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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

Black Christmas 1974 Reviewed

Featured Image For Black Christmas 1974 Reviewed.   Movie poster for 'Black Christmas' featuring a woman with a plastic bag over her head, surrounded by a wreath of holly, with the tagline 'If this picture doesn't make your skin's on TOO TIGHT.
In 'Black Christmas,' festive cheer turns to chilling terror. The wreath hides a deadly secret, as the holiday spirit gives way to a horrifying nightmare.

As the first snowflakes dust the landscape with a pristine, yet chilling, purity, the cozy warmth of the holiday season often brings a sense of comfort and nostalgia. But for those daring enough to peek into the dark side of Yuletide cheer, 1974's Black Christmas offers a terrifying alternative. Imagine a university sorority house, festooned with festive decorations, turning into a nightmarish tableau of fear and suspense. This is not merely a horror movie; it is the genesis of the slasher film genre, a masterful blend of tension, terror, and dark humor that continues to haunt viewers decades later.

Key Takeaways From This Movie

  • Genre Pioneer: Recognized as one of the first and best slasher films, Black Christmas helped define the slasher genre, influencing many later horror movies, including John Carpenter's Halloween.

  • Atmospheric Horror: The film excels in creating a chilling atmosphere, using sound, setting, and cinematography to build tension and a feeling of dread throughout the movie.

  • Iconic Setting: The sorority house, typically a place of warmth and camaraderie, is transformed into a claustrophobic and terrifying environment, showcasing how familiar settings can become sinister.

  • Memorable Characters: The cast delivers excellent performances, particularly Olivia Hussey as Jess and Margot Kidder as Barb, making the characters memorable and relatable.

  • Psychological Tension: The film relies more on psychological horror and suspense rather than excessive blood and gore, making it a superior film in terms of building genuine fear.

A woman, her face etched with fear, her eyes wide and unblinking, fixated on the unsettling events unfolding in Black Christmas.
The silent night shatters, replaced by the chilling whispers of terror that echo through the sorority house.

Directed by Bob Clark, Black Christmas is a chilling tale set against the backdrop of a college sorority house during the Christmas break. The story follows a group of sorority sisters who are preparing for the holidays, only to be stalked by a deranged killer. The killer, known only through his lascivious phone calls and heavy breathing, remains a shadowy presence throughout the film, heightening the sense of dread and paranoia. The movie's use of the point-of-view shot from the killer's perspective adds a layer of intimacy to the terror, making the audience complicit in his voyeuristic malice.

At the heart of this slasher film are its characters, brought to life by an excellent cast. Olivia Hussey plays Jess, the film's protagonist, whose delicate beauty belies her inner strength. Jess is grappling with a personal dilemma, as she confides in her boyfriend Peter, played by Keir Dullea, about her desire to get an abortion. This subplot adds depth to her character, making her more than just a typical scream queen. Margot Kidder delivers a standout performance as Barb, the often inebriated sorority girl who provides some comic relief with her biting wit and sardonic humor. Kidder’s portrayal of Barb is both endearing and tragic, as her bravado masks a deep vulnerability.

Lynne Griffin’s Clare, the first victim, sets the tone for the horror that unfolds. Her disappearance during the sorority's Christmas party is both sudden and shocking, as the camera lingers on her lifeless body in a rocking chair, her face frozen in a silent scream behind plastic wrapping. This haunting image becomes one of the film's most iconic moments, a stark reminder of the killer's presence inside the house the entire time.

John Saxon plays Lieutenant Fuller, the detective trying to piece together the mystery of the obscene phone calls and the mounting body count. Saxon's performance is grounded and authoritative, providing a necessary counterbalance to the escalating chaos. The rest of the cast give excellent performances, contributing to a feeling of authenticity that makes the horror all the more palpable.

The true genius of Black Christmas lies in its atmosphere. Bob Clark masterfully creates a feeling of dread that permeates the entire film. The sorority house, typically a place of warmth and camaraderie, is transformed into a claustrophobic trap. The film's use of sound is particularly effective, with creepy Christmas carols juxtaposed against moments of sheer terror. The lascivious phone calls, filled with obscene threats and deranged mutterings, are genuinely unsettling, adding to the sense of violation and helplessness.

A man, his expression a mixture of unease and dread, engrossed in the unsettling atmosphere of Black Christmas.
The festive cheer fades, replaced by a creeping sense of paranoia as the sinister calls from within the house grow more menacing.

A Classic Holiday Horror

Unlike many later slasher films that rely heavily on blood and gore, Black Christmas employs a slow build-up, allowing the audience to care for the characters before plunging them into horror. This pacing, combined with the film's refusal to fully reveal the killer's identity or motivations, makes the movie much scarier than its more graphic successors. The shaky POV shot of the killer climbing into the attic window is a masterstroke, providing a sense of immediacy and realism that is indeed very similar to the techniques John Carpenter would later use in Halloween.

In fact, Black Christmas is often cited as a major influence on Carpenter's Halloween. Both films feature a killer who strikes during a particular time of year, both utilize the POV shot to bring the audience into the killer's perspective, and both create a sense of isolation and helplessness within a supposedly safe environment. However, Black Christmas stands out for its willingness to blend moments of levity with its horror, offering a more nuanced and textured narrative.

One of the film's most memorable quotes, "I'm a drunk," delivered by Barb in a moment of defiant self-awareness, encapsulates the film's dark humor. This ability to provide moments of comic relief amidst the horror is a testament to Bob Clark's direction and the script's sharp writing. It’s a film that does not shy away from the complexities of its characters, making their fates all the more affecting.

Black Christmas was a superior film for its time, pushing the boundaries of the horror genre and paving the way for future slasher movies. Its influence can be seen in countless films that followed, but few have matched its chilling effectiveness. The movie seemed dead on arrival in terms of box office performance, but over the years, it has gained a reputation as one of the scariest films ever made, a testament to its enduring power.

