A bunch of sorority sisters are having a Christmas party at the sorority house. Everyone’s having a good time, drinking and being silly and stuff. All of a sudden their nice festive atmosphere is interrupted by an obscene phone call of a creepy man moaning into the phone, not making a lot of sense. Dismissing the incident as a bad prank, the sisters carry on. When one of them goes missing however, they start getting a little worried. Contacting the local police seems like the sensible thing to do, but can they really help? Have you ever seen a horror film where the cops save the day? It seems like the killer is always one step ahead of them, which is quite impressive considering how retarded he sounds on the phone.
Black Christmas (also known as Silent Night, Evil Night, and Stranger in the House) has become a horror cult classic, probably because there’s not a lot of Christmas themed horror films. Even without all that though, it’s still a nice little Canadian gem of genre cinema. There’s a palpable Giallo influence, in the way the story is told, and it’s also one of the first films to introduce POV shots to show the killer’s perspective. The fact that we never really get a look at the killer works beautifully to create tension and mystery. Unlike the 2006 remake, there’s no back story about the mysterious murderer either. I don’t know when it became “obligatory” to show the slasher’s sad childhood. Why not make the victims more empathic instead?
I’m not sure the characters are developed satisfyingly enough in Black Christmas, but I do tend to prefer character pieces, so maybe that’s why I was a bit underwhelmed and slightly confused by the lack of a clear protagonist. In any case the uneasy and (in)tense atmosphere still work after forty years since the film’s original release date. I was surprised by the restrained use of gore and blood. The quality acting is another noteworthy element to be appreciated. Three actors shine in particular: Olivia Hussey, John Saxon and Margot Kidder. Other than that I also enjoyed the overall tone of the film, which still manages to sneak in some humor and adds another layer of charm to the picture. Definitely the Christmas film for any self-respecting horror fan.
Rating on Second Viewing: 7 out of 10