Black Christmas 1974 -Review

PLOT A disturbed man, known as Billy sneaks into a girls sorority house attic right before Christmas break. He starts out with making obscene creepy phone calls to the girls living in the house. One by one the calls become more grim and more unnerving each time he calls. Suddenly, the girls start mysteriously disappearing! Just a little background on Black Christmas 1974: Black Christmas was directed by Bob Clark, most famous for directing the hilariously crazy Christmas movie, A Christmas Story. Black Christmas is one of those forgotten horror gems that you might decide on renting if your intended rental is out. But be rest assured…

Review Overview

Acting
Visuals / Camera
Sound
Story
Pacing / Editing
Characters
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
Mood / Atmosphere

Have yourself a Merry Scary Christmas!

A mysterious creepy guy makes obscene threatening phone calls to the Sorority girls near Christmas. One by one they each come up missing. The calls go on to get more aggressive and he seems to know details about each girls personal lives. How is that so? Is he in the house?

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PLOT

A disturbed man, known as Billy sneaks into a girls sorority house attic right before Christmas break. He starts out with making obscene creepy phone calls to the girls living in the house. One by one the calls become more grim and more unnerving each time he calls. Suddenly, the girls start mysteriously disappearing!

Just a little background on Black Christmas 1974:

Black Christmas was directed by Bob Clark, most famous for directing the hilariously crazy Christmas movie, A Christmas Story. Black Christmas is one of those forgotten horror gems that you might decide on renting if your intended rental is out. But be rest assured you will not be disappointed my fellow horror movie buffs! Black Christmas inspired such films as Halloween!

Black Christmas came out back in 1974 and stars one of Nightmare on Elm Street’s most notable actors. John Saxon! John Saxon also plays ironically, a lieutenant as he later played one in Nightmare on Elm St. So a real treat for Saxon fans to get to see some of his earlier work.

REVIEW

I always found it strange that I never stumbled up on this movie anytime I went to my local movie rental store to rent movies. Granted, most of the rental stores I grew up with around my hometown were pretty small and almost all of their horror movie sections were little. Only carrying the most popular well known horror movies. Once in a while you might come across something you never heard of and decide to give it a watch. But I never saw this one. We did have a place that was a little out of our way that was privately owned and it was believe it or not a 2 story movie rental store! But we didn’t get to go there very often. But I don’t ever remember seeing it there either.

Anyway, the first time I ever saw this movie was back in the 90’s and I stumbled upon it on the Cinemax channel late one night. And I have to say that I was genuinely creeped out by it. Especially the creepy phone calls. I was surprised later on to have found out this movie was made in 1974, seemingly because it had the familiarity of such movies as Halloween, Friday the 13th and so on. I thought for sure that those movies had inspired the making of Black Christmas….  I was wrong!

I thought the story was fairly well written. The characters seemed to have great chemistry together which makes a movie like this even more believable. The movie wastes no time getting to the point. Which is something I like in horror movies. The POV shots are great for this movie in its time. Helped to set the standard for other great horror movies.

This movies mystery factor pretty much stays exactly that until the end. Questions like, who
killed the little girl in the park are never answered. So it leaves you wondering if the killer had anything to do with that or not. Not to mention the biggest question of all…who is Billy?

Who’s Agnes? Why is this guy killing people?

There isn’t a lot of blood in this movie, but you don’t need a lot of blood and gore to make a great horror movie work. At least in my opinion. It doesn’t hurt of  course either. But I think that is all a part of the creative beauty in horror films. There is a time and place for gore, buckets of blood and graphic content. I think things such as these, need to be well balanced with the story and the character of the Killer. It is possible to ruin movies with great potential with pointless gore, overuse of blood and graphic content. If these things were done in the Original 1978 Halloween film, it would not have been as successful as it ended up being. Halloween was successful for a reason…… and it didn’t need all those things.

The movie also has its funny moments to, like the house Mother Mrs. Mac sneaking around the house taking swigs off of hidden booze bottles shes got placed all over. And getting upset with her cat Claude! I really liked her character in this movie, she helped to take the edge off when things get to tense.

