Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Black Christmas

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Copyright: Warner Bros.

No better way to spend Christmas than gripped by fear. Sitting next to the fireplace, swirling a hot chocolate, waiting for a monster or horrid beast to break through the window and usurp the festivities. Tearing down the Christmas tree, knife in one hand and flaming torch in the other. Black Christmas never goes that far, but the horrors lurking in the dark shadows of the sorority house are enough to make for a truly horrifying time. A festive one, too, as the holiday season skids into our view at an alarming rate, what better film for the scrooges of this world than a film hellbent on deconstructing the party with manic, flailing anger.  

The brooding camera swoons around a rather grand estate, as if looking for a way to invade the sorority house. Director Bob Clark crafts such terror through the festive period. His first-person angles early in the film are magnificent, truly impressive for the time, and from a contemporary perspective, they’re unrivalled in both their creativity and their effectiveness. We witness the view of a murderer; from the immediate moments the film opens the presence of a chilling villain is felt. It lies under the cheer and goodwill of the festive season with tremendously effective horror, plaguing the innocents who roam the house in fear.  

Supporting characters that hold such malice and horrible self-interest, it makes for a compelling set of individuals who are picked off one at a time. A troubled, haunted voice on the phone haunts our various protagonists, but it’s quite some time before the two come to blows. Black Christmas has some horrendously good moments of horror to it. Acceptable jump scares, eerie voices crackling over the phone, and kills that feel awfully like jolts of disgusted energy, the sign of a truly great horror. Clark pads out the downtime with oddities and interesting tidbits. These characters aren’t’ interesting, but they have issues and problems like anyone else. It feels intentional. A resounding success if that’s the case. Crafting characters who have issues that are vaguely interesting, central to learning more about them, but not at all necessary for the slasher heart found within Black Christmas 

Whilst the vile trepidation of slasher films is present, the greatest horror within Black Christmas is the scene depicting a man with a monobrow. Timeless 70s décor marks a beautiful examination of the period, Clark’s direction is decades ahead of its time, his framing, composition and ability to craft tension out of the mundane is remarkable. Black Christmas isn’t just a frightening festive flick, it’s also a benchmark of quality for the slasher genre. Taking its time, building up the horror, one of those special films that will enlist as much help from its well-rounded story as its unique direction and slasher antics. Not fun for the whole family, but an agreeable meeting between horror and story, a nice mixture of two ideas that rarely meet in the modern era.