Countdown to Claus: Black Christmas (1974)

Always check the attic.

Terror reigns inside a sorority house a few days before Christmas break as a series of menacing phone calls — and the discovery of a dead girl’s body — transform yuletide cheer into fear. Soon the killer is on the loose and the girls get more and more scared, but then the cops show up and it’s all business from there baby.

It is often disputed as to what film really started the trend in slasher flicks: either this one, or ‘Halloween’. It’s been up for debate for a long time but if I had to say who I think started it all was the latter, probably because it was actually good, or at least compared to this.

Where the problem with this film lies is the fact that it’s way too slow. It starts off with some tension being built but then it turns into this flick that shows about one kill every 30 minutes, which may seem like a dumb complaint but while there aren’t any killings going on, nothing else is really happening either.

No character here seems to actually be a real person other than a bunch of cliches such as the foul-mouthed girl, the smart girl, the always scared girl, and then there’s the house-maid who is all sweet and nice but then also a foul-mouthed drinker. She’s the only one who actually has any real personality here and I think that she was also the best performance as well. Let’s not also forget to mention that the bone-headed cops are here as well who seem like total dumb-asses in the way that they are actually handling this problem that these girls are having.

I can’t lie and say that there weren’t parts that entertained me because there actually were. I did feel some tension and suspense throughout a lot of the moments where you don’t know what’s going to happen next and I think that they were handled well because they didn’t really push much of the gore and blood factor like so many horror films do nowadays. I have to give Bob Clark (a guy who would go on to do ‘A Christmas Story’) some credit because he does try here with the small-budget he’s given, but really fails when it comes to actually making an interesting story get better.

There were also some other elements I didn’t understand like how this killer was able to do all of these crazy and wild voices on the phone even though it’s pretty obvious that these voices he couldn’t just make. I know a girl voice when I hear one and I can barely even do an impersonation of one so if this guy can do as good of a one as this film made it seem he could, then he should just stop killing teens and start doing some stand-up. Hey, look at Frank Caliendo. Also, what the hell was up with that whole abortion subtext? Actually the bigger question was did anybody even care? Hell knows I didn’t.

Another problem that comes into mind when I think of this film is that it hasn’t aged well probably because there are so many other copy-cats just like it. Everybody knows how these films all play out so why should this one be any different? Of course it’s one of the first and it has its cool moments where it shows the point-of-view from the killer, but there’s nothing here that makes me feel like I just saw a master-piece. It feels more like I just saw a film that was all big, controversial, and frightening way back in its day but is just total rubbish right now in a generation where we have basically seen anything and everything when it comes to horror flicks. I know this review may have me lose some fans but to be honest, I just could not enjoy myself all that much.

Consensus: Black Christmas has some tense moments, but is overall a dated horror flick with a cheesy screenplay, predictability, and characters that don’t seem real and don’t do anything, except for the house-maid. She’s actually cool.



  1. I really like this movie actually. All your critiques are really valid, though, I guess they just don’t bother me as much. Nice review Sam.

  2. I agree with Vik V. above and I have to say that I actually think this is one of the better lesser known horror movies. In many respects, Halloween swiped a few techniques that Clark applied so well here. The reveal with Billy is truly unsettling and I love the quiet, voyeuristic shots of the empty hallways, bedrooms, etc. accompanied by soft Christmas carols on the radio. It’s also conservative with its gore, a staple many horror films today simply flat out reject. It never needed to be remade and it’s a shame that Hollywood insisted it happen.

    This film also seems to be echoing the Feminist Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Abortion was a hot topic during this movement. Many horror films of that time were tackling the issues that made up that particular movement (The Exorcist for example).

    The sound effect work in this film is also genius.


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