Director: Bob Clark
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Hey, you know that holiday horror movie where a psycho slices up young women? Yeah, I know the movie you think started all that, and this isn’t that one; this one came out four years before that. Now for a good long while, this film has been largely overlooked. No, not by the rabid, diehard horror fans like us. We have always known about it, and how damn good it is. I’m talking about the casual scary movie watcher. You know, the normies out there. Thankfully as time has gone by, that has slowly been changing as more and more people come to love this cold slice of terror, and the devoted cult who loves this flick grows and grows. So yeah, it’s about time it got the super-duper deluxe HD treatment, and there’s no better company to do that than Scream Factory. So get your hat and mittens, and let’s take a slay ride with the original Black Christmas.
A small group of college coeds are getting ready for Christmas, when an uninvited and unseen intruder sneaks into the attic of their sorority house. Once inside, the creeper-peeper starts a barrage of obscene phone calls, and when that’s not enough, murder follows. If this sounds like your basic slasher movie, well that’s because it basically is, but please remember that this was made in 1974. It could be argued that this is the movie that set the mold for all the stalk-and-slash flicks to follow. That’s a debate I don’t want to get into here, but what is not up for debate is just how damn good this movie is.
First and foremost, it’s the mystery of the unknown loony that ramps up the tension and suspense. While there is a bit of a red herring implemented throughout, it doesn’t really work and I’ve never known anyone to fall for it. That aside, the killer is terrifying in his lunacy, and it’s maddening and horrifying that he remains nameless and faceless throughout. He is just “Billy” — he’s totally insane, and that’s all there is to him, and that’s all we need to know.
In addition to the unknown stalker, the sorority girls also do commendable work, being sassy, sexy, funny, and vulnerable all at once. These are not the cardboard-thin characters that would come to populate the slashers that would follow this one, and so their fates are all the more tragic. You actually care if these people get sliced up. I know, what a novel idea.
Lastly, there is the awesome direction by the late, great Bob Clark. Over the years, Mr. Clark showed that he could master whatever genre he was playing in, be it horror like it is here, teenage sex comedy as in Porky’s, family holiday fun like the legendary A Christmas Story, and even out and out kid flicks like Baby Geniuses. Oh well, three out of four ain’t bad.
Now let’s take a look at this shiny, well-wrapped present from Scream Factory and see if it’s a keeper, or something to be returned on the sly. There is a new 2K scan of the movie that makes it look absolutely gorgeous. Then there are three, yes, count them, three audio commentaries: the first is with the director Bob Clark, the next one is with actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea, and the third is with Billy from the movie himself, actor Nick Mancuso. Then there is an audio interview with Clark that runs the length of the movie as you watch it and sort of acts as another commentary track. So yeah, there are basically four commentaries for this movie.
If that wasn’t enough, there is a whole second Blu-ray here that’s loaded with goodies. There is the original 2006 Critical Mass version of the movie, without any of the new 2K restoration, just in case you like watching movies in low fidelity. There is a 26-minute interview with actor Art Hindle who played Chris Hayden in the movie, and another one with actor Lynne Griffin who played Clare Harrison that also runs 26 minutes. There is a 40-minute featurette about the Black Christmas legacy, and a 40th anniversary panel shot at FanExpo 2014 with John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin, and Nick Mancuso that’s 18 minutes long. But wait, we’re not even close to being done. There is a 48-minute episode of the TV show On Screen all about the movie. “12 Days of Black Christmas” is a 20-minute featurette on the movie, and “Black Christmas Revisited” is a vintage retrospective that’s over 36 minutes long. There is a collection of archival interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, and Bob Clark that all together runs over one hour and 41 minutes. There is a midnight screening Q&A with Bob Clark, John Saxon, and composer Carl Zittrer from 2004 that is 20 minutes long. There are two scenes from the movie presented here with a new soundtrack (and the original soundtrack that wasn’t used in the final version), theatrical trailers (in both English and French), TV and radio spots, a photo gallery, and two alternate title sequences for both Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House (the two alternate titles for this film) are also found here. Whew, okay, now we’re done.
Black Christmas is a must-own movie, and this is by far the best presentation of the movie to date, and it easily has the most goodies and extras going for it. So yeah, this is a very easy and very high recommendation. If you don’t have it, get it. If you already have a copy, sell that one and get this. It is well worth the double dip.