Right away I thought it would be another rip-off of Silent Night, Deadly Night, or any cheezy slasher flick. I was surprised to see that it was made in 1974, before either of those two, and starred the much talented and much underrated Margot Kidder, who should be honored as a Scream Queen for her role in Sisters, but is mostly remembered for being Lois Lane in the Superman movies and then going insane ten years later. Yes, it was a slasher movie, that was clear, but it appeared to be one of the first slasher movies (always tempting when found at a horror movie desert like Hollywood Video). In fact, I think the vignette that starred Joan Collins (another unacknowledged scream queen) in Tales from the Crypt, the Movie in 1969 or near that date was the first Christmas-is-scary-too story to make it to the big screen.
Directed by Bob Clark, creator of the childhood comedy A Christmas Story, Black Christmas is undeniably violent and graphic for the time it was made. It is a staple of holiday horror and, as the years have gone by, has withstood the test of time as a serious horror flick that inspires fear in sorority girls everywhere… Not hampered by gatuitus sex, nudity, gore, or sleaze, Clark relies on good old fashioned Hitchcokian suspense to scare. Cold, classy, and straightforward, Black Christmas also has the advantage of good acting by the female leads played by Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey
Black Christmas starts off with a Christmas party at a sorority house and an obscene phone call. It doesn’t beat around the bush. A deranged lunatic sneaks into the attic of the house and makes his way downstairs occasionally to brutally murder the girls. The police, who finally become involved after the girls begin disappearing and the phone calls become more than just run of the mill demented phone sex and death threats, fail to catch the killer who in the end remains at large, and hence, still a potential threat to young college girls everywhere.
The movie has several very interesting plot twists which I’m sure mesmerized movie-goers back in the Brady Bunch early seventies, but are now predictable and sometimes frustrating to anyone who enjoys horror movies on a regular basis or who has heard a few urban legends (ironically, it is refreshing and innovative to anyone who saw the movie Urban Legend or especially its sequel, Urban Legends-Final Cut). Literally creating the idea of urban-legend-as-movie-plot and pioneering the red herring disturbed-boyfriend-as-a-potential-suspect concept, Black Christmas was not only innovative but made a strong attempt at suspense and terror. The gibberish babblings of the lunatic killer on the other end of the phone and the use of profanity are more extreme than many other horror movies from the early seventies, with the exception of The Exorcist. The acting is good. The storyline makes logical sense. Unnecessary dialogue or meaningless sub-plots do not burden the characters. There is not a lot of gore, which is disappointing if you like gore, but the death scenes are still satisfying. However, horror fans who rent Black Christmas may find the cute drunken bumblings of the house mother an annoyance right out of Bewitched and the incompetence of the local police department excessive even for a small college town.
Disregarding everything else I have just written, I still recommend this film if for no other reason than to watch Margot Kidder being stabbed to death by her own glass unicorn collection, which will put a smile on anyone’s face.