Director Bob Clark
Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder
Top 100 Films #36 Top 20 Horror Films #11
Scott’s Review #309
Reviewed December 29, 2015
Black Christmas (1974) is one of my favorite horror films of all time and, in my opinion, an under-appreciated classic. Somehow it is just not the first, second, or third film mentioned when most discuss the influential horror films of years past.
My hubby and I make sure to watch it every holiday season.
It largely influenced Halloween (another love of mine) from the killer’s point of view camera shots to the seasonal element.
It is quite horrifying in several key scenes, in fact, and I am proud to list it as one of my favorite films.
Black Christmas is a must-see for fans of the horror genre.
The setting (a cold and snowy Christmas) is perfect and the film is shot quite dark. There are Christmas lights and carolers for a great winter holiday effect. Most of the film takes place at night and the location is primarily inside a huge, rather creepy, sorority house. The ambiance is well thought out.
Several sorority girls, led by boozy Barb (Margot Kidder) and sweet-natured Jess (Olivia Hussey), prepare to depart for the holiday season by having a small farewell Christmas party. Recently, the girls have been harassed by a prank caller spouting nonsensical gibberish daily.
As in true horror fashion, the girls are systematically offed one by one as events turn dire. Two sub-plots that ultimately merge with the central plot include Jess’s pregnancy by suspicious boyfriend Peter and the search in the park for a missing young girl.
The best part of Black Christmas is that it is an honest, raw film, made on a small budget, that does not include gimmicks or contrivances.
It has authenticity.
A disturbing film for sure, one victim being posed in a rocking chair continuously rocking back and forth next to the attic window, while said victim is bound in plastic wrap, holding a doll, mouth, and eyes wide, is one of the most chilling in horror film history.
The nuances of the killer also scare and the brilliance of this is that his motivations are mysterious and unclear (in large part the success of Michael Meyers as well). We never fully see the killer except for his shape and eyes, and that is the brilliance of the film.
The one slight negative to the film is the decision to make the cops appear incompetent. The desk sergeant, in particular, is a complete dope- one wonders how he got his job- as a sexual joke by one of the girls goes over his head while the other detectives laugh like fools.
Why is this necessary? I suppose for comic relief, but isn’t that the purpose of Mrs. Mac, the overweight, boozy sorority mother? Her constant treasure hunt for hidden booze (the toilet, inside a book) is comical and fun.
Her posing and posturing in front of the mirror (she is a very frumpy, average woman) are a delight and balance the heavy drama.
The conclusion of Black Christmas is vague and fantastic and works very well. Due, once again, to the police errors, the final victim’s fate is left unclear as we see her in a vulnerable state, unaware that the killer is looming nearby.
We only hear a ringing phone and wonder what happens next.
My admiration for Black Christmas (1974) only grows upon each viewing as I am once again compelled, to notice more and more ingenious nuances in the film.
Can’t wait until next Christmas to watch it again.