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Black Christmas (1974)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Bob Clark

Starring:
Olivia Hussey/Jess
Keir Dullea/Peter
Margot Kidder/Barb
John Saxon/LT Fuller
10 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
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!
THE LOWDOWN
"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!
GORE
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.
ACTING
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…
DIRECTING
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!
SOUNDTRACK
The piano score found here echoed the murderer’s mind frame in its fluctuating and unstable demeanor. CHILLING!
BOTTOM LINE
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!
BULL'S EYE
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.
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+1
10:15PM on 07/24/2011
It's almost guaranteed that more people will have seen Halloween before Black Christmas(if at all). I feel pity for those who have not witnessed this innovator of the slasher genre, because IMO it is superior to Halloween. Many might find what I have to say is blasphemous, but I honestly enjoyed the acting, tension, and *gasp* even the score of Black Christmas more than Halloween. Sure Halloween had it's iconic figure in Michael Myers, but "Billy" was a more effective killer IMO because of
It's almost guaranteed that more people will have seen Halloween before Black Christmas(if at all). I feel pity for those who have not witnessed this innovator of the slasher genre, because IMO it is superior to Halloween. Many might find what I have to say is blasphemous, but I honestly enjoyed the acting, tension, and *gasp* even the score of Black Christmas more than Halloween. Sure Halloween had it's iconic figure in Michael Myers, but "Billy" was a more effective killer IMO because of the shroud of secrecy that he/she was kept in. And those phone calls *shiver*.... It had been a while until I felt actual goosebumps watching a movie, until "Billy" starting making those schizophrenic calls, at times sounding possessed. I make it a point to recommend this movie to all my friends with a taste for horror, and to fuck with my relatives around the holidays.
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2:02PM on 11/07/2010
This is one of the few movies to scare me shitless. Honestly I prefer Halloween, but this film scares me more! I love the characters. The three main girls Jess, Phyl and Barb are all VERY likable and actually pretty well developed. There was some great comedy, and the deaths were brutal. The movie is scary as fuck and the killer is one scary man.
This is one of the few movies to scare me shitless. Honestly I prefer Halloween, but this film scares me more! I love the characters. The three main girls Jess, Phyl and Barb are all VERY likable and actually pretty well developed. There was some great comedy, and the deaths were brutal. The movie is scary as fuck and the killer is one scary man.
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11:57PM on 07/15/2009
Finally got around to seeing this last night, after a decade of knowing about it! I have no idea what the hell took me so long, because I absolutely loved it! Some good laughs, and of course good chills! I might have to add probably the creepiest ending ever! DAMN!
Finally got around to seeing this last night, after a decade of knowing about it! I have no idea what the hell took me so long, because I absolutely loved it! Some good laughs, and of course good chills! I might have to add probably the creepiest ending ever! DAMN!
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9:36PM on 09/21/2008

Perfect for the genre

I give the edge to BC over Halloween. It moves at a better pace and has better acting. The suspense and kills definately rival Halloween as well. Classic.
I give the edge to BC over Halloween. It moves at a better pace and has better acting. The suspense and kills definately rival Halloween as well. Classic.
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-1
8:44AM on 08/22/2006
I've argued with other schmoes on the forum boards about this film already and I guess I'll present a little of my opinion here too.

I don't see what all the fuss is about over Black Christmas! It was a decent film but I truly didn't find it all that scary or disturbing. And once again, I know this film came out four years before Halloween, but in my opinion Halloween was the first slasher done right. The very fact that the killer in Black Christmas speaks ruins it for me.
I've argued with other schmoes on the forum boards about this film already and I guess I'll present a little of my opinion here too.

I don't see what all the fuss is about over Black Christmas! It was a decent film but I truly didn't find it all that scary or disturbing. And once again, I know this film came out four years before Halloween, but in my opinion Halloween was the first slasher done right. The very fact that the killer in Black Christmas speaks ruins it for me.
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+0
8:29AM on 12/02/2005
I've been reading Arrows reviews and seeing many films per his suggestion and this was on of the first I saw from his recommendation.

And what a great start to relying on this resource for my horror needs. It's nice to go back in time and see the film styles of a different generation. Most of today's horror films have at least one token wiseass, and this typically diminishes the impact of the film. Black Christmas plays it straight up, and therefore hits home with a vengeance.

The
I've been reading Arrows reviews and seeing many films per his suggestion and this was on of the first I saw from his recommendation.

And what a great start to relying on this resource for my horror needs. It's nice to go back in time and see the film styles of a different generation. Most of today's horror films have at least one token wiseass, and this typically diminishes the impact of the film. Black Christmas plays it straight up, and therefore hits home with a vengeance.

The first encounter with the killer on the phone made my blood curdle. Was this guy an actor? Wow! What a raving lunatic! The bleak, dead-of-winter atmosphere lent a sense of isolation and dread that accented the goings-ons perfectly.

Besides being one of the first slashers, this is a great film to boot. I've seen it in many different video stores, so it shouldn't be too hard to locate. Go rent it, you won't be dissapointed.

Bret
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10:39AM on 08/09/2005
This would have to be my favourite horror of all time so I might be a bit biased... BC is a criminally under-rated masterpiece... The villian is terrifying, the directing fantastic,the tone sinister, the phone calls genuinely disturbing.... a horror masterpiece 10/10
This would have to be my favourite horror of all time so I might be a bit biased... BC is a criminally under-rated masterpiece... The villian is terrifying, the directing fantastic,the tone sinister, the phone calls genuinely disturbing.... a horror masterpiece 10/10
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