Black Christmas review by The Grim Ringler

Black Christmas

Some people love it, most hate it, but think what you will of the slasher sub-genre in horror films, this was the grand-daddy. Well, sort of. This was the inspiration for all the holiday horror films, all the ‘he’s in the house!’ movies, and all the good, bad, and downright ugly slasher movies that weighed down the eighties so heavily. Think what you will about Freddy, Jason, and all their other pals though, this is the real deal, and easily one of the best horror movies on the block.

During a Christmas party at a sorority an unseen stranger sneaks into the attic of the old house via a trellis, watching the girls and listening to them as many leave for the holidays and the few that remain are left unknowing of what waits in their attic. The girls begin getting what first appear to be obscene phone calls but that quickly turn to threats, the caller’s voice taking on the sound of several people at once as they speak, giving the girls a chilling and rare glimpse at what their stalker is. But the stranger isn’t content to stay alone in the attic so he begins slipping down into the house and starts murdering the girls one by one while he lives out a dark past we can only guess at. As the girls disappear from the house though, one, a girl named Jess, is left to either find out what, or who, lays in wait in the attic or become yet another of his victims.

This truly is a classic horror film that acts as a bridge of sorts between the horror movies of old and what was to come in the more modern ones. It is a throwback in that it never reveals many things, such as the killer’s past, their motives, or even shows the killings themselves. It’s all left to you to decipher. But while its means are of the old school, the story is all too modern – a male killer stalking young women, a loved holiday turned violent, and a heroine who must overcome her own fear to survive a madman who seems inhuman. Director Bob Clark creates a feeling of dread that begins as soon as you see the killer ascend the trellis and that lasts well past the film has ended. And as cut and dry as the film could be, as easy as having just a mysterious murderer chasing down nubile teens, Clark complicates things by creating a madman that seems to be living and re-living a secret past which we can only dreadfully imagine, adding a layer to the film that keeps you unnerved. This is a film about the hidden horrors of childhood and the horrors in becoming an adult, never finding a safe place in either world and always on the verge of becoming a victim. Black Christmas is as much a film about the horrors of what a before you as it is about the horror laying within us all, hidden from view but there just the same.

The acting and direction are both very well done, Clark never letting the horror get too heavy and making sure to lighten things up from time to time to make the moments of horror all the more dreadful. Olivia Hussey plays Jess as a smart, driven, far from helpless girl. She is not at all like the caricatures that would befall horror films of the eighties and you never feel she is tempting fate by her actions. In fact, all the actors and actresses, if nothing else, make you feel their characters are real, breathing people, and are not just cartoons lined up to be quickly dispatched one by one. And it is rare to find a film of this ilk that pulls of an ending the way it does without ruining it, but managing to make it resound horrifically well beyond the last credits have rolled.

The first release of this DVD was a joke. It was as if they had WANTED to do a special edition but they just didn’t put their hearts into it, well, that’s been blissfully remedied. The film transfer is gorgeous, making the film look very clean and the colors as sharp as can be hoped for with a low budget seventies movie. The extras are also very well done, featuring to commentaries, several versions of the trailer, a weird but funny documentary, and three interviews (two with actor John Saxon, one with director Clark) round it all out. The disc even has a reversible cover so you can have the original box art as your cover. Huzzah.

I cannot say enough how very much I love this film. It’s all a horror movie should be and more – it’s scary, dark, smart, and never cheats the audience through the entire film. Who’d a thunk this is the same guy that made A Christmas Story?


9 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus