Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas (1974) — So Halloween is often credited with establishing the aesthetic of the slasher genre (though some argue that the genre itself goes back to Psycho in 1960).  Black Christmas came out in 1974, a full four years before John Carpenter “invented” the modern slasher movie.  Bob Clark (who later directed A Christmas Story, featuring a much different take on the holiday) features heavy use of the killer’s POV, to the point where you never really get a good look at him.  In the end he’s more of a mystery.  The film uses the old “the call is coming from inside the house” gimmick but it was 1974 and I don’t know if that was as played out back then (it predates When a Stranger Calls by 5 years so maybe not).  When I first saw the movie a few years back I recall being underwhelmed but this time I watched it alone with the lights out and then definitely upped the creep factor towards the beginning.  Then it gets really boring for about an hour, which I mostly spent getting apps for my phone and glancing at the screen when it sounded like something interesting was going on.  Then towards the end the movie remembers it’s a slasher movie and gets back to the stalky-killy stuff.  I know it’s a proto-slasher film or whatever so i shouldn’t stress that the genre’s kinks hadn’t been ironed out yet (and really 36 years later, they still haven’t been) but I was uninterested for long stretches of this flick.  So sue me.  When the film really wants to build the suspense though, it does.  The cast features young versions of Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Margot Kidder (Superman), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Andrea Martin (SCTV), and a even-36-years-ago-he-still-wasn’t-young John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Dragon).  Diehard enthusiasts of the genre owe it to themselves to see where it all began (sort of) but more casual fans of suspense and carnage might want to take a pass.

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