Black Christmas

On the First Black Christmas


In 1974, nobody would have suspected that the most frightening thing about “Black Christmas” would be the fact that Michael Bay would remake it into one of the worst movies ever. I shudder to think of a generation of filmgoers that know only of that awful version.  But let us not dwell here.

A handful of years before Bob Clark made the season merry with his perennial classic, “A Christmas Story,”  he ventured into one of the most disturbing slasher-cum-horror- cum psychological thrillers ever to hit the morbid screen.  “Black Christmas”  promised chills ala the slasher movie regime (of which it helped create, this is a post Bava, pre-“Halloween” cinema) but what it delivers is quite deeper, quite darker, and a hell of a lot more depraved.

It is hard to explain to the uninitiated just what makes this little Christmas yarn different—the ending offers so much of a dark slant at what is expected of a climax, that one leaves the theater with a chill deeper than any ensued during the features 98 minutes.

Then there are the phone calls. “Black Christmas” takes place in what I believe to be a Massachusetts college sorority house (it was filmed in Canada). The holiday drinking is beginning and plans are being made. Superman’s gal, Margot Kidder receives a depressing call from her mom—a true “ho.”

But it isn’t only mothers and assorted family members that ring the sorority. There is also a pervert, who, in this pre-cell phone, pre caller ID college life, likes to get his jollies on perverted phone calls. These phone calls begin to juice Clark’s thriller, from the insane voice-changing way they are made, to the panting and sick funny lines (What your mother and I want to know is/ Where is the food?) that can drop on a dime and change the subject matter completely (I’m going to kill you—perhaps the caller’s calmest line).

Its liberal use of language is what initially grabs the viewer. The vocab pushes buttons—even today, but especially in 1974, and the viewer takes notice; gets uncomfortable. You may not like what you have just paid your admission for.

And, oh, isn’t that what a good horror is all about? Like when you take the first turn at the haunted house and your excitement drops slightly and you realize that you can’t remember why you thought this would be so much fun? Yet we tend to go back.

I won’t tell you what is around the corner. But it might not be what you expect—and pay close attention because it’s easy to not get things right when things are so black. So turn the lights out and enjoy.

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