Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
John Saxon/LT Fuller
A mysterious psychotic killer is hiding in the attic of a girls sorority house, making obscene, disturbing phone calls from the inside (no it wasn't me). But the ring-a-ling-ling was only the beginning. He eventually proceeds to slaughter the girls one by one in brutal fashion. (Arrow SIngs) Tis the season to be violent ta la la la- la la- la la!
"Filthy Billy... I know what you did... nasty Billy!"-- The Psycho
Many consider "Halloween" to be the pioneer of slasher films. Granted Carpenter's classic has done loads for our beloved subgenre but the lesser known, Canadian-made bitter pill Black Christmas did it as well and it actually did it first. Sadly this sharp edged gem never garnered the popularity that Halloween did and in consequence never got the praise it much deserved. Well this X-Mas lets give this one a present; some long overdue PRAISE!
Black Christmas was one hell of a bleak, sucker punched filled slay ride and it gave me the genuine willies. Bathed in an omnipresent darkness within an imposing claustrophobic setting, the film handled its now known slasher formula like a freaking pro, tossing our way with full force moments of pure shock, a baffling whodunit, hard hitting plot twists and an expert use of the "killer is in the house" motif. The film's firm execution in terms of its conventions, literally knocked my stockings out! Now that's what horror is all about! Personally, the element that got under my skin the deepest had to be the killers' phone ramblings. I mean this dude was a hands down, to the core loon. He leaped into these bizarro monologues, taking on different voices (a man, woman, child), going on about things that only he understood while taking the random dramatic pause to slip in a heart felt "I’m gonna kill you" in there. What a CLASS ACT! The phone calls butcher boy (or girl) made, established him early on as one crazy mother to be reckoned with and since we never really got to see the lad throughout (apart from his heart warming toying with his victims' cadavers), that turned him into a constant thick cloud of doom spread wide about this tale. You didn't see him but man did you feel him!
Now sure watching this flick today, its to be said that it was guilty of being somewhat dated. I mean it helped set up the rules that "Scream" more recently deconstructed and poked fun at. Having said that, that peeve basically now applies to all old school slashers, so I easily discarded the charge. I guess the only negative venom I have to spit out is: where was the nudity? When a slasher film takes place in a sorority house of all places, I expect some female candy to suckle on. The gals were way too prudish here! Where were my lesbian scenes??? But in all seriousness, Black Christmas was a competently written, beyond chilling offering that sported a stellar cast (John Saxon baby!), potent doses of terror and a powerhouse ending as back up. I wish Christmas was a hoot like this every year! (ARROW SINGS) Deck the victims with sheets of plastic, ta da da da da-ta da-ta-da!
The murders here graded high on the brutality scale but low on the gore meter. We get a girl being choked by a plastic bag, a semi blood wet stabbing and after the fact damaged corpses. Although not too graphic, the film still hit hard via the viciousness behind its dirty deeds.
Olivia Hussey (Jess) was solid as the heroine of the lot; I was on her side the whole way. She also put out one cute British accent. That always gets me! Keir Dullea (Peter) played his creepy, neurotic part well. I bought it! A pre Lois Lane fame Margot Kidder (Barb) stole mucho scenes and brought in some humor as the alcoholic and chain smoking drunk. Actors always come through when they play themselves. Another statement to that rule applied to John Saxon (LT Fuller) who once more played John Saxon...he was wonderful at it as per usual. Doug McGrath (Nash) was responsible for a few straight chuckles as the incompetent cop.
T & A
Was this a sorority house or a nunnery?? The ladies didn’t even walk around in their underwear!!! COME ON! I guess Bob Clark kept that stuff for "Porky's"…bummer…
Clark set up an unsettling dark mood from frame one, exploiting his creepy setting fully while giving us hints of slick style on the way (loved the killer POV shots and the slow motion). He also liked to inter-cut murder sequences with mundane events which made the scenes quite effective. And I have to give the man extra credit for two things: 1- That very scary shot of the eyeball (you’ll know when u see it) killed me and the ending (which I won’t dare give away) buried me. GREAT SHOW!
The piano score found here echoed the murderer’s mind frame in its fluctuating and unstable demeanor. CHILLING!
Black Christmas was an all around well rounded horror flick that hit notes most fear entries out there failed at. This one has been in the dark for way too long, it is the definition of a "Cult Classic". Halloween should definitely pat it firmly on the ass as a much deserved "THANK YOU". If you haven’t experienced this tasty cup of acid yet, stop chocking that Reindeer and go out to purchase it this second. If you can get past some of its now familiar "slasher" conventions, you will be treated to a superior, unapologetic and nasty little bastard that's sure to awake your dormant X-Mas spirit. Shut the lights, get the kitchen knife and watch this one alone in the dark. I hope it creeps you out as much as it did me. Brrrrr....I love X-Mas... specially when its BLACK!
The flick "When A Stranger Calls Back" stole the: caller is in the house gimmick…Black Christmas deserves the credit.
Bob Clark is Canadian (you go boy!).
The film was shot in Ontario…notice the Labatt 50 can that Miss Kidder chugs at one point.