A repost of last year’s blog entry on Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, with an added paragraph and one or two spoilers.
An often overlooked classic, the 1974 Canadian film Black Christmas now enjoys a cult status amongst horror fans and critical acknowledgment as being the progenitor of the “slasher” genre that dominated horror cinema in the late ’70s and throughout the 1980s. Directed by Bob Clark — best known for his raunchy teen sex comedy Porky’s (1982) — the film boasts an enviably list of talented Canadian actors: Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, John Saxon and comedienne Andrea Martin. The film stars Olivia Hussey, a British actress who’s most frequently recognized for her role as “Juliet” in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. In Black Christmas, Hussey leaves the Elizabethan poetry behind and gets her “scream queen” on.
It’s important to note that Black Christmas predates the better known slasher films like John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980), and they owe a great debt to Clark’s film. The quote below from Wikipedia concisely captures this film’s cult status:
The film gained a fairly decent cult following over the years of its release, and has been praised by fans of the slasher film genre internationally. The Black Christmas fan site has considerably increased the film’s popularity over the years. The film ranked #87 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for Lynne Griffin’s infamous plastic sheeting scene. During an interview regarding the film, Olivia Hussey met Steve Martin at an industry event and he brought up the fact that she starred in one of his favorite movies of all time. Hussey thought he might have referred to her work in Romeo & Juliet, but was surprised to hear from Martin that it was Black Christmas, which he claimed to have seen 25 times.
What Black Christmas possessed — and what later films in the slasher genre often lacked — was the element of suspense. Rather than rely on the crude shock tactics of gore, Clark torques up the tension by placing the insane homicidal intruder inside the sorority house right at the opening of the film — and then keeps him there, undiscovered by the house’s other occupants. Only the audience is aware that the killer, and a couple of his victims, are stowed away in the attic. The fact that the events in the film happen over Christmas provides the killer (and Clark) the opportunity to surreptitiously dispatch a number of sorority sisters on an ordinarily bustling — but now slowly emptying — college campus as it shuts down over the holidays.
Below is a wonderfully creepy clip, featuring an uncomfortably prolonged obscene phone call from the psycho-killer. There is a prodigious use of the word “c*nt” in the following sequence, so consider yourself warned. Oh, and Merry Christmas.