The last in our Christmas Collab series, and I wanted something a little less saccharine, perhaps because it feels like Christmas is done and dusted now, and it’s all a little much, innit, after five days of merriment?
So step forward Christmas Horror. What better way to begin the Christmas comedown than to witness some innovative murders and laughable acting in a seventies cult classic?
I’ll elaborate more below, of course, but I have to say this wasn’t the film I though it was going to be. They sure did make ’em suspenseful back there in the 1970’s, didn’t they?
Black Christmas (1974)
IMDB Synopsis: A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.
It’s Christmas at the Kappa Delta Go Go sorority house and its occupants are in full festive swing. The Christmas tunes are banging and the booze is flowing as Margot Kidder and pals get into the spirit.
So nobody inside, nor Neighbourhood Watch for that matter, notice a heavy breathing weirdo scaling the outside of their pretty mock Tudor home and breaking in through the attic window. This is the stuff of absolute nightmares, I will not lie.
While the girls party on after their men have been sent home, Jess (Hussey) receives an obscene phone call from “The Moaner” (who’s called before). As the girls gather round to listen, The Moaner unleashes a torrent of abuse which is both gross and confusing. The call ends when Barb (Kidder) snarks him out and he tells her he’ll kill her.
After the call, Barb, who’s a little worse for wear, manages to upset her housemate Claire (Lynne Griffin) by calling her a virgin and she storms upstairs to pack for her Christmas break. I think we can safely say that she’s not the virgin Barb thinks she is, as she turns out to be the first house victim.
Her lifeless body is transported by our mystery killer to the attic where he remains, just him and his victim. Cosy. Meanwhile, downstairs, the rest of the gang fuss around their Den Mother, Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) who is frankly my favourite character in the whole film, and therefore in grave danger.
Next day and Mr Harrison, Claire’s dad (James Edmond) is worried when she doesn’t show to be picked up outside the school. He finds the sorority house and is shocked to find it rather more progressive that he’d expected (e.g. everyone drinks, swears and has boys over). Mrs Mac doesn’t do much to ease his worries when he catches her referring to the cat as a “prick”.
(I love her).
They go looking for Claire at her boyfriend’s Frat house but she’s not there so they go to the police who are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. The main cop on the front desk implies that Claire’s gone and shacked up with someone in a cabin somewhere and dismisses their worries completely.
Mr Harrison is sure she ain’t that kind of girl and so are Jess, and Claire’s boyf, Chris (Art Hindle) so they demand better action from the Fuzz. Luckily, they catch the attention of Rent-a-Lieutenant, Ken Fuller (Saxon), who’s as good a cop as he is handsome. He takes them seriously and gathers together a search party. At the same time he is dealing with a missing local schoolgirl, so the party splits up looking for both girls.
Barb isn’t in the party as she’s been sent to bed to rest (too much boozing, innit) but Jess, Chris and Phyl (Andrea Martin) join Mr Harrison in the park, where they make the grizzly discovery of the school girl’s body.
Jess returns home early and I haven’t explained this yet, but she’s preggo. She has told her boyfriend, Peter (Dullea) that she doesn’t want to keep it and he’s not best pleased, fucking up an important piano recital and then smashing up his piano. (What did the piano ever do to you, Peter?).
What Jess doesn’t know is that Mrs Mac has gone into the attic to find the mewling pussycat and that was a big mistake. She doesn’t come back down. And actually nobody ever asks questions about the cat again, anyone would think they were preoccupied.
One by one the girls are picked off, without being discovered by the others, and in unique and wonderful ways. For instance, I’d never seen anyone stabbed to death with a crystal unicorn before and now I can cross that off my Bucket List.
The frequency of the obscene calls from The Moaner steps up as well, so Jess reports them finally to Lieutenant Sex Brows, who arranges a tap on the phone.
Peter turns up and is horrible to Jess, threatening her when she refuses to back down on the abortion issue. He smashes some bulbs on the Christmas tree to show he means business then storms out. Lieutenant Sex Brows doesn’t like him on sight and begins to wonder if he’s guilty of the phone calls.
I’m going to leave this here I think, after the Questions Section, as it’s worth a watch but let’s just say that the calls are traced – and they’re coming from inside the house!
The bumbling cop on front desk is tasked with the issue of getting Jess out of the house without freaking her out but fails dismally (you had one job!).
Plus, Jess isn’t the kind of chick to leave her friends alone in a house with so she pops upstairs to wake Barb and Phyl. That doesn’t work out too well and would ya know it, there’s a final showdown of the Slasher Movie kind.
Will anyone else besides poor Jess ever answer the fucking phone? Will anyone survive? What the hell is Peter’s beef?
Will the cops ever properly search the house? I mean if calls are coming from inside the house, does that not warrant a thorough shake down of the premises? I guess not.
And… will you ever sleep again? Because I don’t know if I will.
I thought this would be a lot more fluffy than it was with more pillow fights and sorority girls in negligees. I’m not disappointed that it wasn’t that way, in fact I was pleasantly surprised by how tense and genuinely creepy this movie is.
It’s also infinitely more subtle than slashers of the modern age, though it still isn’t for the light-hearted. I mean, there are hooks through throats and suffocations a plenty.
At one point it actually had a Hitchcockian vibe (Psycho (1960), naturally) and that’s what makes it stand out a little more from many films of this ilk. I’d even dare to put it up there with some of the seventies greats. I mean, it’s not Halloween (1978) but it’s not far off.
I recommend it, if you’re looking for an alternative to ABC Made-for-TV festive parables, animated elves and Christmas specials (not that there’s anything at all wrong with any of those things)
My Rating: 4/5. Yeah I dug this.