Black Christmas (1974) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 There’s a reason Black Christmas is listed partly as a comedy on the Internet Movie Database. For a slasher film that has its fair share of genuinely chilling moments, it knows that to get the job done right it has to reference its funny bone. Today’s supposedly “scary” movies should take a tip from the ’74 release, what with their exceedingly gothic undertones and need to hide under childish labels like “torture porn”. And to be honest, I thought today’s film was going to be a complete turkey, so I was pleasantly surprised to be put in my place.

The film’s premise doesn’t exactly stand the test of time when it comes to originality, but as groundwork for some old-fashioned slasher fun, it’s more than acceptable. It’s the holiday season, and for a large group of sorority gals this means an excuse to party hearty. Little do they know that they’re being watched by a heavy breathing, personality cracked madman who’s determined to take them out, one by one. What is the identity of this lunatic? Could he be one of the local policemen? Perhaps the overbearing boyfriend of our main sister, Jessica Bradford? The options are limited, which makes the mystery angle of Black Christmas less than thrilling.

No, it really doesn’t matter who’s behind all of those swanky POV shots, because what we’re all here for is a whole bunch of slashin’. Luckily the victims are interesting and oftentimes hilarious. Why there’s Margot Kidder, playing a character who I swear is named Barbie Coard. It’s a real hoot to watch the handsome actress try to pull off the college type, especially when her entire role boils down to throwing back every type of alcohol you can imagine in every single shot. Andrea Martin is Phyllis, who shuffles about the sorority house in grotesque nightgowns while sporting the kind of hairdo only an old school Barbra Streisand could appreciate. My favorite of the bunch, though, has gotta be Mrs. Mac, the den mother of the clan who has liquor bottles hidden in the most random of locations. It’s Mac who provides the film’s biggest scare when she yanks one out of a dank toilet tank so she can have a juicy swig. Nyang!

Jessica, meanwhile, is forced to play the essentially straight role of the woman besieged by constant terror. She does get a running gag of picking up the phone only to inevitably shout, “Hello? Hello!”, which admittedly becomes funnier with repetition, but otherwise she must run around looking petrified. As played by Olivia Hussey this only works on a base level, since I couldn’t get past her generic expressions and monotone line delivery. Yes, yes, her character must decide whether or not to have an abortion, but this is slight development at best. More interesting by far is the aforementioned boyfriend, a nutty pianist who takes out his aggression on baby grands. Now there’s a role any hammy actor can sink their molars into!

As I said before, Black Christmas definitely works when it comes to delivering a nice basketful of scares. The killer frequently makes haunting, sickening phone calls to the sorority house, composed of multiple voices and sound effects that had me squirming in my seat. And the first murder is definitely going to churn a few stomachs, that’s for certain. Sure, plot holes abound, and the blood effects are downright laughable, looking more like frozen cherry syrup than anything organic, but these are mere quibbles. Looking for comedy mixed with horror? Then rent this puppy today.