Black Christmas (1974) Review
“Christmas is coming early this year. And it’s murder.”
Synopsis: During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
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Black Christmas is often heralded as one of the first slasher movies. This is both accurate and misleading; though the film would fit my definition of “slasher,” it is more akin to a psychological thriller. As with many slashers, the victims aren’t aware of their peril until the last minute, but Black Christmas arranges the story so that this fact isn’t only believable, but deliberately horrifying. As the sorority girls are picked off, the audience slowly becomes aware of the dawning peril facing Jess (Olivia Hussey)… and even worse, how the forces mobilized to save her might not be enough.
This movie is also unlike many of its copies in that the sorority girls generally have personalities and their own problems; Black Christmas allows them to be people, not just murder fodder. (The fact that this has to be mentioned as a plus for a movie shows just how ridiculous the current state of affairs really is!)
By far the most memorable moments of Black Christmas come from the phone calls. Though the girls first treat the calls as an annoyance, not a threat, the audience is immediately aware of just how dangerous they could be. As the disembodied voice alternately teases, cajoles, and curses – and as more people get involved – they become harder and harder to dismiss. As a woman, I felt a particularly visceral horror at the calls; they’ll unfortunately feel familiar to a lot of female viewers. But that only increases the tension of the movie.
Though some in modern audiences might find Black Christmas a little slow or its cutaways from kills old-fashioned, it holds up well (and often precisely because it’s not that similar to movies out today). The audience is left with more questions than answers, but in many ways, it doesn’t matter – what matters is the bleak tragedy of what’s already come. Even if you’re not into watching the classics or understanding where slashers came from, you should give Black Christmas a try. It’s worthy of top billing for a creepy night.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B+
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