Black Christmas (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark
Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, John Saxon
Review by Jordan
Like Helen Mirren and the music of Sixto Rodriguez, Bob Clark’s seminal slasher Black Christmas (1974) has aged very well. The would-be by-the-numbers story of a group of young girls tormented by a deranged mind calling them from the attic of their sorority house begins with an extended point-of-view shot that puts Halloween to shame, boasts frequent disturbing and suspenseful murders and ends in a tremendously unsettling fashion, all adding up to one of the most successful American horror films of the ‘70’s that remains a must-see for all connoisseurs of the macabre to this day.
While no character is thoroughly fleshed out, actresses such as Olivia Hussey (who plays the enchanting Jess) and soon-to-be Lois Lane Margot Kidder (troublemaker Barb) bring emotional intelligence to their roles, adding a human element when it would have been so easy to simply play victims, and iconic horror actor John Saxon (Tenebre, A Nightmare on Elm Street) is always a welcome sight. The direction of the greatly underappreciated Bob Clark (Deathdream, Porky’s, A Christmas Story) also warrants warm praise, as he stages the creepy telephone calls and murder-set-pieces with tremendous precision, carefully raising the hair on the back of his audiences neck before jolting them with a violent crescendo.
Pre-dating Halloween, When a Stranger Calls and Maniac, and so clearly influencing them in many facets (as well as helping to shape the horror genre as it exists today, and especially the late 90’s with hits such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer), Black Christmas is more chilling than the snow falling at that famous time of year and more satisfying for terror fans than the remake could have possibly dreamed of being. For those paying attention there are red herrings, references and an unexpectedly accomplished use of mise en scene, but for those like me who prefer to bask in undiluted iconic imagery and creatively staged scenes of suspense rest assured you’re more than tailored for also. This is just a fantastic, classic piece of American cinema, it’s as simple as that.
Captivating and unnervingly intriguing from the first frame ‘till the last, Black Christmas is the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve (or any night, really); rest assured though that if it’s been some time since you’ve last explored every corner of your house, that will be your first priority once the credits start rolling…