Black Christmas (1974) Movie Review
Review Date: 01/12/2019
Genre: Horror, Slasher
UK Release Date: 12-10-1975
Studio: Film Funding Ltd. of Canada
Black Christmas opens with someone lurking in the shadows outside a sorority house. It’s very cleverly filmed and we only see the scene from the point of view of the person in the bushes. The figure moves through the garden, makes his way up a trellis and then climbs into the loft where he takes up residence.
The sorority sisters are preparing for Christmas, some of them are going home, and others are tagging along with Barb (played superbly by Margot Kidder) to go skiing and they’re in a generally happy mood – until their evening is ruined by a nuisance phone call. The character on the other end of the line makes some truly horrendous noises that wouldn’t be out of place in a film like The Exorcist. The girl’s gather around the phone to listen to the noises from the other end – they’ve had these types of call before (and probably expect them from drunk guys being a sorority) but this call is a little bit different (it’s certainly not wise to watch this bit with your Grandma thanks to the colourful language!) Barb has enough and tells the guy to go stick his tongue in a wall socket when the voice chillingly turns super-normal sounding as says “I’m gonna kill you” and hangs up.
The girls don’t think much more of it and continue to party and when they find that Claire is missing they think she’s gone home early – little do they know she’s the first victim of the killer (known as “Billy”) and has been stashed in the attic.
The following day Barb and a guy named Graham (Les Carlson) are hosting a group of underprivileged kids where Graham is a very sweary Santa and Barb proceeds to get drunk and then get one of the kids drunk in a really well timed series of scenes. Claire’s Dad arrives at the sorority house, he’s been waiting for Claire for some time and she hasn’t shown up, the Sorority mother directs him to speak to Barb and Phyl (Andrea Martin) as they may know where Claire is. They don’t so Barb heads to the police station to try and file a missing person’s report which the police dismisses (partly thanks to Barb’s drunken antics).
The characters are really well developed within the first 30 minutes of the film and this means that unlike most slasher films we actually care about the fate of the girls which I think is a step that most subsequent movies of this genre miss out. And while this isn’t the first slasher movie by any means it does set up some of the formulas and formats that films in the same genre would follow: The “Final Girl”, red herring suspects, red herring murders, police ineptitude, dodgy boyfriend, sarcastic friend etc.
Because the cast is so strong, and there are quite a few characters we never know who is going to be our “final girl” until towards the end of the film and this is great as it’s usually obvious who it’s going to be. There’s plenty of inventive murders (you’ll never look at a Unicorn Ornament the same way again) but they’re not overly gross and leave a good amount to the imagination which I like.
Now, to the ending of the film. I don’t want to ruin it for you but I did have to watch it twice as I was a bit “WTF? Did I just understand that right?” – it’s got a nice twist that will certainly give you something to think about.
So, is it a Christmas film? No, it’s a horror film that just happens to be set at Christmas. None of the characters have any connection to Christmas and there aren’t any Christmas themed murders (in the remake Christmas lights and a tree are used though so there is that) so this film could have taken place at any time of the year.
Watch this if you like horror films and aren’t quite feeling in the Christmas Spirit yet.
This review is part of the 2019 Christmas Movie Advent Calendar series where I review 24 Horror films that all have a Christmas connection. You can view the full list of films reviewed here.