“’When the snow turns black
I’ll be back – I’ll be here,
Between the blinking of an eye
When the screams attack….”-Venom
With all of the deckin’ the halls, cooking, card sending, gift purchasing, and church vigils coming to a close this Christmas season, be sure to take time for yourself and unwind. You can still hear the same festive tunes blaring on the radio till Jan 1st, and your local TV programming still offers a plethora of seasonal titles for you to feast upon. Take a walk on the wild side during these 12 Days of Christmas, put down the egg nog & figgy pudding, lock your doors, and kill the lights and some time, with the creepy Canadian Christmas classic, Black Christmas (1974).
Welcome to a Christmas party at the Pi Kappa Sig sorority (not to be confused with Omega-Mu), where the girls are partying it up like its 1969, before parting ways on their extended winter break from classes. The party is a success until Jess, Olivia Hussey of It (1990), receives an obscene call from “the moaner,” aka Billy, Alber J. Dunk of Class of 1984 (1982). Billy is a disturbed young man in the local area who harasses our cute coeds with his perverted prose, heavy breathing, and scary voice, provided by Nick Mancuso of TV’s Stingray (1985). If you are into creepy voices from creepy callers, check out the first tale from horror anthology, Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) or Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper (1982)…the latter will make you quack up. Anyway, it was roughly a decade later that Caller ID hit the market, so the primitive tap and trace by the phone company with police assistance was required by keeping the appelant fou on the line for a particular amount of time to track the call by its circuit. This detail, adds to the tension throughout the film. Will the caller stay on the line long enough so authorities can track down his location? *69/1169 would have come in handy for our girls at the time, even if they were using rotary phones.
Housemates Phyllis, comedian Andrea Martin of Club Paradise (1986), and Clare, Lynne Griffin of Strange Brew (1983), standby to snicker in enjoyment or gush in prudish shock as loudmouth lush Barb, Margot Kidder of The Amityville Horror (1979), instigates the caller who retorts to her brash talk with a cryptic warning, “I’m going to kill you.” Merry Christmas girls, things just got serious and you made the naughty list. Before you know it, Clare (“that’s a fat girl’s name.”-John Bender), goes missing.
Clare’s disappearance leads her father, James Edmond of Devil Girl from Mars (1954), her boyfriend, Chris, Art Hindle of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and Lt Fuller, John Saxon of a Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), on a wild goose chase of a missing person’s investigation. Also, all of this is going, sorority housemother and on screen sot, Mrs. MacHenry (role originally intended for Bette “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” Davis), Marian Waldman of Deranged (1974), appears that she could have been the inspiration for Charlotte Rae’s portrayal as Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes (1978) and The Facts of Life (1979). “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis…and Tutti?”
While Waldo, um Clare, has everyone wondering where she’s at, we meet Jess’s psychotic concert pianist beau, Peter, Keir Dullea of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Peter is crazy, intense, and a possible suspect in our terror tale in the tundra of maple leaf country. Peter show signs of rage when Jess reveals she is pregnant, and scandalous option of abortion is brought up. The topic of abortion was still new territory for 70s cinema, as it was still fresh in the media due to 1973’s Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. Christmas carnage ensues, girls go missing, and bodies (7), start to pile up like presents under the tree. There is so much more to tell you about, but I do not want to spoil the main element of surprise for you that serves as the backbone to the story packed with nice twists which leaves the viewer wanting more.
The award winning Black Christmas, was directed by Bob Clark of A Christmas Story (1983), with a screamplay by Roy Moore of The Last Chase (1981), based off local murders at the time and mixed in a perfect parfait of fright with urban legend, The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, derived by a supposed homicide in 1950s Missouri. Black Christmas was filmed on a miniscule budget of $600,000 banking approximately $4 million upon its release to mixed reviews. Years after its release thanks in part to late night cable, Black Christmas has gone on to being lauded as very solid film, and a quintessential horror flick that you must see before you die.
Black Christmas is looked upon by many as the forerunner feature that spurred the slasher, home invasion, and *SPOILER ALERT*, killer is calling from inside the house subgenre. Inspiration and imitation, can be seen in Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), When a Stranger Calls (1979), the Christmas chiller, Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and a remake in 2006 by Glen Morgan of Willard (2003), just to name a few.
Clark does a great job balancing comedy with fright, and checking off all of the mandatory boxes for the must haves or making a good horror feature. The cinematography, ambience, and acting are topnotch for this little movie with a score that is simply, dead on. My favorite element of Black Christmas is that the film does not spend time in deep analysis on why the loon is killing, leaving this to the imagination of the viewer which is much scarier. The unknown is much more disturbing and detrimental when no answers are provided, leaving our inquisitive minds in a torturous limbo. Some people are just crazy, even at Christmas.
So you if you are tired of having a White Christmas with Bing, and a Blue Christmas with Elvis, be sure to enjoy your holiday leftovers with Black Christmas or…Yule be sorry!
Check out the Black Christmas Trailer
Check out the full Black Christmas film
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- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin @RickBaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org