Directed by Bob Clark [Other horror films: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), Dead of Night (1974), Murder by Decree (1979)]
This is a true classic of the genre, and one of the first real slashers, coming out four years before Halloween. It’s a movie that, to be honest, I’ve only seen once before sitting down and revisiting it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t adore Black Christmas and the approach the movie took.
While it could perhaps rightfully be said that the plot here isn’t anything to celebrate that heavily, Black Christmas was one of the first movies to really throw together your typical slasher situation. Sure, a few movies prior had similar ideas (such as the British oddity The Haunted House of Horror, also known as Horror House), but this one cemented many of the core elements (including the final girl finding bodies of deceased friends and a first person point-of-view from the killer). The plot may not read like anything special, but it really is.
And taking a step back from the importance of the movie itself, the cast here holds some rather interesting faces, among them Olivia Hussey and John Saxon. Hussey, I won’t lie, I know purely from the 1990 mini-series It, but she looks pretty much the same, and I just loved seeing her here. Saxon’s been in quite a few horror films, A Nightmare on Elm Street being the finest, and he too brought a lot to the film, though he was far from a central character.
Lynne Griffin was one of the earlier casualties in the film, but given she played one of the main characters of the slasher Curtains nine years later, it was, much like Hussey, fun to see her. Both Margot Kidder and Marian Waldman were solid in this too, though Waldman’s character was mainly for comic relief, which, while funny, did feel off at times.
It is true that there’s not many great kills here – the best one, and I think this is beyond dispute, would be the stabbing with the glass unicorn, which was well-done due to it being spliced in with Christmas carolers blocking out the screams. The death wasn’t amazing, but I think it was still solid. What’s more effective is how an early victim in the film would keep popping up, just a body on a rocking chair with her head wrapped in plastic (which, if it sounds familiar, I’d recommend you check the poster). Not sure why, but that just had a creepy aura to it.
Another aspect that certainly merits mention is the somber finale. It’s not entirely dreary, but it is definitely downbeat, and I think that final scene is one of the more memorable things about the movie. It’s a good cherry on top of an already delicious dessert.
I said at the beginning, though, that Black Christmas isn’t perfect. When I think of 70’s horror I love, Black Christmas doesn’t often make my top ten or fifteen. No doubt it’s a good movie, not to mention an important one, but it’s never been my go-to. That said, if you’ve not yet seen this one, I highly recommend giving it a watch, because it’s well-regarded by many for good reason.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.