• Martyn Wakefield

BLACK CHRISTMAS [1974] (REVIEW)

Dir. Bob Clark

Reviewer. Dan Cook

The undisputed king of Christmas horror movies and one of the greatest films ever made, Bob Clark’s highly influential 1974 proto-slasher BLACK CHRISTMAS is an intensely creepy Canadian masterpiece whose influence on the world of horror cinema cannot be understated. Set during the festive period but noticeably lacking in holiday cheer, the film sees a group of unlucky college girls being picked off by a crazed killer who has taken up residence in the attic of their sorority house.


Made 3 years before John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, BLACK CHRISTMAS was one of, if not the very first movie to lay down the groundwork for what would later become the slasher film. With its extensive use of POV tracking shots and featuring a significant body count as well as a final girl, the picture noticeably bears many of the trademarks of every popular, and not so popular, horror films made throughout the late 70’s and well into the 80’s. Yes, some of the scenarios seen in the movie may sound familiar but it’s important to realise that the reason why BLACK CHRISTMAS feels so cliched and formulaic is that it invented the clichés and formulas in the first place. Simply put, there would be no Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees without this movie.



But looking past its legacy, BLACK CHRISTMAS is in itself a vehemently chilling and disturbingly bleak experience that far outshines many of its descendants thanks to the great skill exhibited from those working both in front of and behind the lens. These include, but are not limited to; Bob Clark’s terrific direction which consistently sets nerves on a knife edge, the unforgettable soundtrack which mixes traditional carols with Carl Zittrer’s dischordant and doomy underscoring, unanimously strong performances from the cast which includes Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Kier Dullea and John Saxon and some absolutely astounding cinematography from Roy Moore who contrasts the natural darkness of Winter with the artificial lights of the season to genuinely nightmarish effect. Usually, there are a few weak links in the making of a motion picture but BLACK CHRISTMAS is a solid chain built up of immense talent and consistently frightening efficacy and it only gets better and more terrifying with each annual watch.


Just as the memorable and all-too truthful advertising campaign states, “If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl...it’s on too tight!”.



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