Black Christmas (1974)
Posted: by Findlay
Black Christmas (1974); Directed by Bob Clark
In One Sentence: Someone is stalking and killing the girls of a sorority house during their winter break.
Why You Should Watch: Black Christmas kind of gets looked over whenever people write about classic all-time great slashers, which is fair enough because it may seem a seasonal horror film, but its much more than that and it deserves your undying respect.
Made in 1974 (same year the revolutionary Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released) this film is basically the archetype that a HUGE lot of slashers from the golden age of ’77-’84 borrowed from. It came out 3 years before Carpenter’s Halloween and is easily up there as one of the first, if not the first modern American slasher. It’s crazy to think the dude that made fucking Baby Geniuses made this. (Editor Note: This is true. He also directed the Christmas classic “The Christmas Story”. How is this possible?)
The film is set in a sorority house during Christmas break where the girls are winding down, but they begin getting super creepy phonecalls and become scared out their minds. The film is slowburning and actually focuses a lot on the disappearance process of the film’s victim. Initial wondering, then police help, then public help. It gives it this really voyeuristic feel considering YOU, the viewer, know what happened to the victim and where the body is.
Another thing that has to be said is the antagonist is THE creepiest fucking thing I’ve encountered in early slasher films. You never see him, the phone calls are terrifying mixes of high pitched cries for help and debauched details of sex acts and it’s totally effective. I was genuinely freaked out.
The film also focuses heavily on character development and their relationships to each other, whether it be Jess and her boyfriend Peter or drunk, obnoxious Barb (Margot Kidder) and her relationship with the other girls. It’s fascinating to see a horror film associated with cheap shit thrills being so well rounded!
For it being 1974, this is a fairly bloodless affair but that’s cool. It’s the mid-70’s, I’m surprised you could draw blood through those thick turtlenecks anyways.
The Christmas theme isn’t actually as prominent as you’d think. There are no big beasting Santa Clauses with pickaxes or a snowman with a rusty garlic crusher. The Christmas visual themes are intentionally like the ones in real life, in the background. The decorations of the film.
I have to give the editing in this film a big thumbs up as well. Editor Stan Cole pulled a blinder with POV shots, dialogue heavy-scenes and expositions shots all being cut together so tentatively and lovingly that it really makes the whole thing feel so fresh and new. There’s a scene in particular when the police are trying to trace a call and the way its cut brings tension to a scene that wasn’t written with it in mind. Brilliant.
Last shout out goes to the ending, which I won’t spoil obviously, but it did exactly what I hoped it would’ve. Poignant, oddly humorous and, for me, totally iconic.
OH! And Nancy’s dad from Nightmare on Elm Street is in it. ‘MON THE HANDSOME DADS!
Favourite Line: “You’re a real gold-plated whore, mother, you know that?”
Rating: 9/10 – The review is coming from INSIDE the screen