I’d like to start this out by saying that I actually have seen Black Christmas, just not the 1974 classic. My experience with the classic holiday slasher is with the 2006 remake Black Xmas. Having experience with the ’06 remake, and thinking it was a passable slasher flick led me to believe I would have a basic grasp for what to expect from the 1974 classic. Fun fact, I was wrong.
The first thing that stood out to me that was vastly different, and executed much better, in the ’74 version was the threatening phone calls that happen periodically throughout the film. In the remake of Black Christmas there are only a few phone calls, and they are for the most part brushed off and ignored. With the original however, the phone calls didn’t feel like some drunk fraternity member messing with one of the local sorority. The calls have weight and bring forth some serious dread.
Threatening phone calls aren’t the only thing the sorority sisters have to worry about though. With one of their members missing, and a local girl also going missing only to be found dead later, the phone calls only fuel the tension flowing throughout the sorority as members slowly begin to disappear without a trace.
If I had only one real gripe about the movie overall, it’s that it takes a little to long for the movie to find its primary protagonist. Black Christmas follows all the sorority sisters that are still present as they go through their day to day while being stalked by an unknown killer which helped to make the movie feel more alive, but made it difficult to latch onto characters if any one of the women could be axed off any minute.
Until the third act there wasn’t a clearly defined final girl which is a staple of slashers. That can be forgiven since Black Christmas is one of the earliest slasher films, so you can’t be too harsh with it for lacking a few familiar elements one would expect with a slasher.
Easily my favorite thing that the original Black Christmas pulled off that the ’06 remake chose to completely ignore, was that the identity of the killer is never explicitly given. During the film’s opening an unknown intruder attacks and kills one of the sorority sisters, only to drag her corpse off to the attic where she will remain for the remainder of the flick. The house mother also receives the same treatment after she meets her gruesome end with an oversized hook before being dragged off to the attic with the killer.
The psychological aspect of never knowing just who the killer really is, and the fact that two bodies are never discovered was for me at least, one of the most effective endings to a slasher film that I have experienced. I would personally rank the final moments up there with John Carpenter’s classic Halloween.
I’m very happy that I was finally able to experience Black Christmas, and as a lover of the slasher genre it was interesting for me to see the beginnings of the tropes that I would learn to love as they evolve over the years. If you’re looking for a horror movie to enjoy during the Holiday season look no further than 1974’s Black Christmas.
A classic for a reason, I plan on loading up this classic every holiday season alongside Krampus to bring a little fear and gore to the Holidays.
Feature Image Credit: Chris Fischer