An escaped maniac returns to his childhood home on Christmas Eve, which is now a sorority house, and begins to murder the sorority sisters one by one.
Also released as Silent Night, Deadly Night & Stranger in the House.
It’s been a while since I had seen this movie and you know what I am like for a good slasher film. Predating the likes of HALOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH, BLACK CHRISTMAS is credited as the first true slasher movie and brought in many of the features we see in this style of horror to the screen for the first time.
The movie doesn’t take any time to get going, starting at a college Christmas party, the group of girls in the movie are plagued by calls they initially put down to a nuisance caller. However the calls become much darker and sinister at the same time the body count starts to increase. The movie shows its age in this regard as whilst it is good at building tension and creates a great atmosphere the kill scenes are still rather tame and very little is shown on screen. However you have to remember the age of this movie and it still makes for a good movie regardless with several key parts to the story such as the disappearance of one of the girls who lives in the house and the strained relationship between Jess and Peter which creates an interesting dynamic where you start to believe he is behind the killings.
As the police investigate further and they check out the origin of the calls they discover the calls are coming from much closer than originally realised and whilst Bob Clark gave several clues about the killer being in the house, the fact that he has been hiding in there making the calls makes it even more creepy. The movie draws to a tense end without the actual killer ever being found and the police being so useless that they don’t even find the two bodies hidden in the loft and the whole thing ends with a recuperating Beth and the sound of a house phone ringing.
What Bob Clark created with BLACK CHRISTMAS was a genius movie that whilst doesn’t hold many jump scares it makes up for in great tension and a sense of unpleasantness that really gets under your skin and stays there. The fact the killer is there the whole time and the fact he isn’t caught just makes it all the more unpleasant and whilst this movie shows it’s age and doesn’t have as much guts and gore as the slashers that followed this is still a brilliant piece of film making.
Im probably going to get a bit of flak for this…
This was a first watch for me, and I didn’t like Black Christmas.
The whole thing felt like a bargain bin find you would pickup due to the name.
Certain films have for one reason or another over the years built up a ‘lore’ or a nostalgic charm, thats often recruited a fan base as the years have gone by. This applies especially to films that people saw in their youth. Other films maintain themselves as masterpieces of cinema in an almost timeless fashion (Metropolis, Psycho etc). Black Christmas is firmly in the first camp, it healthy maintains high scores on Imdb, netflix, amazon and the like, Im just not seeing why.
Its classic low budget faire, sorority girls, old house, creepy deranged phone calls, people disappearing, boyfriend suspected etc etc etc, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before. I think my biggest problem stems from this, everything in Black Christmas has become old hat and done to death. This isn’t the films fault by any means (what it did, it did very well). Its just been copied a hundred times to the extent of ‘call coming from inside the house’ is horror punchline worn as thin as ‘to get to the other side’. Its all been done before, done to death and its all been copied from here, leaving very little for the first time viewer to latch onto.
The cast is good, everyone is very capable at what they do, notably the alcoholic House Mother Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) who provided great comic relief. She also appears to be one of the few of the main cast that hasn’t gone on to something much bigger, other cast came from and went into films including Superman, 2001 and Nightmare on Elm Street. Normally with low budget films of this type the cast will make a handful and disappear.
The one idea in the film I did enjoy was the minimal use of the Killer ‘Billy’, he only appeared in shadows if at all on screen. Mainly the killer was depicted in POV shots or off screen hidden away giving a decent sense of dread. The nuisance phone calls placed throughout the film on the other hand somewhat ruined the character a bit for me as he came across as a smutty teenager (with a unhinged/violent streak), Who believes he wont be found out. I would of preferred (as a viewer) to hear him verbalise less when on the phone and live up to his nickname (the moaner).
The film wraps with very little reveal or explanation of Billy’s motives or backstory which considering modern horrors seeming requirement to explain every plot point out loudly and slowly like a english person on holiday. It was a very refreshing idea for a film and one of the few things I rather liked, though could understand the annoyance it may cause some people.
So Black Christmas wasn’t for me. Maybe if I had seen it in my youth it would of had some nostalgic feel to it for me to latch onto and cherish.