Black Christmas Review
By Christopher Null
"If this picture doesn't make your skin crawl... it's on too tight!"
So went the promo tagline for Black Christmas, the 1974 cult horror classic which might have had epidermal layers on the go 30 years ago... but which feels pretty tame today.
The story's as old as, well, it's at least 30 years old. Pervert phone caller dials up a sorority house. Finally the police trace the calls... and he's in the house! Along the way, Black Christmas has the sorority girls go vanishing one by one. Still they don't really get it, going about their drunken holiday revelry without a care.
Black Christmas is unique in that we never really see the killer, who hides in the attic the entire time. Suspicions are cast on the crazy boyfriend (a post-2001 Keir Dullea) of the coed (Olivia Hussey) that survives the longest, but his creepiness is never fully explored. Making more of an impression is a pre-Superman Margot Kidder, whose drunken antics here foretell her future real-world behavior.
It's unfortunate that the middle half (or more) of the movie drags so badly. Nothing much happens except the occasional abduction while the cops bungle the show. Even the murders leave much to be desired -- a notable plastic bag suffocation notwithstanding. Overall, while Black Christmas would inspire many latter-day trapped-in-a-house movies like Halloween, its progeny would improve quite a bit on the formula.
The new DVD takes us back to the sorority house with an interesting retrospective (and if the credits are to be believed, the house is for sale). Various TV spots and trailers are curious, but skip the "alternate openings," which are just the credits sequences with different titles of the movie (including Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House).
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 20th December 1974
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Film Funding Ltd. of Canada, Vision IV
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Starring: Olivia Hussey as Jess Bradford, Keir Dullea as Peter Smythe, Margot Kidder as Barbara 'Barb' Coard, John Saxon as Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller, Marian Waldman as Mrs. 'Mac' MacHenry, Andrea Martin as Phyllis 'Phyl' Carlson, James Edmond as Mr. Harrison, Doug McGrath as Sargeant Nash, Art Hindle as Chris Hayden, Lynne Griffin as Clare Harrison, Michael Rapport as Patrick Cornell, Leslie Carlson as Bill Graham, Martha Gibson as Mrs. Quaife, John Rutter as Laughing Detective, Robert Warner as Doctor