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Black Christmas (1974)


December 5, 2016 - 2:50am | Ryan Tutolo

Your rating: None Average: 8 (2 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 
8
ReviewBlackChristmas1974-1.jpg

Rating #: 
8/10
Director: 
Bob Clark
Cast: 
Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, James Edmond, Douglas McGrath, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin, Michael Rapport, Les Carlson, Martha Gibson, John Rutter, Robert Warner


On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...arguably the first traditional slasher. Ok so maybe I’m not the best songwriter. Though before you jump, yes I'm aware of earlier entries like Psycho and various gialli. Black Christmas represents the first real jumping off point for the subgenre and inspired Halloween, the father of the traditional slasher. So if we go into this movie with an open mind does it hold up?

The plot is simple, a killer has invaded a sorority house at a local college and is dispatching the unsuspecting girls.  Meanwhile, a police lead search is underway for one of the missing girls and a mysterious lewd caller is bothering the girls. The race is on to identify the killer before it’s too late.

I absolutely love the intro that gives us a brief sample of some characters inter-cut with the killer sneaking into the house in first person mode. We get a nice taste of all the lead women and their personalities. Margot Kidder as Barb is clearly the standout in the bunch. She’s crude and loud and hilarious.  With lines like, “Darling...you can’t rape a townie.” you just know she’s the life of any party. The rest of the girls are a mishmash of personalities ranging from geek, to goody-two shoes, to independent strong woman.

Other characters round out the cast like John Saxon playing a cop...not a real stretch for him, but Saxon is welcomed in any horror film. The alcoholic sorority mother is classic.  There’s not a place in the house that this lady can’t hide booze! Clare’s dad is fine as a concerned parent searching out for his little girl though I think more hysterics would add fun to the movie and a sense of urgency.



There are a lot of controversial parts in this movie (well for 1974). While I’m sure the killer’s dirty phone calls were disturbing and horrific in the 70s, today they are comical in tone due to their bluntness. Sexual innuendo and naughty words like “cunt” and “cock” are thrown around like confetti at new years. A good portion of the plot revolves around one character wanting to get an abortion while her struggling musician boyfriend wants her to keep it. The abortion topic is still (amazingly) controversial today and can still elicit a gasp from modern conservative audiences. It gets no less awkward when John Saxon starts asking specifics and giving suggestions about it!

We know next to nothing about the killer other than he like to make obscene calls and kill women. I won’t spoil the ending but I will say the killer’s identity is left to interpretation. Different viewers can get different meanings from the end, but throughout the movie we’re left with the overwhelming sense that he’s just this evil presence torturing and killing for no other reason than his own pleasure.  Rumor is that John Carpenter originally came up with the concept of Halloween to be a sequel for this movie!

Barb’s murder is probably my favorite.  She’s stabbed with a glass unicorn while the foreground has other crystal figurines on display. The black background with all these reflective elements really makes for a beautiful scene that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Dario Argento film. Shots like this really make you realize the talent behind the camera.

Black Christmas is a very early slasher that is suspenseful with classic filmmaking techniques and excellent characters. The tone is dark and remorseless though the 70s kitsch factor is very high. Anyone who considers themselves even a casual horror fan owes it to themselves to check this inspirational gem out.

Author Information

Ryan Tutolo's picture
Ryan Tutolo is a horror movie lover and host of the UHM Podcast. Follow him on Twitter and let him know why his reviews suck!

https://twitter.com/ryantutolo
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