fri 24/10/2014

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

'The call is coming from inside the house': Olivia Hussey fights for her life in ‘Black Christmas’

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”.

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

Watch the trailer for Black Christmas

Its women remain sympathetic, thrillingly smart, characterful and clothed

rating

4

Share this article

Comments

The screenplay of this film

The screenplay of this film was written by a good friend, Roy Moore, who, sadly, subsequently died of complications of AIDS [one of the first, in my experience] We worked together in the Ontario [Canada] government. I was with him, when we were told by one of our secretaries about a call she had just received from a friend in Montreal about the real killing. It was two young children who were slaughtered in their 2nd. floor bedroom by a deranged man, hidden on the 3rd. floor of the house, making obscene calls to the baby-sitter on the ground floor.She called the police, who, eventually tracked the location of the caller and then gave her the terrifying direction.. "Get out of the house, He's upstairs.....". Roy rewrote the terror into the script about the Sorority House. It made a good movie..But the real story was far more horrifying !. R.I.P Roy Moore.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Use to create page breaks.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

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?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters