Director – Bob Clark (Porky’s and A Christmas Story)
Starring – Olivia Hussey (Stephen King’s It), Keir Dullea (BrainWaves), and Margot Kidder (Superman)
Release Date – 1974
Rating – 4/5
Tagline – “If this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl…it’s on too tight”
Holiday films are made to help get you into the holiday season rather it be Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Easter. These films even get you in the spirit of the holiday if they are horror flicks. Aside from the blood and gore, you still see the holiday shine through and that it what I love about Christmas horror. Most people say they love Halloween and wait patiently for the holiday to arrive to watch Halloween themed films. I do enjoy Halloween flicks but most fail to embrace the real holiday spirit like their Christmas counterparts.
A few years back I grabbed the American remake of Pulse on DVD at Wal-Mart and it came with a free copy of Black X-Mas. Of course I watched that incredibly horrible remake. I had never seen the original before this but I wondered if it was as shitty as the remake. I never really heard anything about the original except it was directed by the same director as A Christmas Story and Porky’s.
Being a fan of both films I headed over to ebay and got it on VHS. I left it on my shelf for a few years until December two years back. I wanted to review it for the blog I had prior to Demons of Celluloid. The first time I saw it I instantly rewound it and gave it another watch. I loved it. Last Year after watching it on VHS the fine folks as Slasher Studio posted an amazon.com link for the bluray of the film being dirt cheap. I had to grab that for myself and ordered it. We then move to this December and I finally took the dust covered plastic off of it to give it another go which I am sure will not be the last one this December.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows a group of sorority sisters, and their den mother, as they prepare for the holidays. Most of the girls in the sorority house have gone home for Christmas except for a select few. The girls start receiving obscene phone calls. The calls sound like more than one person is on the line. The girls don’t pay any attention to the calls except for Jess (Hussey). After one of the girls fails to meet her father, they go to the police to report her missing. The police pull together a team of people to perform a man hunt for the young girl.
During the man hunt, the police stumble across the dead body of a child. Jess, knowing that something bad has happened to her sorority sister, allow the police to wire tap their phones to see if there is a connection with the missing girl and the phone calls. Jess is also pregnant and told the baby’s daddy that she was getting rid of it. He calls the home later that evening crying and begging her not to kill the baby. The police start to suspect that it is him making the phone calls and possibly responsible for the girls disappearance.
After tapping the phones the police discover that the calls are actually coming from within the house. The police tell Jess this in order to get her to leave the home, but she doesn’t. She heads upstairs to check on her two sorority sisters and discovers them dead. The killer then attacks her and she fights her way out and makes her way to the basement. Her baby’s daddy busts through the glass to the basement and lets himself in. As he approaches her, she does not respond to his questions. Moments later the police arrive and find her in shock holding his dead body. The police then assume he was the killer and take his body away. They take her to her room and heavily medicate her. They then leave and we start hearing the same voices from the phone calls coming from the attic.**Spoiler Alert**
After watching this film as many times as I have the last few years I always wonder why more people do not discuss this flick. Sure, the film has some die hard fans but nothing like other horror flicks. This is the kind of film that you like more with each viewing. This movie set the standard for the 80’s slasher boom and inspired John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween. This movie should be lumped together with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as being a real game changer.
The acting is decent when compared to the slasher films that followed. Margot Kidder’s character is shocking after growing up with the Christopher Reeve’s Superman series and seeing her as the innocent Lois Lane. Seeing Lois Lane talk about fellatio made me look at her in a whole new light. As for the story, if you have seen any sorority house slasher from the 80s then you have seen this story retold. This one not only set the standard for the slasher sub-genre but it also paved the way for the sorority slasher that would follow the camper slasher. My biggest gripe with this film is the ending. The killer is never revealed and we have no idea who that is speaking in the attic. A better ending and some on screen kills would have made this movie a lot better, however, this film is still a great watch.
As for the special effects, the film does not offer much in that aspect. This film does not offer much in the blood and gore department but does deliver some decent kills. Most of the kills are done off camera or through a glare and this is a little disappointing. I would really like this movie a lot more if there was some blood and gore, or at least some on camera kills. The film uses tension and atmosphere to get to the viewer instead of blood and gore. Overall, this slasher stands as a landmark in horror as one of the founders of the slasher sub-genre. I definitely recommend adding this to your holiday movie list.