AKA “Silent Night, Evil Night”, “Stranger in the House”
Starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, James Edmond Jr., Doug McGrath, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin, Michael Rapport
Directed by Bob Clark
Expectations: Pretty high. This is a genre classic that I’ve heard nothing but good things about.
Like the ending of Black Christmas, my feelings about the film are ambiguous and require some thought. Usually I can assign a rating to a film within a few moments of finishing it, and some I can predict a rating while watching. With Black Christmas, I’m unsure whether I saw one of the best 70s horror films or one of the most boring and obvious. Watching Black Christmas, one of the earliest recognizable slasher films, for the first time in 2011 definitely isn’t doing the film any favors as its plot twists are pretty apparent to anyone who’s seen any major slasher film. Well fuck, let’s be real here, the plot twists would be obvious to anyone paying attention to the movie, even if they’ve never seen a slasher film.
The story is pretty basic: a sorority house receives strange, sexually aggressive phone calls while a weirdo murderer lurks about in their attic. That’s pretty much it. The film is built upon the premise that you identify with the girls of the sorority, most notably star Olivia Hussey, as she slowly confronts the evil that stalks her. For this to work, the audience must be able to place themselves in her shoes and in her mind; we must live within her fears. This is where Black Christmas fails because right from the first scene we’re also privy to the mind of the crazed killer. We follow him from outside the large sorority house as he climbs the trellis and slides his way into attic. As the film moves along we jump perspectives between the girls and the killer, further allowing the audience to know more than the characters they should be identifying with, and therefore many of the scenes that should be tense and full of scares are pointless and drawn-out because we know exactly where the guy is!