Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 257th review overall!
Did you know that in two days I’m going to be on vacation all I ever wanted? This weekend I’ll be at a bachelor party and after that, outside of watching Lincoln and hanging out with Dear, I don’t plan on doing ANYTHING. I can’t wait. But before that I had a movie to watch, so I checked out...
Black Christmas (1974). Shudder.
I’m surprised this movie doesn’t get mentioned all that much. Not only is it very important historically, but it’s getting remade for a second time! The first remake came out in 2006 with the wonderful Mary Elizabeth Winstead and now another is coming out this year with Carey Elwes. But outside of people that really enjoy horror, Black Christmas is mostly forgotten.
A sorority house has been getting weird phone calls from a dude who constantly moans. He also says some perverted stuff but one of the girls, fed up, engages him to the point where he says he’s going to kill her. Shortly after the interaction, one of the girls goes upstairs to pack where she’s suffocated via plastic bag. Eventually the girls start getting picked off one by one as the killer stalks around the house.
That’s the gist of the story, it’s simple but that’s not a bad thing. Horror doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, especially when this is considered one of the earliest slasher films ever made. John Carpenter was directly inspired by this to make Halloween which inspired Sean Cunningham and Victor Miller to make Friday the 13th. So yeah, this movie has quite the pedigree going for it.
A lot of the violence in this movie is left for your imagination to fill in. Most of the kills are off screen and a lot of the stalking is done with POV shots that later horror movies will eventually do to death. I think in this case, it was for the best. Later in the movie film you find a cop with his throat slashed and the blood just looks off. I think if the movie focused on the gore a bit more it would have come across as cheesy. Normally that works against a movie, like in Friday the 13th part 7 when the most disturbing slices were what the M.P.A.A. forced to be done with the awesome kills.
I enjoyed the characters for the most part. Their personalities were varied and there was good chemistry between them. I really liked the head mother whose personality could be described in just one word, “alcoholic.” It was fun seeing all the hiding places she had for her liquor. Anytime she was on screen away from the girls, she was drinking. Packing for Christmas break, takes a swig, comes home from grocery shopping, takes a swig, she even brushed her teeth with liquor waaaay before Ke$ha did and way before she was even born! That’s another check in this movie’s favor. Plus, the movie has the outstanding John Saxon who is ALWAYS a welcome sight.
The movie does drag a bit though. The women think the first victim is missing, so a lot of the time they don’t understand the danger they’re in. The killer doesn’t attack groups, so when everyone’s bunched together, there’s just not much going on and it grinds to a halt. The movie also sets up a red herring that doesn’t come close to landing because he’s not the baddie. You know for a fact it can’t be him, but then it does the thing where it makes him super suspicious to keep the plot moving that I think could have been completely cut out and you wouldn’t have lost anything.
I’m going to include a spoiler here, so if you don’t want to know you can skip right down to my rating. I usually don’t put them in my reviews, but this movie came out 45 years ago, I think I passed the statute of limitations. Here goes, I absolutely LOVE how you never know who the killer is. Watching a movie like this you keep waiting for the killer to drop exposition about why he’s doing this, your mom broke up my parent’s marriage, you wouldn’t have sex with me, you killed my son in self defense when he was wearing a Halloween costume or you’re my half sister blah blah blah! There’s always a monologue where the killer gives a backstory instead of murdering their target. You get none of that from this movie. You see the killer’s weird eye but never get a look at his face. I’m so conditioned to get an answer that it’s actually a breath of fresh air when the ending is left ambiguous. Although I’m pretty sure I know the fate of the protagonist.
This movie also popularizes the cliche, “THE KILLER IS CALLING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!” Despite it being boring at times, it’s a pretty enjoyable movie that has such a big legacy that I think all horror fans should watch it at least once.
7.5 Dr. Chainsaws!
Learn More: Black Christmas