During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
- Jess Bradford: Olivia Hussey
- Barbara ‘Barb’ Coard: Margot Kidder
- Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller: John Saxon
- Mrs. ‘Mac’ MacHenry: Marian Waldman
- Phyllis ‘Phyl’ Carlson: Andrea Martin
- Peter Smythe: Keir Dullea
- The Prowler / Phone Voice: Nick Mancuso
- Mr. Harrison: James Edmond
- Sargeant Nash: Doug McGrath
- Chris Hayden: Art Hindle
- Clare Harrison: Lynne Griffin
- Bill Graham: Leslie Carlson
- Mrs. Quaife: Martha Gibson
- Laughing Detective: John Rutter
- Doctor: Robert Warner
- Farmer: Sydney Brown
- Search Party: Jack Van Evera
- Search Party: Les Rubie
- Woman: Marcia Diamond
- Jean: Pam Barney
- Wes: Robert Hawkins
- Cogan: David Clement
- Jennings: Julian Reed
- Cop: Dave Mann
- Cop: John Stoneham Sr.
- Cop: Danny Gain
- Cop: Tom Foreman
- Patrick Cornell: Michael Rapport
- Producer: Bob Clark
- Original Music Composer: Carl Zittrer
- Director of Photography: Reginald H. Morris
- Editor: Stan Cole
- Screenplay: Roy Moore
- Art Direction: Karen Bromley
- Executive Producer: Findlay Quinn
- Hairstylist: David R. Beecroft
- Production Supervisor: David M. Robertson
- Makeup Artist: Bill Morgan
- Co-Producer: Gerry Arbeid
- Associate Producer: Richard Schouten
- Wuchak: ***Historical slasher with John Saxon, Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder***
It’s the Christmas season at a sorority house in the Northeast wherein an ambiguous psycho hiding in the attic makes crank calls to the girls and slays them one-by-one. John Saxon plays the local detective.
“Black Christmas” (1974) obviously influenced “Halloween” (1978), e.g. the closet scene, but was influenced itself by psycho slasher flicks like “Psycho” (1960), “Dementia 13” (1963) and “Silent Night, Bloody Night” (1972).
Honestly, the 2006 remake has a more absorbing story which, to me, is the best indicator of a quality movie. This version is dull by comparison, particularly the first half, but it picks up steam in the second. And the open-ended climax is interesting.
But I strongly prefer the female cast in the remake; they’re just all-around superior IMHO. Of course Olivia Hussey is attractive in this rendition, albeit cold, and Lynne Griffin as Clare is winsome, although her part is small. Andrea Martin (Phyl) comes across as a shorter version of Cher with short, curly hair. Unfortunately, Margot Kidder as Barb is one of the most obnoxious characters in cinema, a real turn-off (so is Mrs. Mac, but less so). Thankfully, Barb’s only prominent through the first half.
The film runs 1 hour, 38 minutes, and was shot in Toronto.
- Dsnake1: Black Christmas is what happens when a director decides to make a slasher but also decides to make a good movie.
Each character has a purpose. By that, I don’t mean simply to drive the plot along. Each character is a person, and they each have their own unique personalities and motivations. Barb isn’t just the drunk and morally abrasive stereotype; she’s driven by her jealousy and likely by issues from her childhood. Each character feels about as deep as her, at the least.
The only character who isn’t fully explained is Billy, and that’s for the best. Billy isn’t a character we want explained, and it only drives the horror deeper that he isn’t.
This should be on every horror fan’s Christmas playlist.
- Gimly: One of only two films in my adult life to have been in any way involved in giving me a sense of genuine fear.
_Final rating: ★★★½ – I strongly recommend you make the time._
- The Movie Diorama: Black Christmas decorates traditional festivities with blood, suffocation and disturbing phone calls. Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! And have a slashin’ good time! The slasher sub-genre was most proficient during the mid-to-late 70s, with ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Halloween’ and a plethora of spicy Argento features to add a worldly aesthetic. However, one film that innovated the tropes and traits commonly found in the aforementioned titles, was Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. A horror “slasher” (if you can classify it as that…) where an anonymous serial killer remains secluded in a sorority house, gradually picking off the girls one by one. Just in time for Santa to come down that warmly lit chimney and deliver them coffins wrapped up in cute little bows.
To say that Black Christmas was revolutionary and a blooded sprout for the blossoming sub-genre to come, would be an understatement. A nameless unknown killer that exhumes mental instability? Check. An expendable cast of characters that stupidly investigate ominous sounds by themselves? Check. Excruciating tension with every camera movement? Absolutely! Surprisingly, now that I’ve witnessed various films during the conception of a horror movement, it’s incredibly easy to see how influential Black Christmas is. Not for its innovative concept, as other simpler thrillers utilise slashing techniques with efficiency (‘Psycho’), but rather for its technical proficiency.
Clark’s direction, whilst unpolished, is solid throughout. Taut camera pans to explore the darkened hallways of the sorority house. Minimal sound editing to heighten the suspense. Excellent use of shadows to illustrate the antagonist’s anonymity. Sublime POV perspective to place the viewer in the shoes of the killer. And a ramped up conclusive act that will have anyone watching perched on the edge of their seats eagerly anticipating to unwrap the plot twist, even if that narrative turn was predictable from the offset. The camera can be visible on specific occasions, mostly through reflections in picture frames as it glides through hallways. Emphasising that unrefined quality of Clark’s novice-like direction. It does give the feature some flavour, perhaps not the jolly festivities one was yearning for. More egg nog than champagne.
Yet what really injected some holiday spirit into the story, were the characters. Uniquely all acquiring a distinguishable personality that made them different and relatable. The shady drunk friend or the intellectual gal who has all the common sense (that is until she goes wandering by herself…!). The point is, they were all memorable, and that’s a rare achievement in slashers. The second act, where the campus police become involved, does stagnate the overall pace with minimal storytelling momentum. Fortunately the third act immediately picks it back up for an explosive bauble of…slashing.
So despite the lack of actual slashing, overall unrefined quality and inconsistent pacing, it’s an extremely enjoyable horror flick that takes a gentle holiday season and turns it into a crazy murder-sesh. Perhaps my new annual Christmas film? We’ll see…! I am sadistic after all!