Stars: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea
Genre: Horror, Slasher
Black Christmas is widely considered to be the first proper Slasher film. Sure there were Slasher-esque films before (Psyhco, Peeping Tom, Homicidal, or even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which was released only ten days earlier) but Black Christmas was the first to feature what went on to become many genre stereotypes and was a forerunner to the Slasher craze in the late '70s and '80s.
The story is about girls in a sorority house who keep receiving strange phone calls. Eventually, when one of the sorority girls goes missing and a young girl is found dead in the park, the police take a closer look at the phone calls. Little does everyone know that the killer is in the attic of the sorority house!
So you see, Black Christmas was the first to form many of the Slasher genre archetypes.
We never really get to see the killer and even in the very last moments of the film we're still wondering who is or who isn't the killer. Definitely provides a sense of mystery and we get to see the characters deal with their own mystery, being that the viewer knows the killer is in the attic, but the characters don't. The ending is great, I won't spoil anything, but it's definitely creepy.
The kills are great, whether it be suffocation or...well I won't spoil anything, but all the kills are fantastic. Accompanied by the kills is creepy imagery. Two dead girls lying next to each other on a bed, a girl with a plastic bag over her head sitting in a rocking chair; it's all terrific terrifying imagery, that will probably stick in your head for a while.
The film has an interesting style to it. There are a lot of POV shots from the killer's perspective, a style borrowed from films like Peeping Tom or many films in the Giallo genre. The director did a great job familiarizing us with the house inside and out.
There are some truly suspenseful parts in here. It never really relies on jump scares, but instead it relies on build-up and suspense, because we pretty much know where the killer is at all times, it's just a matter of anticipation. The scenes in the attic are creepy, the phone calls are disturbing. The killer really is batshit insane. I'm thankful that my house doesn't have an attic.
The acting is solid for the most part. I'd say the stand-out performance is from John Saxon as the Lieutenant. The girls are acted well enough. None of the girls are particularly likable though...well, none of the characters are, except maybe John Saxon. But what Slasher film has likable characters!? Okay, some do.
Director Bob Clark (who also directed A Christmas Story. I know, right?) did a great job here. A must see for any fans of the genre, this was prime inspiration for the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Steve Martin once said that he watched Black Christmas no less than 27 times...so maybe you trust Steve Martin's recommendation better than mine.