Black Christmas (1974)

   

Produced & Directed by: Bob Clark

Written by: Roy Moore

Starring:

Olivia Hussey .... Jessica Bradford
Keir Dullea .... Peter Smythe
Margot Kidder .... Barbie Coard
John Saxon .... Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller
Marian Waldman .... Mrs. Mac
Andrea Martin .... Phyllis Carlson
James Edmond .... Mr. Harrison
Doug McGrath .... Sergeant Nash
Art Hindle .... Chris Hayden

Special Appearances:


Lynne Griffin .... Clare Harrison
Leslie Carlson .... Graham

Release Dates: Theatrical: October 11, 1974 (Canada); December 20, 1974 (USA)

Rating:

 

It's almost Christmas time and the women at their sorority house are having a Christmas party but however one of them named Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) is receiving obscene phone calls from a psychopath telling cryptic stories about abortion and the beating of a child.
Jessica happens to be pregnant and wants an abortion but her boyfriend Peter Smythe (Keir Dullea) who lives in another sorority house doesn't want her to.
Also one of the sorority sisters named Clare Harrison (Lynne Griffin) ends up being suffered to death by having a plastic bag wrapped around her head and dragged up to the sorority attic while the party is going on but is not found by the others.
While some go away for the holiday Jessica stays behind with some of her other sorority sisters and caretakers only to be put away in the attic themselves and Jessica continues to get these obscene calls from the killer but doesn't know where they're coming from but will be in for a big shock after she finds out.

 

The film leaves off to a perfect start showing the sorority house with the lights up on a snowy night as well as people having their Christmas Eve party. Plus there's great moments with the killer not being seen and how he enters his secret hideout in the attic. Alot of this had a good dark low budget horror feel to all of this.
It's real spine chilling when the phone rings in which you wonder if the killer is calling and when he does the main character Jessica Bradford answers it and let's everyone else hear on what he's saying which sounds totally gross in which you know that he is deranged by something. There's perfect camera shots on the sorority girls' reactions when they hear the obscene phone call listening carefully and acting quiet. What seems cheesy is there were never any speaker phones back then and Jessica was just holding it out so everyone can hear and can hear what he says very clearly. There's also some good writing with the sorority sister drunk Barb Coard being sarcastic about the new stuff he's saying along with telling him off which was quite impressive and looked fun to watch. There's a nice one liner by one of the characters named Clare telling her it wasn't a good idea to provoke the prank caller which is a good drawing card to the story knowing that something bad is going to happen.
There was a real nice and spooky setting on one of the sisters is in her room slowly walking to the closet as something is watching her and then BAM! She is attacked which is a good jumping moment. Then there's the famous killing with one of them going to her room and things are a little too quiet thinking she heard the cat at the house meowing with surprise attack and a plastic bag wrapped around her head which was an agonising feel on a way of slowly suffocating to death.
I liked a scene when a head officer and a detective are mocking Sergeant Nash on his duties which serves him right since he has an attitude problem towards people he has to deal with. I had to deal with idiots like him and it's nice to have him humiliated.
The surroundings looked great in the sorority house when it shows the hallways and then the creepy attic.
There's some good dark humor in the film which makes the flick a bit uplifting like someone who is dressing as Santa and not being too thrilled over entertaining for the kids as well as one of the head people Mr. Harrison at the sorority making a call and in the background Barb letting a little kid take a sip of her alcohol. I got some chuckles out of that.
There's more funny moments with Mrs. Mac having alcohol hidden in a book or other places plus assuring Mr. Harrison that the place is well taken care of while he spots dirty pictures hung on the wall offering more chuckles too.
It gets spooky later on when a cab driver waits for Mrs. Mac when she is stalling and trying to look for her cat as well as climbing up to the basement to spot a shocking surprise which can scare the viewer watching and knowing what is going to happen to her big time.
Plus we have a moment with Barb acting drunk out of her head and then getting obnoxious wondering if she's gonna get physically brutal and going too far which seems intimidating. When she is going to bed the suspense is gonna be packed since she would be a perfect target for the killer living up in the attic.
It looks gruesomely artsy in the attic with how the dead bodies are stored from whar the killer did to them as well as showing a dim light outside on the top of the sorority house with one of the dead bodies in a rocking chair and a plastic bag wrapped around her head and a doll on this corpses lap. You just thing that the killer is totally creative in a sick and twisted way.
There's alot of good fast action camera shots circling around the attic with the killers hands knocking things down.
Also there was a good moment with Barb when she has an athsma attack in bed and then later on nice darkness on the killer coming in with a knife ready to plunge.
Another good writing effort is when Christmas carolers are singing at the front of the sorority house with two of the survivors named Phyllis and Jessica watching meanwhile the killer is going to stab Barb to death. This looked like a traditional moment in a slasher flick that the killer will go in for a kill when something is too noisy or they're briefly away. Also the person in charge of the caroling gets anxious and tells them to go back to their car right away which is also creepy wondering if they know about what's going on around the house.
One of my favourite moments is when Jessica tries to get the police to track down the caller who's been harrassing the sorority house in which alot of the calls were perfectly scary with all that was happening. But my favourite scene of all time is when she's in the house alone when Phyllis is supposedly in bed and you wonder if this maniac got to her too then gets a call from Sergeant Nash trying to tell her to hang up and walk out of the house after finding out where the calls are coming from. This really can freak anyone out who is scared of watching movies like this and have nightmares from this. Every little bit of this was enjoyable and will please any horror fan who likes to get scared.
Bottom line is this is a well done dark type of horror film leaving the movie very spooky and mysterious however the story doesn't explain itself too well but that's what makes it excting and scary too. Still it's greatly mysterious, dark and frightening regardless and never knowing where the killer is makes it appropriate too as I find this to be the best Christmas horror film ever. You wonder why no one ever goes up in the attic at all but yet lots of kids are scared on things like that wondering what could be creeping up there and would have every right when watching this one.
The film was as eery as When a Stranger Calls as both films both have similar elements and both were remade decades later. The same writer Roy Moore wrote the 2006 remake as he made the story have a better description of why all the madness was happening with flashback memories etc.

