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Black Christmas
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Black Christmas (1974)

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Plot Summary:
"It's time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don't express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?"


Review by
Ryan McDonald
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@horrorasylum
Review Date: 06 June 2007 My Rating: out of 5

 

Canadian sorority house (eh?) is inundated with creepy phone calls from a sicko who then starts bumping people off for three days, starting from Christmas Eve onwards. Olivia Hussey is our virtuous (but surprisingly not virginal, she’s pregnant) leading lady, John Saxon is the investigating cop, Margot Kidder is a boozy, foul-mouthed lush sorority sister, Marion Waldman is the Shelley Winters-esque house mother, Keir Dullea is Hussey’s volatile musician boyfriend, Douglas McGrath is a clueless desk cop, and a young Andrea Martin plays one of the sorority sisters.

This effective, somewhat underappreciated 1974 Bob Clark film is arguably the originator of the slasher pic, being made several years before the much more popular John Carpenter flick 'Halloween', the film many credit to having started the subgenre (not to mention 'When A Stranger Calls', which is said to be a rip-off of this film). The film’s central mystery is both intriguing and creepy (there are several credible suspects), with the killer being a true whackjob.

The film has numerous unsettling moments (especially the truly bizarre phone calls- said to include the voice of a young Nick Mancuso which are sometimes unbearable to endure, not to mention the fact that the film uses a similar killer POV device to 'Halloween', albeit a less fluid use of camera), but without giving away what is in my view one of the best endings to any movie ever, the ending is indeed the film’s show-stopper. It’s a quietly creepy moment that hasn’t been equalled since. Actually, the film’s tagline is great too: ‘If This Movie Doesn’t Make Your Skin Crawl- It’s on Too Tight!’. The acting is a tad uneven, with Dullea living up to at least the first part of his last name, but Kidder, Waldman, and McGrath are great comic relief (Kidder, especially seems to be having fun).

Having said a lot of positive things about the film, the one thing that prevents this often unsettling Canadian flick (eh?) from being in the same league as the aforementioned flick, is that it is overall not really a horror film (Some will find it slow-moving). This is more of a killer thriller, and a very effective one indeed.

OVERALL SUMMARY
Not really a slasher film, yet is just about the only other film even remotely like a slasher film, to give 'Halloween' a run for its money. And, remember, it was made before that film. Creepy stuff well worth checking out for the uninitiated.



Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 02 September 2003 My Rating: out of 5

When I first heard that this film had inspired the visual style of 'Halloween' and the story of ' When a Stranger Calls' I didn't believe it. As is always the case, I spent years searching for it (last broadcast on UK television on Christmas eve in the year . I missed it) before eventually seeing it last week (thanks Dan) and I have to say I was genuinely frightened.

The film centres on a Canadian sorority house (I know what you're thinking, but bear in mind that this was made almost years before the 's sorority slasher boom) where four sorority sisters and their house mother are being harrassed by prank phone calls.

When one of the girls goes missing, (following a rape in the area and a young girl's disappearance), the police begin to take the reports seriously, and that's when things really start to get scary.

This film freaked me out!! For anyone who was brought up in the post 'Scream' horror era you will perhaps think that this is boring, but for more mature audiences and fans of 's and 's horror, you will surely really enjoy this.

Director Bob Clark shot the film in a way that I have never witnessed before. Surely the first noticeable instance of P.O.V in the genre, the camera actually appears to be attached to the killer's face as it not only allows us to see through his eyes, but moves with him as well.

The location of the sorority house is darkly chilling as is the atmosphere, the sound of the winter air whistling through the house, and the tick-tock of the sisters clock.

The excellent cast including Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Keir Dullea and the excellent John Saxon give first rate performances and it is no wonder that they have gone on to have the careers that they have.

The story is perfectly paced, slowly building tension whilst simultaneously allowing the viewer to laugh at the antics of Margot Kidder's 'Barb' and Marian Waldman's 'Mrs. Mac' before releasing it totally in a final burst of shocking scares.

The Killer terrified me in a way no other has, because for all we know he could be the man next door or one of your friends! We never see him, and as for the phone calls.........I cannot describe how chilling they are.

OVERALL SUMMARY
A true classic, this film is drastically overlooked and is a wonderful effort. It has stayed with me since viewing and I am unlikely to ever forget THAT voice. To say any more would ruin it. You simply have to see it to believe it!



Reviewer: Josh Winning @horrorasylum
Location:UK
Review Date: 31 October 2001 My Rating: out of 5

REVIEW
I'm not afraid to admit this, but this movie scared the hell out of me. I actually found it by accident. I had set my video to record it Christmas of '98, and then had forgotten about it until just a few weeks ago when my parents found it by accident. I decided to watch it at about 11pm, just to see what it was like. It was a big mistake. Watching this movie in the dark all by yourself just adds to the claustrophobic effect that the direction creates, and the set pieces are so realastic and eerie that you can't help but feel uncomfortable while watching it.

The acting is amazingly good for a movie that was made in the late '70s, great performances coming from then-rising-star Margot Kidder (of Superman fame), and Olivia Hussey who played Jessica. This all just adds to the realness of the movie, and one feels close to the characters almost straight from the start. There's also a little comic relief from the sorority mother (who drinks at every moment, even uses whisky to rinse her mouth out after brushing her teeth!), and the setting (in a snowed-down Canada) is perfect - completely twisting the childhood vision of snow into something quite terrifying.

I find it hard to believe that this movie was released in 1974 (a whole five years before Halloween), and yet is almost completely unheard of other than by the rock-hard Horror fans. Black Christmas is obviously the movie that inspired John Carpenter's direction in Halloween, including heavy breathing from an unseen killer, and point-of-view shots to keep the serial killer's identity hidden (even until the last.)

The ending is probably the most chilling part of this movie. I wish I could explain further, but to give it away would completely spoil the entire movie. Let's just say that paranoid presumtions aren't always the best way to catch a killer...

If you haven't seen this movie then I would recommend the first thing that you watch after reading this is Black Christmas, you would be a fool to pass up such a gripping movie as this. A little advice though, don't watch it in the dark on your own - unless you want the fright of your life!

OVERALL SUMMARY
Undoubtedly the greatest of all chillers, Black Christmas is a masterpiece in suspense and horror. Obviously the inspiration for John Carpenter's Halloween, Black Christmas out-dates it by five whole years. If you haven't seen this already, you'd better start rooting in your video store - it's a classic that can't be missed.




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