During a Christmas party in a sorority house, a demented man sneaks in the house by climbing alongside a wall and entering through the attic. This person then begins to torment the girls who reside in the house by making explicit prank phone calls. It all begins as a little joke, until the phone calls become worse and one of the girls by the name of Clare Harrison (Lynne Griffin) disappears. -summary
Hailed as the father of the slasher genre for breaking new ground. Black Christmas(1974) directed by Bob Clark is hailed as a horror/slasher masterpiece. It actually laid out the blueprint to produce a superb slasher utilizing its atmosphere to instill fear in the viewer. One can easily detect the fingerprints of Black Christmas all over classics such as John Carpenter's Halloween(1978) and When a Stranger Calls(1979) directed by Fred Walton. However, I'm not here to judge this film on its influence but as a horror film. In my view, the film still holds up, and provides a breath of fresh air for the sophisticated horror fan in the process, who has binged on too many mediocre slashers as of late.
For the record, although they can be very redundant, slashers are my favorite of the horror genre. Once in a while something will standout. They're not my favorite because I like to see brutal killings. When done right and from a realistic perspective, an excellent slasher can leave a lasting impression. Like it or not, serial killers are real and they are among us, and I feel Black Christmas is another one of those films that shows us what a truly mentally disturbed person is capable of.
Black Christmas is truly one of the greats, and this style of horror is rare these days. Today, many horror film directors seek to instill fear by shocking the audience. They carry out this style of thoughtless horror, by adding very large body counts via death in the most disturbing, and sometimes in the clumsiest of ways. For a perfect example, see Black Christmas(2006) directed by Glen Morgan. This style of horror can be entertaining to a certain degree, but for me and many others it lacks soul. When watching a horror film, I want to experience fear in its true form through suspense, atmosphere, and tense build up. For the most part, I need to see pure horror that can stimulate my imagination. This is one of the few that grants my wish.
The direction is very good. Bob Clark indeed had a vision, and that vision was to give the viewer a close up on madness. The killer who enters the house is everything a madman would be. He's completely irrational, mentally he's on another planet, but above all else, he is dangerous. I have never been a victim of prank calls, but I can only imagine the feeling of a person being delivered lines from someone who sounds completely disturbed.
The superb camera work is pretty much the backbone of the film. The viewer is watching some of the events through the eyes of the killer. This is what triggers the fear in the film. The girls are in the house carrying on with their forms of entertainment, while the killer is only on one floor above them watching. He moves through the house quietly and at will. The killer who goes by the name of "Billy" only continues to become more of a terrifying character. The eerie music score which is used at the right times receives credit for this as well. It helps in a great deal to build the tension and suspense.
Where I feel the horror works its edge with the viewer, is with the fear of the unknown. While watching the film, we all know the girls of the sorority house are in danger. However, they have no clue of the immediate danger which is literally above them. This film can definitely give a paranoid person, who lives alone something to think about. The film has solid acting, which is most notable by Jess(Olivia Hussey) and Barb(Margot Kidder). The characters have realistic and diverse personalities. Those who get a good amount of screen time are pretty well developed.
Although this is a very good film it does have its flaws. The film is slow which isn't really a bad thing, but there's too many scenes that really don't go anywhere. Especially, the scenes involving the sorority house mother. They add a bit of comedy, but I really didn't need to be reminded of her habit. Valuable screen time was wasted when it could have been used on making the death scenes more detailed. The kills are somewhat disturbing, but they won't satisfy the gore hounds.
Black Christmashas a lot going for it, but I do believe it's an acquired taste. This film more than likely will not appeal to those who enjoy their horror fast paced, everything is explained, or containing bucket loads of gore. I would love to give more detail, but huge spoilers would be hard to avoid and I refuse to go that route.
I'm not going to say "true" horror fans are the only ones who will appreciate this. I can't define a "true" horror fan. People just have different taste, and I can understand anyone who comes away from this wondering what all the fuss was about. If you're the type who appreciates a horror film that works through building tension, suspense, is atmospheric, and provokes thought. Then I recommend this to you.
Pros: -Realistic, atmospheric, great tension build up, suspense
Cons: -Slow paced for some, may not appeal to"shock" and "dark comedy" audience, unnecessary scenes
***1/2 out of **** Who says all Christmas movies need to be sentimental and sweet? "Black Christmas" is a rather tasteless holiday outing that is perhaps only tasteless because of its genre; horror. How many Christmas horror movies have you seen? There are a few, but this is the best out of all of them. It was directed by Bob Clark, who if you saw his soon-to-come "A Christmas Story", you'd know is very fond of the Christmas holiday, yet he's not afraid to be daring and make … more