The acting is in good shape for a film during this time period. Olivia Hussey (Jessica Bradford) seems to pull off well by being the head sorority sister and does well with her scared and upset emotions in the film. Shows some nice scared reactions to the obscene caller when she tells the caller it's the wrong number. Has a good freaked out and shocked look to her face after finding out where the obscene calls are coming from which looked energised. Does a great intense screaming and calling out in the sorority hall for her two friends which showed some terrific terrifying emotions. Does terrific by freaking out after what she spots in a room slamming the door and trying to run away showing a perfect intense frightened attitude with alot of fast action moments on everything surrounding her as well as fast energised blocking on her locking a cellar door. Does a good job creeping back trying to hide on someone in a cellar which looked impressive. However, she needed a bit of acting lessons by showing these emotions and seems like a newcomer to the acting field.
Keir Dullea
(Peter Smythe) played a great and mysterious one in the film as the boyfriend and musician in the film which also makes you wonder if he's a suspect. He showed terrific aggressions to his role. He especially looked great storming into the police station and getting aggressive to who he was talking to. Was perfect by losing control of himself as well as plunging a microphone stand and slamming it at a piano which showed terrific intense energy on him as blocking his actions were perfect while doing so. He also had the nice intimiadated looks to his role in which he looks like a killer adding a plus to his role.
Margot Kidder
(Barbie Coard) is by all means the best out of the whole cast and performs perfectly in every way. Does well reacting to this acting witty as well as really showing a good sarcastic attitude while talking to an obscene caller on the phone which looked energised. Also does a great job job acting loud and drunk in a police station trying to talk to an officer. She puts every she has as a partygoer sorority sister in the film and does especially well at being drunk too. She really played off being drunk making her actions believeable when she gets aggressive towards the others. She also shows a good outgoing and hunouress attitude too along with great angered expressions along with acting totally out of it. Basically portrayed someone who was believeably hammered. It wasn't surprising she went far in life.
John Saxon
(Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller) lived to play a police chief and was often typecast with this type of roles and of course already knew his craft when he played one in A Nightmare On Elm Street. He brings across a nice seriouness to his role being serious on his duties and really bringing out alot of this lawman spunk too. Has great reactions when he finds out where the killer is calling from trying to rescue the survivors any way he can.
Supporting actress Marian Waldman (Mrs. Mac) really stood out well as a drunken sorority caretaker and was quite bubbly in her role. She was definetely a ham in what she did as well as having an flakey and unorganised attitude too. She does well with her frusterations too. Does a great job acting frusterated looking for her cat and showing a good aggressive attitude while a cab is waiting outside for her. She also shows a nice shocked look after spotting a sorority corpse with her head wrapped in a plastic bag. All in all she was a good character actress.
Andrea Martin
(Phyllis Carlson) also played off well as another sorority sister bringing lots of enthusiasm to her part in the film. She was great by being the straight one in the sorority home having a great level headed type of behvior for everything that she did in it. Does a good job telling someone off and trying to act calm as this shows good characteristics too. Also she does a good job sobbing and thinking that someone is killed which came across believeable. A nice serious attitude too since she has done comedic work like in SCTV proving that she is very versatile with whatever she does in an acting gig.
James Edmond (Mr. Harrison) shows a good strict behavior in his role as someone who doesn't take likely to goofing around and having things organised type of manner. He also had a nice elderly serious type of look too which suited him well for his performance too. He was well focused on what he did making you wonder if he's actually like this in real life.
Supporting actor Doug McGrath (Sergeant Nash) was another great character actor who played a believeable prick of a police officer in the film as you want to slap him especially when he gets harsh to someone at the station as he reacted very realistic to this. He had a real sharp attitiude with his speaking and really knew on how to act anxious when he needed to especially when he calls someone up trying to act calm and then panicking and telling that person where the calls are coming from which looked believeable and energised for it's time. He energised his part very well and got into the mode of his role in a great way.

