Black Christmas (1974)
It’s no secret that the Slasher genre is never happier than when it’s desecrating one of the most sacred times of the year. New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and even April Fools’ Day have all been draped in red, but so rarely does it work as well as Black Christmas.
The film opens in a familiar setting with a troupe of beautiful sorority girls preparing to return to the familial nests to take a break from their debauched college lives for the christmas period. A call from a mysterious stranger (who fancies himself as a talented linguist) puts a dampener on the proceedings and all the characters are in place for your archetypal slasher. Thankfully here is when the similarities with its contemporaries start to flake away to reveal the harder, honest core of the movie.
The stock “final girl” (Angelic? Check. Virginal? Check. Picked on by the house bitch? Check.) is swiftly and silently dispatched leaving the rest of the remaining girls oblivious to the maniac that stalks them and with no apparent cause for alarm the girls allow themselves to forget the mysterious caller and be reabsorbed into their complicated lives. This is where the film really starts to get interesting; most notably so because of Jess (Olivia Hussey) who starts to emerge as our new heroine despite the fact that her “situation” is not befitting for a girl of that ilk.
As their sorority sister’s disappearance is brought to light by her dithering prig of a father they begin an effort to find her, half-hearted at first, but with added vigour when solutions of her whereabouts start to run low and news breaks of a missing local girl.
Comic relief is inserted seamlessly into the plot thanks to the alcoholic house mother Mrs. Mac (Marian Waldman) and the acid-tongued Barb (Margot Kidder) who allow us to be lulled into a false sense of security as the horror begins to unfold around them while the sporadic “prank callers” obviously fractured state of mind and lingering shots of his handiwork keep the atmosphere alive.
When the film reaches is climax the characters, which you have built up an affection for over the course of the film, start to fall like dominoes and Jess’s chilling realisation of what is happening leads to an ending that leaves me cold every time.
What better way to get into the festive spirit than with a hearty dose of murder, obscene phone calls and harmonious carolling?! Bob Clark’s seasonal masterpiece has it all.
And of course Andrea Martin’s hair is the cherry on top.