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Black Christmas

Black Christmas

By Patrick Samuel • April 18th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Film Funding Limited of Canada

Original release: October 11th, 1974
Running time: 98 minutes

Director: Bob Clark
Writer: A. Roy Moore
Composer: Carl Zittrer

Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon

Black Christmas

There are some dates on the calendar that fill us with a certain kind of dread. Whether it’s the date for filling out our tax returns, when the in-laws pay a visit or when you know your tenancy agreement or work contract is about to come to an end, they’re all things we’d like to avoid, but what about Christmas? Inspired by a series of murders in Quebec around the festive season, Black Christmas was the first in the line of Calendar Horrors to come. In the decade which followed, horror audiences would flock to see movies like Halloween (1978) and Friday The 13th (1980) set around a specific date where a series of brutal and shocking murders would take place. It was also the first movie which featured a killer calling their victim from inside the house and would be played homage to some two decades later in Wes craven’s Scream (1996).

Although tame in comparison to some of today’s movies, Black Christmas was and still is an unsettling murder mystery. Set in a sorority house when the girls are making their Christmas getaway plans, they start receiving obscene phone calls. Later that night, upset by calls, Claire (Lynne Griffin) goes upstairs to pack her bags but instead ends up being suffocated by the killer. As he hides her body in the attic, the girls assume she’s left, but when her father turns up looking for her, they begin to panic.

One by one the girls fall victim to the mysterious killer. As the police department try to trace the calls, they’re still unable to identify the culprit. Margot Kidder, probably best known as Lois Lane in the Superman movies does a great turn as the foul mouthed student Barb, while 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Keir Dullea turns up as the piano-playing boyfriend of one of the girls. It’s also great to John Saxon as Lt. Kenneth Fuller, a role which isn’t too dissimilar from Lt. Donald Thompson whom he would play ten years later in A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Black Christmas

With the body count climbing steadily Black Christmas remains an effective thriller and a worthy entry in the early slasher genre. Though the killer’s identity is never revealed, we catch glimpses of him through POV shots, though the lighting in many of these scenes is restricted. Carl Zittrer’s score is another element that’s used to create a tense atmosphere throughout the film and juxtaposed with the repetitive use of Christmas carols, the music works well to blend the scares in with moments of humour.

As a film that was responsible for giving me many nightmares a kid when I first saw it, Black Christmas’ most chilling scene comes from that early murder when we see Claire’s body in the rocking chair after being suffocated with a plastic bag, but even without that scene, the film has much to offer fans of the horror/slasher genre. Where would we be today without the film that started the Calendar Horrors and made us think twice about December being the jolliest time of year?

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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