Black Christmas (1974) Review




Strange phone calls lead to mysterious disappearances and deaths in one sorority girl dorm during the holiday season.

With the second remake being a disaster, I HAD to go check out the original as soon as possible. To which it was a simple yet satisfying slasher flick.

The camera work in this was really good. The POV shots of the killer were the highlights of this. This, along with his uncomfortable breathing, added a creepy and sometimes unnerving feeling.

Since the plot of the film revolved around Christmas, the colors/lighting were nicely done. They offered that warm and comfortable tone that suited well with the holiday settings. It was also a good contrast with the murders that were happening at the dorm.

The characters were fine and some of them do give good performances. My favorite had to be Barb, played by Margot Kidder. She delivered some of the funniest moments. I wished she had more screen-time. There was also the character of Mrs. MacHenry, played by Marian Waldman. She had humorous moments with her having booze stockpiled into every cabinet/corner of the dorm. It was quite a surprise to see actor John Saxon in this, the same guy who would play another Lieutenant in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It was cool to see him help out during the phone tapping scenes.

One issue I do take with the characters was how a couple of them would drop off from the map and never return. A good example was the boyfriend of the first college girl that was murdered. He was part of the investigation, but suddenly he disappeared. The father was a little bit like this. He was part of the investigation. But he disappeared, only to come back for a minute toward the end of the film.

The more interesting thing that this movie had going was the ambiguous ending. This was something I do appreciate and I liked the idea. Although how it was executed needed to be worked upon or dropped completely. It seemed like the idea itself was more of an afterthought and thrown in at the last second. One would assume as the film progressed that the boyfriend of Jess was the killer. There was even a dark silhouette that resembled the boyfriend greatly. So when one heard the breathing of the true killer near the end, one was left to wonder who did all the horrible acts. Not in the fun/intriguing way, but in the confused/irritable sense.

Of course, this would be the film that would become one of the main influences for “Halloween ’78.” Some would say that film was a rip-off of this film, but to me, “Halloween” was more of an improvement. That film had more going in terms of its creep value, the characters, and the whole Halloween holiday traditions were prominent. “Black Christmas” didn’t acknowledge Christmas a lot in the film. This maybe could have helped bring forth a better connection with the characters. 

“Black Christmas,” as the first slasher film, it was a decent and not a bad start. It was definitely creepy whenever the POV shots would come up, some of the characters were fun, and unlike the second remake, it made one care for what was happening. I would say check it out if one is a slasher fan and wants to see how the genre got its start. 

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