12 Films of Christmas: Black Christmas | Film reviews, news & interviews
12 Films of Christmas: Black Christmas
Seasonal slayings and cynicism over cheer as a sorority house plays host to a killer
Flanked by the wonderfully weird tagline, “If this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl…it’s on TOO TIGHT”, 1974’s Black Christmas is amongst the first fully formed slasher pics. Based on a series of murders that took place in Quebec, this Canadian contribution to the festive canon is dripping with seasonal cynicism. From director Bob Clark, Black Christmas sees a psychotic prank caller offing the residents of a sorority house during the Christmas period, and is most famous for the chilling line, “The call is coming from inside the house”.
Black Christmas boasts a seriously impressive cast: Olivia Hussey plays our seemingly prim heroine Jess; stage star and comedian Andrea Martin is her housemate Phyl; John Saxon’s a concerned copper. But best of all are Marian Waldman as the alcoholic sorority mother, whose booze is stashed all over the house, and Margot Kidder as the appositely named sorority sister Barb, who spits insults with style. During a call home Barb snipes, “You’re a real gold-plated whore, Mother” and she sums up Jess with the withering, “I know a professional virgin when I see one”.
While the lunatic lurking in their loft undoubtedly has major issues with women, Black Christmas itself is far from misogynist fare - unlike many of the films it later inspired. Its killer channels a societal fear of female empowerment and sexuality but its women remain sympathetic, thrillingly smart, characterful and clothed. A key subplot involves Jess’ decision to have an abortion, having chosen her own ambitions over settling down with boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea, 2001: A Space Odyssey) – his reaction to this is tellingly depicted as completely deranged.
With its POV stalking, house of horrors, unseen killer, youthful victims and “final girl” this is a terrifying trailblazer. Admittedly Halloween (1978) did it (slightly) better, but Black Christmas did it first. Clark would go on to direct the more conventionally festive A Christmas Story in 1983 but his fifth film’s verdict on Christmas is a wickedly dismissive: “ho ho ho shit”.
Watch the trailer for Black Christmas
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
'Unfilmable' book triumphantly brought to the screen by David Fincher
Searing biopic of a taboo-breaking French novelist who sought love in the wrong places
Jeff Baena's deliciously daft debut is a rom-zom-com starring Aubrey Plaza
Intimate and moving documentary shows the Miners' Strike's human cost
First-class, fascinating director's interview accompanies Greenaway's DVD latest
This American football drama is Ivan Reitman's off day
Michael Pitt stars in flawed romantic sci-fi from American indie director Mike Cahill
David Cronenberg goes in for Hollywood's close-up and it's far from a pretty picture
Denzel Washington fights crime in appealingly predictable thriller
Czech director Karel Zeman reaches English-speaking world with captivating feature-animation mix
Pawel Pawlikowski delivers on his early promise with an award-winning drama
Super Furry Animal travels to the heart of America in pursuit of a long-lost multi-media tall tale