Black Christmas (1974) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Black Christmas (1974) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on December 19th, 2019 | Movie Review | Christmas, Holiday, Black Christmas Series

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It's about a sorority house being terrorized by a killer over Christmas.

Black Christmas was directed by Bob Clark (who also directed Strip Club Massacre and Dead of Night) and stars Olivia Hussey (from Ice Cream Man, Distortions), Keir Dullea (from Blind Date, BrainWaves) and Margot Kidder (from The Clown at Midnight, The Amityville Horror).

If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl...It's on too tight

Black Christmas Review

Black Christmas is widely believed to be the very first slasher movie, years ahead of Friday the 13th . It was also the first movie to give you the viewpoint of the killer and the first to introduce "the call is coming from inside the house" trope.

The running theme throughout this movie is a ringing phone and obscene calls. And the calls are super obscene, especially for the time and setting. Through the calls the killer effectively terrorizes and reveals enough information about himself to understand his motives. And as bodies start dropping it starts to become clear who the killer likely is, before a big twist near the end underscored by the lack of a score. It's a quality horror movie from a technical standpoint, is firmly rooted and influential in the horror genre and packs enough of a punch to stand up over time.

Horror movies back then were often very controversial, much of the older generation of the time simply weren't ready. Protests and bannings were commonplace, think The Exorcist and Cannibal Holocaust . And it's pretty clear this movie was angling for some that sweet sensationalism. They did pretty much everything possible to offend. There were the obscene phone calls, vulgar Santa's, people giving booze to kids and casual talk of abortion. I'm sure if they could have squeezed religion in there too they would have.

All of this is great and deserves all the kudos it gets.

With that being said, Black Christmas is very slow and repetitive. I actually like slow burns, when the timing is used to develop story and suspense which both culminate in dread and terror. Not the case here. It was half soap opera and half listening to really long obscene phone calls, like really long. We get it, he's a creep, but then he just keeps going and going. And the girls are just as freaked out the 15th time they answer his call as they were the 1st.

A few of the characters were strong, especially Mrs. Mac the Sorority Mother. She was comedy, always hiding booze in the craziest places and dropping lines like "These broads would hump the Leaning Tower of Pisa if they could get up there!" The lieutenant was a strong character as well. He was the lead cop in this investigation, just as he was the lead cop in the Nightmare on Elm Street . Billy, the killer, didn't get much camera time, but the way he whines and cries reminds me a lot of the killer nun on Bloody Bloody Bible Camp .

Ultimately Black Christmas is a quality horror with a strong start and an even stronger ending, but it's also a slow burn that gets very repetitive after about an hour.

Worth Watching?

I think it's worth watching once. It's part of horror history and influenced many of the slashers that followed it. But I found this re-watch to be tough since I just don't have the patience anymore to stare at a ringing phone for 30 minutes.

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