As the final frames roll, and the chilling realization sets in that the killer might still be lurking, the film leaves us with a lingering unease. The unresolved nature of the story, with the killer's true identity and fate left unknown, only adds to its haunting legacy. Black Christmas is not just a good horror film; it is a masterclass in suspense and atmosphere, a film that has earned its place in the pantheon of the best horror movies ever made.

In conclusion, Black Christmas is a timeless classic, a film that expertly weaves together tension, terror, and dark humor to create an unforgettable horror experience. Its impact on the slasher genre is undeniable, and its ability to evoke fear and unease remains undiminished. For those who dare to watch, it offers a chilling reminder that sometimes, the scariest monsters are the ones hidden in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

And that is Black Christmas 1974 Reviewed. Another great classic Christmas Horror Movie. 

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If You Liked Black Christmas You Might Also Like These Films

  • Halloween (1978)

  • Directed by John Carpenter, Halloween is a seminal slasher film that follows Michael Myers, who escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown to continue his killing spree. The film stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, a babysitter who becomes the focus of Michael's terror. Known for its suspenseful atmosphere and iconic score, Halloween helped define the slasher genre and is often compared to Black Christmas for its similar use of POV shots and holiday setting.

  • When a Stranger Calls (1979)

  • Directed by Fred Walton, When a Stranger Calls centers around a young babysitter, played by Carol Kane, who receives a series of terrifying phone calls from a mysterious stranger. The film's opening sequence is particularly intense, echoing the suspense and fear found in Black Christmas. The caller's chilling revelation and the subsequent cat-and-mouse game make this a classic in the genre of home invasion horror.

  • Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

  • Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr., Silent Night, Deadly Night is a controversial slasher film that follows Billy Chapman, a young man traumatized by his parents' murder by a man in a Santa suit. Years later, Billy becomes a deranged killer, donning a Santa suit himself and embarking on a murderous rampage during the holiday season. The film's combination of Christmas themes and brutal killings creates a disturbing and memorable horror experience.

  • My Bloody Valentine (1981)

  • Directed by George Mihalka, My Bloody Valentine is a Canadian slasher film set in the small mining town of Valentine Bluffs. The town's residents are terrorized by a killer dressed in mining gear who seeks revenge for a past tragedy. The film features intense scenes set in the claustrophobic environment of a mine, blending holiday festivities with gruesome murders, much like the holiday horror theme in Black Christmas.

  • The House on Sorority Row (1983)

  • Directed by Mark Rosman, The House on Sorority Row follows a group of sorority sisters who accidentally kill their housemother during a prank gone wrong. As they attempt to cover up the crime, they are stalked and killed by an unknown assailant. The film’s setting in a sorority house, combined with its suspenseful plot and themes of guilt and retribution, makes it a fitting companion to Black Christmas.

Black Christmas 1974 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is Black Christmas?

A: Black Christmas is a classic horror film directed by Bob Clark, originally released in 1974. It is widely regarded as one of the first slasher films and is known for its innovative use of suspense and psychological horror. The movie centers around a series of brutal murders in a sorority house during the Christmas season.

Q: Who are some notable actors in Black Christmas?

A: Some notable actors in Black Christmas include Olivia Hussey, who plays the lead role of Jess, Margot Kidder, who portrays the often inebriated and sarcastic Barb, and Keir Dullea, who plays Jess's troubled boyfriend, Peter. Lynne Griffin plays Clare, the first victim whose disappearance sets the tone for the film's horror. Additionally, John Saxon delivers a strong performance as Lieutenant Fuller, the detective investigating the murders.

Q: What is the plot of Black Christmas?

A: Black Christmas follows the story of a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and killed by an unknown assailant during the Christmas season. The story begins with the disturbing disappearance of Clare, and as the sorority sisters receive lascivious and threatening phone calls, the tension escalates. The film intertwines personal dramas, such as Jess's conflict with her boyfriend Peter, and the relentless, unseen threat posed by the killer. The movie masterfully builds suspense as the killer continues his spree while hiding in the attic of the sorority house.

Q: Are there any user reviews of Black Christmas?

A: Yes, user reviews of Black Christmas can be found on various online platforms like IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, and Letterboxd. These reviews offer a range of insights, from the film's impact on viewers when it was first released to contemporary opinions on its lasting influence in the horror genre. Many users praise the film for its atmospheric tension, strong performances, and its role in shaping the slasher film archetype.

Q: Is Black Christmas a Christmas-themed movie?

A: Yes, Black Christmas is set during the Christmas season and incorporates holiday elements into its storyline. The juxtaposition of festive decorations and eerie, suspenseful scenes adds to the film's unsettling atmosphere. The Christmas setting serves as a stark contrast to the horror unfolding within the sorority house, enhancing the film's chilling effect.

Q: What makes Black Christmas a classic horror film?

A: Black Christmas is considered a classic horror film due to its suspenseful plot, chilling atmosphere, and effective execution of the slasher genre. The film's innovative use of the point-of-view shot to represent the killer's perspective, its atmospheric tension, and strong character development contribute to its status. Director Bob Clark's ability to blend dark humor with horror and the film's influence on future slasher films cement its place in horror history.

Q: Does Black Christmas have any similarities to other horror films?

A: Black Christmas has been noted for influencing other horror films, particularly Halloween, directed by John Carpenter. Both films utilize the POV shot to create a sense of immediacy and connection with the killer, feature a suspenseful buildup rather than relying solely on gore, and set their horror within a specific holiday season. The film's impact on the slasher genre can also be seen in its thematic elements, such as the unseen killer, the final girl trope, and the mixture of personal drama with relentless terror.


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