Black Christmas (1974)

black christmas poster 1974 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Inventive, funny, dark

Feels a bit rushed, some missed opportunities

Movie Info

Movie Name: Black Christmas

Studio:  Film Funding Limited of Canada

Genre(s): Horror/Seasonal

Release Date(s): October 11, 1974

MPAA Rating: R

black christmas olivia hussey killer inside the house

Just called to say I’m going to kill you…happy holidays!

Boys aren’t allowed in the sorority house, but the girls don’t know that there already one there.  Now Clare (Lynne Griffin) has disappeared and the threatening pornographic phone calls are coming regularly to the house.  As Jesse (Olivia Hussey) deals with her own crisis in her relationship with Peter (Keir Dullea), the police led by Lt. Ken Fuller (John Saxon) are determined to find out who is menacing the city.  Can the girls be saved from the danger within?

Written and directed by Bob Clark, Black Christmas is widely considered the first real “slasher” film (predating Halloween by four years).  The film did have a rather strong box-office (due to its low budget), but it received mixed reviews from critics.  Since its release, Black Christmas has been reevaluated and generally is well received by critics.

black christmas dead drying cleaning bag lynne griffin

Proving once again that children and serial killers shouldn’t play with dry cleaning bags

The first time I saw Black Christmas, I did not think much of it.  It was a slasher film, but it was not as jumped based as many of the ’80s slashers.  Having gone back and watched it multiple times since, the movie has grown on me…and it is a fun, anti-Christmas movie in the likes of Gremlins and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The story is rather smartly woven, but it also has a lot of aspects I believed could have been improved.  The basic premise was written around the babysitter and the caller in the house urban myth, but the viewer already knows that “Billy” is in the house.  It seems like the story would be better matched if the suspense of the killer being in the house was at least held off for awhile (though the tense moments knowing that characters are entering danger are good).  The movie also ends on one of those extremely dark and brooding moments…where Jesse is completely abandoned by everyone in the house with Billy…again.

black christmas andrea martin margot kidder dead

Andrea Martin and Margot Kidder grew close during production…I guess this is what that means

The cast for the movie is rather strong.  Olivia Hussey was was just a few years out of her big performance in Romeo and Juliet and her accent always gives movies an international flair.  Likewise her boyfriend played by Keir Dullea was also seeing success from 2001, A Space Odyssey.  Margot Kidder who gets to play up her character’s overt sexuality and vulgarity, but she does have some moments of sympathy by revealing she understands how the other girls look at her.  Marian Waldman gets the goofy lush house mom and SCTV alum Andrea Martin is another sacrificial lamb.  John Saxon gets to lead some of the worst police officers in Canada…so I never really understood if we were supposed to like him much.

black christmas killer shasher billy

Hi, I’m Billy! Where’s Agnes?

The movie ratchets up the danger in the movie.  It is a little cheap looking at points, but the low-budget nature almost adds to the horror.  The movie is noted for using a first person perspective for the killer (Peeping Tom did it earlier so it isn’t the first, but it is innovative).  The deaths aren’t as crazy as some of the later slasher movies, but there are some interesting ones (death by unicorn, laundry bag, pulley).

Black Christmas is a pretty smart film and deserves to have a wider viewing.  It is a little dated stylistically, but it still holds up largely by the innovation.  It turns the idea of sororities and women on the side by having them being more rounded and liberated.  It is also funny to consider Bob Clark (who also did Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Porky’s) went on to make what many consider the quintessential holiday film in A Christmas Story…so watch it back to back with this one.  Black Christmas was remade in 2006, but check out the original.

Related Links:

Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas (2019)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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