A sorority house is terrorised by scary phone calls over the Christmas break. At first they don’t think much of it, but then things start to get really frightening when one of them goes missing and then a body is discovered in the woods near by. Slowly the police begin to put the pieces together, and they try to find out what is really going on. Little do they know the killer is inside the house and picking them off one by one. Does this sound familiar? Well it should, as this appears to be the film that inspired so many, and is hailed as one of the first slasher films. And after seeing this film I can see why it is often imitated, this is a great film! I found Black Christmas to be genuinely creepy and frightening, the killer in this one is shown entirely from his (or hers) point of view and those phone calls were chilling! I might be biased here because I have received some terrifying calls in the past, and seeing them on screen like this brought it all back.
Black Christmas has a lot going for it, a holiday type theme, a mysterious killer, likeable characters and a very creepy tone. It was refreshing to see something like this, coming from the mid 70’s and being so innovative for it’s time. I think this really set the bar for things to come, and without this film we wouldn’t have the likes of Friday The 13th and such. It really succeeds because it has a clever script, something which will keep you guessing right until the end (I really like being surprised and not seeing things coming).
It mostly has pretty solid acting, from a likeable cast, they all worked pretty well and when bad things happened I actually cared. The stand outs here were John Saxton as Lt. Fuller, he is such a great actor and he was very real and genuine. I immediately liked him, he was sincere with wanting to help and took charge of the situation. Marian Waldman as Mrs Mac was hilarious, her foul mouth had me laughing! While she might not have been the best actress she was quite a lot of fun, she added some needed humor to the film. Which is also what Margot Kidder did as Barb, by golly she was inappropriate (the fellatio phone number thing was a riot) and she was simply stunning to look at. Olivia Hussey as I guess our main character Jess was very credible and easy to relate to, she was likeable and made for an interesting character. It was painful to watch as she picked up the phone to receive another awful call from the killer, if these scene’s didn’t work and I don’t think the film would have been quite as strong.
Black Christmas took the approach that less is more, the killings are shown off screen, and it is the build up that works so well. There is a little bit of blood here, however if you use your imagination it can be even more frightening then seeing it. The camera work was great, the POV shots had my skin crawling, I loved it. I got a sense of terror every time we became the killer with those shots. The strange noises that he (or she) made were strange and disturbing, as were the phone calls. It all worked so well and it came together nicely. I think my favourite scene was when the police find out where the phone calls are coming from, Fuller knew that things were going to get bad and as the viewer I felt it too.
If there was anything that failed the film, it was the pacing, at times it was a little off and unnecessarily slow. I think a good 5 minutes could have been taken out, and made it a tighter film. However that is only a small thing in an otherwise great and entertaining film. It is not often that a find something that creeps me out, but did one did the trick! I am happy to have finally seen this film, and I look forward to re-watching it down the line and enjoying it again.
Black Christmas (1974) was part of my Horror Films For October, you can find the entire list here.