Thursday, 24 March 2011

HORROR CLASSIC: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)


Film: Black Christmas ****
Year: 1974
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 98 mins
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Country: USA

Slasher movies just love to torture sorority girls, but the one that really started it all was this effort from way back in 1974, starring Margot Kidder (who would obviously go on and play the love of Superman's life), Olivia Hussey, rebelling from a much celebrated performance in Romeo and Juliet (1968), and the always excellent John Saxon (Nancy's father in A Nightmare on Elm Street), doing what he does best as the Lieutenant.

Director Bob Clark's story utilizes to great effect the creepy phone call scenario that has happily stalked many a horror movie in the last couple of decades, only this time the killer is a complete fruitcake, and his insane ramblings down the other end of the line will offer genuine chills sadly missing when revisiting slasher films from the seventies and eighties. 

It's also wickedly funny, Kidder's drunken performance the highlight, but never strays far enough to be considered limp-wristed, instead sticking faithfully to a tense plot in which nobody is safe. John Carpenter must've enjoyed its visual style, not to mention the themes running through it, as Halloween imitates both, even if he did have the foresight to introduce a masked villain and a more emphatic leading lady.

The film was unfairly criticized as being clich├ęd on its release by the American film paper Variety, complaining about exploitation and needless violence, which only questions whether that critic managed to survive the eighties without taking a knife to his or her own throat. In truth, they got it dead wrong. Black Christmas is a festive feast from start to finish, mainly because its key ingredient still has the power to chill your blood - an absolute must-see.


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