Black Christmas (1974)
Reviewed on 2011 June 16
This is one of the earliest crazy-stranger-terrorizing-young-women-via-phonecall movies that I know of, and it may not have hit the apex of later films, but it shaped the genre. What’s really ironic is Bob Clark directed this nasty holiday flick, then went on to give us A Christmas Story.
It’s Christmastime in the early 1970s, and a group of college-aged women are deciding what to do for their break. Barb (Margot Kidder) is the group wild woman, and invited them to the doubtless booze-soaked festivities at her house. Sounds like fun, but first the women agreed, possibly as a community service for their sorority charter, to have a party for the wee tots of the village. Here I give them credit: some freak who only identifies himself as “Billy” has been consistently pranking the girls with some of the most genuinely frightening obscene phone calls ever created for film. Rather than bailing, Barb gives the pig an earful. What the women don’t know, and the audience does from the start but it still doesn’t lessen the impact, is that this loony is targeting their sorority house, planning to pick them off one by one.
I was going to give this sick puppy two morsels, until it gathered up steam as it rolled along. It is genuinely creepy, and managed to be frightening without lots of gore. It starts out a bit slowly but the bits of humor to leaven things — the tiny airplane bottles of hooch tied to the Christmas wreaths and the house mother trying to frantically hide a naughty poster from a concerned father — don’t detract from how disturbing this truly is once it gets going. Watch their faces when they’re in a group, listening to that first phone call. There’s no bad acting, but Olivia Hussey is wonderful as Jess, the sister with who may or may not be a truly unstable boyfriend (Keir Dullea), and Kidder is hilarious as Barb.
Three chocolate morsels.