Black Christmas (1974)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Roy Moore
Starring: Andrea Martin, Art Hindle, Doug McGrath, John Saxon, Keir Dullea, Lynne Griffin, Margot Kidder, Marian Waldman, Michael Rapport, Olivia Hussey
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark
Available on dual format from 101 Films
It’s Christmas time and a group of sorority sisters are being plagued by an anonymous phone pest who keeps ringing up the Pi Kappa Sigma house and making strange noises and obscene comments down the phone. When one of the girls fails to meet her father when arranged, a search party is set up to find her. However, the person behind her disappearance may be closer than they think.
When you think of slasher movies nowadays, you think of Wes Craven’s outputs such as Scream and the like, and if asked to cast your mind back a bit further, some may even say Halloween. But the film that really shook up the horror genre and put slasher movies on the path to success, it has to be festive cult favourite, BLACK CHRISTMAS.
Holiday horror BLACK CHRISTMAS changed the rules of horror films as we knew them, becoming the Godfather of slasher movies with Bob Clark’s innovative approach to scaring audiences. Given the point of view of the pervert killer as he scales the sorority house at the beginning of the movie, climbing into and hiding in the attic, viewers are already familiar with the villain of the piece, even if we don’t know his identity. From thereon in, we’re left to sit anxiously, biting our nails, as we anticipate when the heavy-breathing stalker will strike next. His first victim is taken pretty early in the movie and it’s from this initial intense interaction that the fear is created; a killer hiding inside a sorority house ready to pounce at any given moment. The thought that your own home, somewhere where you think is safe, is harbouring a homicidal creep is enough to have any viewer inspect their loft after the film ends – you know, just to be sure there’s no-one hiding in theirs!
BLACK CHRISTMAS is a unique animal from the start with its instant appreciation for not taking itself too seriously despite intending to kill off several characters in a rather bloody, frightening way. Characters such as drunken Barb (Margot Kidder) who loves to wind up police officers with faux FELLATIO phone codes and shout abuse at the mystery caller, to sorority mother Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) who’s care-free attitude and love of sneaking a crafty drink of her many concealed bottles of whiskey around the home, are enough to raise a giggle and put you at ease. They’re all likable girls and women in their own individual way so knowing that an unhinged psycho is lying in wait above their heads is quite stressful to watch. All you want to do is scream at the TV and tell the girls to get out of there. Alas, they must learn the hard way.
Like all good slasher movies, part of the reason we watch are for the set-piece kills. However, BLACK CHRISTMAS is unlike many slashers in the fact that most of the actual killing takes place off-screen. Quite often, all we’re left with is the aftermath of the slaughter; a suffocation; a slit throat. This doesn’t make them any less distressing though. One kill involving a glass unicorn will make anyone wince but you have to admire how beautifully that scene, and others, are shot to really capture the realism and terror of the situation.
Whilst the kills may lack the initial punch, the manic phone calls present a much more sinister, immediate threat even if they’re just verbal assaults. Often sounding like multiple different voices talking, sometimes at once, with women’s screams and pig noises thrown in amidst the “cunt” cursing – dialogue which is present in this cut from 101 Films – the anonymous caller is someone to fear rather than entertain, especially as the calls become more intense and disturbing with references personal to the sorority girls. Just this alone is enough to give you the creeps!
Released on Blu-Ray from 101 Films, BLACK CHRISTMAS has been given the 5.1 audio track treatment alongside the 2k presentation – the first ever for a UK release of this movie. Visually, the movie retains its 70’s grain to feel authentic for its era though it feels fresh and modern thanks to the timeless approach of the story and execution of the screenplay. In terms of special features, there’s interviews with Art Hindle, who plays musician Chris, and Lynne Griffin who plays ill-fated first victim Clare Harrison as well as Black Christmas legacy featurette, original TV and radio spots and footage from the 40th Anniversary Reunion Panel in Canada with Art, Lynne and Nick Mancuso.
As unsettling now as it would have been in the 70’s, BLACK CHRISTMAS has a wicked streak that is the gift that just keeps giving. This is a fine example of an original slasher that paved the way for the modern slashers we’ve grown to adore. Without Black Christmas, genre cinema might not have been the same. A true Crimbo creeper!