Nash, the nerdy deputy takes over the humor department when Mrs. Mac is killed off. His total lack of common sense when Margot Kidders character gives him their house number
and tells him Fellatio and that it’s a new extension!

Lastly,  if you are a big fan of traditional style horror this is definitely going to be a crowd pleaser. But if you like more movies that cater to the glorifying of clever kills, over kills, blood and guts then this probably isn’t going to satisfy your taste. Nonetheless, this is still well worth a watch!

My Favorite Line From This Movie:

“Oh God damn it Claude…. you little prick!”

 

CAST
Olivia Hussey
Keir Dullea
Margot Kidder
John Saxon
Marian Waldman
Andrea Martin

Lilith’s Tidbits:

The movie was shot in just 40 days!

Billy’s character is mainly portrayed by camera operator Albert J. Dunk, who not only did the POV shots from the killer’s point of view, but also played him during some of the murders. It was his hands that were seen by the audience.

Black Christmas only had moderate success at the Box Office when it was released. It also got critical negative reception upon its initial release. However, years later this film gained quite a cult following and received a well deserved reevaluation and is now considered a Classic!

Bob Clark was asked to change the ending of the movie. The proposed change was when the police left, that it would leave Jess alone with Chris, Claires boyfriend. When she wakes up, he was supposed to say, “Agnes, don’t tell them what we did.” Then of course, he was to kill her. Bob Clark refused this idea and he insisted that the ending be ambiguous.

It has been reported that writer, Roy Moore got his inspiration for the story from an actual series of murders that took place in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) around Christmas time.

Bob Clark, Director, said that there was originally 3 voices used for the frightening phone calls including, Nick Mancuso, an unnamed actress and himself.

Bob Clark mentions that in the original script, the murders were intended to be much more graphic. But he changed his mind and decided to go with being subtle. Roy Moore liked this idea as well. I think this was a smart and effective move and contributed to it becoming a success among fans.

NBC had advertised the film during Prime time under the name, “Stranger In The House”. Unfortunately, it was deemed to scary for Network TV and was pulled off the air!

Malcolm McDowell was originally offered the part of Peter. But he turned the part down.

Olivia Hussey mentioned that everyone on the set got along and everything was light and happy between takes. However, Olivia did mention that Margot Kidder was rather distant with cast / crew during filming.

The role of Mr.s Mac was offered to Bette Davis.

There is a reason for the eerie ringing telephone as the ending credits roll. This tells viewers that the main heroine will die. However, much of that is left up to personal interpretation of each individual of the audience.

TRAILER:
FULL MOVIE:

About Lilith

Hello to all you horror fans out there! I go by the handle "Lilith", I am one of the original reviewers for TalkHorror.com. Since TH is back, I have resumed as part of the TH staff! Really happy to be back, I have missed the place! A bit about me as far as horror goes.... I am known for my old school horror ways. While I try not to be biased towards today's modern horror, sometimes it can come across. But I do try my best to bring honest, open minded opinions and thoughts to the table. One thing you will learn about me is that I am very open minded and strongly opinionated. I also have a very twisted sense of humor that I am known for. My sense of humor doesn't have to many limits. Back to horror... I tend to enjoy horror movies mainly from the 70's and 80's. I feel some of the greatest horror movies came from this time period. I find them to be more scary, creepy and more realistic and believable. Back then people making these movies seemed to take more time, effort and care in their project. Hard work had to be put into the special FX and mostly done manually. Not like today's horror, where CGI is getting overused because it is easier and faster. For me, it takes something away from the movie. I have seen good horror movies with potential become ruined because of to much CGI. I am also not a big fan of remakes and found footage films. I do give them a chance, but the majority seems to fall short. Some start off with some great potential, but then end up losing me by the end of the movie. Very few I end up actually liking. I also am a huge collector of horror movies. I collect rare hard to find OOP VHS movies. I have quite a few rare VHS. I also collect DVDs as well. I do not have a lot of horror memorabilia otherwise, but I do have a few things. Mostly the problem is that I have ran out of room, lol! I have around 1200 horror movies alone, VHS & DVD. That isn't even counting the regular movies I have. So that is about it really, if you have questions for me, just ask! I don't bite! Lilith

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