Black Christmas (1974) still stands up

There is a lot to love about about this movie (and it’s even on Shudder), let’s dig in.

Clare (Lynne Griffin) and Phyl (Andrea Martin) with the most 70s hair ever.

1. 70s Toronto is great. And, since it’s the 70s and it’s Toronto, Andrea Martin is in it. Women in slacks. Men with big hair and big fur coats. Real snow. What’s not to love?

2. The killer is scary. No, really. We don’t see him too much and it’s just so consistently upsetting to know he’s in the house at all times when the whole cast is oblivious. The slasher’s manic speech is especially creepy. You get a sense of the killer’s origins, but it’s never really resolved and that’s in the movie’s favour.

3. The funny parts are funny. There is some fantastic dialogue. Barb (Margot Kidder) is cracking wise just constantly and with real gusto. Competent Toronto cops are ragging on the incompetent cop. It’s fabulous. And the sad parts are also sad, it’s a whole range of emotions.

4. The movie looks and sounds great. Everything is competently lit, sound is good, effects are good. It might not sound like much, but it makes a difference. There are even some really stylish compositions throughout, like one shot through the crack in an open door that lights up the killer’s eye (used in poster images).

5. The women are like… actual people. (Except Mrs. Mac, ugh) Sure, the

Jess (Olivia Hussey) in not at all ominous lighting conditions.

y fit into some pretty basic categories like the “slut” Barb (Margot Kidder), and the nerd, Phyl (Andrea Martin). But they also have personalities beyond the labels with their own voices and quirks. The protagonist, Jess (Olivia Hussey), is harder to categorise. She seems like a typical “good girl”, but that’s compromised when (SPOILER) we find out she’s planning to have an abortion. This even figures into her interactions with the killer. This all means that there are real stakes, they’re not just a bunch of pretty “bimbos” lined up for the slaughter. There is enough to each character that you care what happens to them.

It’s crazy to see a movie at the heart of the slasher era that is still trying to be a real movie. Dialogue. Sets. Characters. It’s easy to forget that the origin of clich├ęd 80s slashers was creepy little films like this. Enjoy.

Barb (Margot Kidder) the wise-cracking bad girl