Christmas stereo-typically, is the most joyful time of the year, but with mundane, and ancient pagan origins, it’s actually the perfect time of the year for horror films, much on par with Halloween. Like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, or even Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Dark stories meant not only to frighten, but to scare people back on the right path of life. Acting more as a cautionary tale.
Before filmmaker Bob Clark gave us his family film “A Christmas Story”, in 1974 he brought us one of the most important to the horror films of the entire genre. Important because many you could argue it was the Prototype slasher film. “Black Christmas.”
The film is marketed as a psychological thriller which follows a plot line that borders on being stereo typical. A group of girls in the sorority house during Christmas break, and a crazy maniac is in the house tries to kill them one by one.
On the outside the plot actually appears to be quite straightforward. But the complexity of this film is not in the storytelling. It’s complexity is found primarily in the film’s design. Black Christmas is one of those movies where one could actually do a full on ‘CSI type’ investigation. Like a whodunit, very much in the same aspect as John Carpenter’s “The Thing”.
The “if the killer did this and the victims over there, then this must’ve happened here”.
Another interesting thing about Black Christmas is it’s one of the first main stream horror films to actually feature and antagonist whom you’ve never see, you only hear his phone calls and screams, and occasionally you see his POV. This is something that would actually be done later in other slasher films to help create suspense. A good example would be the introduction to the film “Halloween”.
The cast of the film is also great, not just Keir Dullea’s dramatic performance as Peter, but also Olivia Hussey’s great job as Jess. Not exactly a conventional film for the stars of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Romeo and Juliet”, respectively. Another famous face in the film is Margot Kidder, making a pre-Superman appearance, as well as Art Hindle of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fame and John Saxon, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
One quality about this movie that undoubtedly separates it from its other slasher films, besides the fact that this one was made way earlier in 1974, is that it doesn’t obey the rules usually put in the place in the Slasher film genre. Jamie Kennedy made them very famous in the film “Scream” example: virgins are the ones who usually survive, the ones who do drugs or drink a lot and usually die in the film, stuff like that. The film Black Christmas does not actually follow those conventional slasher film rules. As such it’s more logical to call it a Prototype slasher film then it would be to refer to an actual horror film.
Granted, having a bad guy whom you never know the motivations of, or even the very look of the villain, this type of horror film may not pair well with today’s generation. The downfall of most horror movies these days is that people want it 100% closed ended resolution in the end product of the film. Nevertheless, Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” is undoubtedly a great horror film for all generations.