Film Review: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

BLACK CHRISTMAS ***** Canada 1974 Dir: Bob Clark 92 mins

The ultimate festive slasher movie, and the creepiest Christmas horror film of all time. Despite a notable absence of nudity, sex and gore, it was a prominent forerunner to the American slasher cycle, employing many of the tropes and devices that would be established clichés by 1981. In a supremely sinister opening sequence, set against the backdrop of Christmas carols and a harsh Canadian winter, an unseen killer quietly invades a sorority house, killing one of the occupants and prompting an unsuccessful police manhunt headed by John Saxon, while her friend (Olivia Hussey) is terrorised by the deranged killer via disturbing phone calls.

Among the most subtle and controlled of all slasher films, this emphasises character development and suspense, and finds low key but distressing scenes of credible horror, like the nocturnal search party that, in looking for the missing sorority girl, shockingly discovers a murdered schoolgirl instead. Director Clark uses the festive backdrop to heighten the sense of unease, notably intercutting the stabbing of sassy Margot Kidder with something that would normally be heart-warmingly Christmassy. For maximum effect, watch this alone on a frosty Christmas Eve and try not to get the chills during the still-bone-chilling sequence in which the killer sings a lullaby as he rocks a chair, in which sits one of his victims, her head wrapped in a plastic sheet and her hand cradling a teddy bear. Brrrrr indeed.

Review by Steven West


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