REVIEW: Black Christmas (1974)

Before seeing Black Christmas (1974), I thought that the market for Christmas-themed movies was already saturated with titles. Having seen this film, I’m convinced that Christmas scripts face far less scrutiny than their non-holiday affiliated counterparts. Scary Christmas? You got it. Action hero Christmas? Easy. Low budget Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years romcom with live action reindeer flights and pyrotechnics? Why not. As far as holiday movies go, Black Christmas, without a doubt, is one of the strangest and most unique titles that I’ve ever seen.

Initially, I decided to see the movie because I was very, very curious to see how Bob Clark blended two seemingly opposed themes: slasher violence and Christmas cheer. I didn’t really expect a masterpiece in Black Christmas, but the film pleasantly surprised me. Instead of getting the wacky, shocking-for-all-the-wrong-reasons hodgepodge that I’d thought the film would be, Black Christmas turned out to be a palatable slasher film with great acting and thoughtful set design.

Although the title of the film is Black Christmas, the character of the picture is truly that of a horror movie, as the plot could absolutely stand on its own legs without the help of holiday synergies. Further, the film truly embodies the spirit of the classic 70’s Slasher: the deranged killer constantly calls the landline to make threats to his victims, the murders are overwrought with gore, and the real identity of the maniac is concealed throughout the entire film. If you enjoy the unsophisticated rampages of Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger, then you’ll surely appreciate Black Christmas.

Additionally, the film contains a few genuinely hilarious moments that occur at very well-timed intervals: the script actively provides for moments of levity, usually using supporting characters, while retaining the emotional gravity of the situation. As such, the movie has a great balance of different character types: instead of relying on the protagonist or the antagonist to provide moments of emotional color outside of their respective arcs, the supporting characters Black Christmas are able to provide humor without compromising the suspense of the plot. I especially appreciated the film’s usage of mischievous characters and painfully cringey situations.

While Black Christmas didn’t disappoint, it didn’t really impress. No single aspect of the film fell short of my expectations, but the overall lack of originality in the movie served to significantly constrain my opinion of it. I was hoping that Black Christmas would have integrated more “Christmassy” paradigms into its plot, but essentially, the movie is a standard Slasher-horror film neatly wrapped in gingerbread wrapping paper. Instead of drawing inspiration from both thematic centers to create a completely original idea, the film just, albeit cleverly, mixes the two distinct film styles. It’s weird, kind of scary, kind of funny, and a great conversation starter. If you have time, give Black Christmas a go, but if you don’t, you’re not missing out on a whole lot.



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