Black Christmas – The Essential Christmas slasher

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By Dave Hastings

Following in some very, VERY close footsteps of my favourite horror film, Halloween, Black Christmas works simply because it makes us, the audience slog so damn hard to get our answers, before abandoning us by the end with almost none of them satisfactory countered.

And that is the beauty of the film, which is built upon masterfully by the insistence of the late, great Bob Clark. Clark; that you don’t actually need to tell your audience everything, because if you just trust the filmmakers and their vision, they will reward you with an overwhelmingly effective sense of narrative ambiguity as well as an instantaneous sense of dread that infects the screen from the outset.

Story wise, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the usual girls trapped in a house with a series of chilling phone calls that all come from within the building itself, but actually Clark’s film is much, much more.

Led by the elegant Olivia Hussey who plays the vulnerable Jess, the remainder of the girls are made up from the likes of future Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, while other strong supporting roles include infamous Hal’s victimised David Bowman (Kier Dullea) from 2001, and John Saxon as one of the detectives investigating another case of a missing child that slowly but surely seems to have more in common with those chilling phone calls.

And that’s where Black Christmas rises above the majority of other slashers, in that sub plots actually help elevate the horror and threat of the ever-unseen antagonist Billy.

Billy himself, doesn’t need a backstory (you hear me Black Christmas 2006!), because what Clark does allow of him onscreen (as he lingers in the shadows of perfectly composed and sweeping right – left shots), is actually far more terrifying and unnerving to witness. His visuals are made more sinister by his actions all seen through POV (4 years before Carpenter gave us Myers vision).

Billy’s shrieking, his moaning, his phone calls, his outbursts in the attic, make you slowly realise you are watching an already fragile mind (one that has already killed in the neighbourhood), descend further into the depths of hell. And the girls in the sorority house will have no chance of getting out of Billy’s grasp unscathed, either physically or emotionally.

Black Christmas is not only a fantastic horror film, it is a fantastic film period, and one that should be watched, alone, on Christmas Eve, as the witching hour approaches.

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