidays. Andrew Scahill, an assistant professor of film at the University of Colorado, Denver, says that isn’t a coincidence: for many people, family reunions and shame-filled year-end assessments are terrifying. It’s no wonder that in his class on Christmas cinema he includes both the feel-good movie musical White Christmas (1954) and the harrowing proto-slasher Black Christmas (1974).
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