Black Christmas/Silent Night, Evil Night/Stranger in the House (1974)

“Could that really be just one person?”

Black Christmas Poster

Synopsis:
A disturbed killer stalks a group of sorority sisters — including Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, and Lynne Griffin — over the Christmas holidays.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Expertly shot, edited, and scored, this “atmospheric chiller” — featuring a “sympathetic performance by Hussey, and strong direction by Bob Clark” — is now widely acknowledged as the forerunner of such iconic slasher films as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Indeed, though it may seem filled with cliches of the genre (i.e., the killer calling from within the house, point-of-view camera work from the killer’s perspective), it was seminal in bringing such tropes to the screen. Certain subplots and performances fall completely flat — I could do without Marian Waldman’s irritating portrayal as the girls’ imbibing house mother, for instance — but there are more than enough thrills and surprises here to scare the pants off most viewers (including me). As Peary notes, the “twist ending is a bit frustrating”, but Clark does a nice job keeping us on our toes as to the identity of the “insane murderer”. Be forewarned that the killer’s phone calls (remastered after filming to add even more obscenity) really are disturbing.

Note: In the years since Peary’s book was published, this film has become a true cult classic for horror fans, even meriting a fan website.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many genuinely freaky images and sequences
    Black Christmas Scary
  • Carl Zittrer’s creepy score

Must See?
Yes, as a cult classic of the genre.

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3 Responses to “Black Christmas/Silent Night, Evil Night/Stranger in the House (1974)”

  1. This may be of interest to those seeking it out as a “seminal” work in the genre but, on a revisit, I find it to be a crashing bore. Very deliberately paced (in other word – s-l-o-o-o-w), it is horribly repetitive, generally over- or badly acted, and ultimately, yes, frustrating. I don’t really recall how I reacted when I first saw it years ago. But I don’t think ‘BC’ holds up as anything other than a very thin and tedious relic.

    To a degree, this is the kind of slasher movie that Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’ would eventually poke fun at.

  2. Black Christmas is one scary movie. From the cavernously entrapping interiors to the beyond vulgar stalker phone calls to the unsettling music score to Keir Dullea as the unstable boyfriend, and then you add in the terrifying dispatches one after another.

    But it succeeds not just because it is scary. Bob Clark infuses even the smallest of characters with personality and zest–The interactions between the cops at the local branch is believable and at times hilarious. His attention to details helped make this a classic, albeit a thoroughly underseen one. Its impact on the slasher genre was to create virtually all of the conventions we now see as cliches.

  3. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    A fine creepy proto slasher film that takes a rather different and much more bleak style and approach to the genre. Terrific direction and performances and bags of atmosphere.

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