An officers throat is slit
There are some bloodied corpses.

Carl Zittrer composed some nice dark sounds for the film with piano chords being struck which works just perfectly for the scary scene's along with some moaning types of violin sounds bringing it the perfect dark feel to the scene's that it was played on.

The Killer: [to Barb, while on the phone] I'll stick my tongue up your pretty pussy!

The Killer: Let me lick your pretty piggy cunt!

Barb Coard: Why don't you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it, that will give you a charge?

[after the mysterious caller hangs up]
Clare Harrison: I don't think you should provoke somebody like that, Barb.
Barb Coard: Oh listen, this guy is minor league. In the city, I get two of those a day.
Clare Harrison: Well maybe. But you know that town girl was raped a couple of weeks ago.
Barb Coard: Darling, you can't rape a townie.

Sergeant Nash: Excuse me? Could you give me the number at the sorority house? Please?
Barb Coard: Yeah, sure. It's, ah... Fellatio 20880. Fellatio. It's a new exchange, FE.
Sergeant Nash: That's a new one on me. How do you spell it?
Barb Coard: Capital F, E, little L, LA, TIO.
Sergeant Nash: Thanks.
Barb Coard: Don't mention it.

The Killer: [Quietly singing] Little baby bunting/Daddy's went a-hunting/Gonna fetch a rabbit skin to wrap his baby Agnes in.

Mrs. MacHenry: [on her nightgown gift] Well, thank you, girls. It's lovely really...
[muttering]
Mrs. MacHenry: Got about as much use for this as I do a chastity belt.

Mrs. MacHenry: [looking at a hideous nightgown gift the sorority girls have given her] Jesus, I wouldn't wear this to have my liver out!

Mrs. MacHenry: Oh God damn it Claude, you little prick!

Barb Coard: Did you know, this is a very little known fact, but... did you know that there's a certain species of turtle that... there's a certain species of turtle that can screw for three days without stopping. You don't believe me, do you? Well, I mean, how could I make something like that up?
Mrs. MacHenry: Ah, Barb, dear, ah, I-I-I-ah...
Barb Coard: No, really! They just... three days, 24 hours a day, wha-voom! Wha-voom! Wha-voom! Can you believe that, three days? I'm lucky if I get three minutes! Do you know how I know this? Because I went down to the zoo and I watched them. It was very boring. Well actually, um, I, uh, didn't stay for the whole three days, I went over and I watched the zebras, because they only take thirty seconds! Premature ejaculation!

The Killer: [referring to her potential abortion] Just like having a wart removed.
Jessica Bradford: Oh my God!

Sergeant Nash: [after Sergeant Nash calls the sorority house] Who is this?
Jessica Bradford: It's Jess.
Sergeant Nash: Ms. Bradford, this is Sergeant Nash. Are you the only one in the house?
Jessica Bradford: No. Phyll and Barb are upstairs asleep. Why?
Sergeant Nash: Alright. Now I want you to do exactly what I tell you without asking any questions, okay?
Jessica Bradford: [Begins to question]
Sergeant Nash: No, no, no... no questions. Now just put the phone back on the hook, walk to the front door and leave the house.
Jessica Bradford: What's wrong?
Sergeant Nash: Please, Ms. Bradford, please just do as I tell you.
Jessica Bradford: Okay. I'll get Phyll and Barb.
Sergeant Nash: [Raising his voice] No, no, no, don't do that Jess.
[Long pause]
Sergeant Nash: Jess, the caller is in the house. The calls are coming from the house!