1974's Black Christmas, while being noted by many as the first true Slasher film, is a movie that is slightly under appreciated by some, well, I more mean under appreciated by myself I guess. I often get "wrapped up" in the "normal" classic holiday films like, It's A Wonderful Life and (another Bob Clark film) A Christmas Story, etc...almost completely ignoring the Christmas Horror that there is to be had. Being a horror fan, that is a bit of a shame I might add. So to sit back and watch Black Christmas after many years was a nice holiday treat and one that would be perfectly enjoyed on cable, meaning, cable stations should run this film once in a while during the holiday season instead of only playing the usual happy holiday fare.
It's just before Christmas break at a sorority house, when it is discovered that one of the sisters has gone missing when her father comes to pick her up and she never shows. This event results in a search party where there is the discovery of a dead girl's body, but not the body of the missing girl that was the originally being searched for. With a missing woman, a dead body, and a series of menacing phone calls to the sorority house, the police try and figure out what is happening, while the remaining sorority sister vie to stay alive. Kinda.
Back Christmas has a great cast and most of the performances are exceptional, especially Margot Kidder, who plays one of the sorority sisters. She is a very obnoxious, brash, and outspoken - mixed with a copious amount of alcohol, her character is a hot mess and a lot of fun to watch. Olivia Hussey is the films main protagonist and while I think "Hussey is hot," her performance is the weakest of the bunch. Not terrible and it gets better as the film moves along, but at first, she is a bit annoying. Two welcome actors were Andrea Martin, who (looks EXACTLY like Screech Powers in this film) I know from watching SCTV when I was a wee lad, so it was nice to see her. The other appearance is from the sexiest man ever, John Saxon. Complete with funny hat and all, Saxon plays the role of detective, which isn't a stretch for him and he's as fantastic and charismatic as ever.
Being that this is one of the first Slasher films made, director Bob Clark nicely executed some of the inspirational genre staples that are still prevalent even to this very day. Black Christmas is a sort of whodunit to a small degree, but this does give you a few red herrings, something found in Slasher films and even more so, Gialli, which are just Italian Slashers anyways. There is also a stalk and slash element to this film and the advent of the final girl is even prevalent in a way.
Another Slasher aspect that is one of the standouts in this holiday horror is the use of POV. While this is mostly used in the films opening scene (which is the high point of the movie), the POV used is one of the genres best, with a slight fish eyed lens used and a somewhat erratic style created by cinematographer Albert J. Dunk. Dunk devised this awesome effect by rigging up a camera harness that would mount the camera on his shoulder as he walked about the house, stalking the sorority sisters.
Now, Black Christmas starts off with a bang, but quickly hits the skids and gets pretty slow for a good half an hour or so. I think the film picks up the pace a little when Saxon shows up and the calls to the sorority house become more and more disturbing and mean spirited, but even then, there are moments of almost boredom. I can personally deal with the slower pace of the film because I enjoyed some of the performances and the story was still entertaining to a degree, but you're not getting some balls out, err, I should say, "tits out" Slasher film here. This is a classy Slasher (!) and one that burns slowly.
What really keeps me engulfed in this film and the reason I love it most is the unbelievable look of the movie's setting and design. The 70's and Christmas aesthetic are so pleasing to my holiday loving eyes, that it is impossible for me not to swoon for Black Christmas. It's all done in beautiful Technicolor, with the magic of brightly lit Christmas jumping right out at you from the base colors of this era - from orange, yellow, and deep wood/brown colors, I was in love.
Clark has a keen eye for grabbing the essence of Christmas, which he shows in A Christmas Story and clearly here, with Black Christmas. Both with completely different styles and set in different decades, they are able to speak and give off a traditional holiday mood representative of their respective time periods. I am glad I came back to this film as I really appreciated it more than ever and if you like a nice, almost traditional horror film, then grag yourslef a glass of eggnog and warm up next to Black Christmas this holiday season.