Black Christmas Screen 7 articles

Black Christmas

1974

Black Christmas Poster
  • Bob Clark’s Black Christmas points ahead to the soon-to-be-institutionalized slasher film, but is a more atmospheric affair than Chainsaw, trading in well spaced-out shocks and slow burn rather than all-out sensory assault. John Carpenter’s elegant Halloween(1978) is often regarded as the prototypical film of this type, yet four years earlier, Clark deftly orchestrated a neat little holiday mood piece all his own

  • Clark really puts the screws on his audience during the police-wiretap scene, and then later during the film's chilling finale. Apathy kills—a perfect sentiment for the holiday season.

  • BLACK CHRISTMAS is remembered today chiefly as an early experiment in the development of what would become the slasher film, but beyond this slight historical importance it's also a baroque and stunning work of intricate visual styling and spatial complexity.

  • Clark’s other Yuletide classic is a giddy original of the slasher sub-genre (no BB guns here). Drawing from giallo and urban legend, Clark and screenwriter A. Roy Moore crafted an atmosphere of vulnerability and faceless dread, four years before Halloween made its landmark debut. But unlike its successors, Black Christmas adds comedy to the mix, lightening the mood just as the terror settles in.

  • Final girl Jess’s (Olivia Hussey) boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea) exudes male privilege in his disregard for his girlfriend’s desire to have an abortion, unable to comprehend her lack of interest in settling down just yet. Fitting, then, that he’s made out to be the main murder suspect—at least until its final two minutes throw a wrench in that conclusion and suggest something even more insidious: the terror of misogyny continuing to live on.

  • Clark takes the time and trouble to establish his location and fully flesh out his characters before bumping them off. What's more, these characters are refreshingly complex individuals who do and say unexpected things. Clark's abetted immeasurably by a strong cast of up-and-comers, blending fledgling stars like Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, and Keir Dullea with faces that would soon become familiar from the films of David Cronenberg (particularly Art Hindle and Les Carlson).

  • Camera operator Bert Dunk wore a rig mounted on his head while crawling through the windows and shimmying down from the attic of the menaced sorority house on the University of Toronto campus, where the film lays its scene. Just as impressive as Clark’s technical acumen are the performances he gets from an excellent ensemble cast, including SCTV’s Andrea Martin and, as the house’s sybaritic, much-sloshed sister, an extremely charming Margot Kidder in a choker-and-chambray combo.