Christmas Darkness (Black Christmas, 1974)
Halloween is often cited as the father of the slasher genre. But three years prior was Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. If you are wondering why the name Bob Clark might sound familiar, there is a reason. For about a decade, for 24 hours every Christmas, TNT aired back to back showings of Clark’s “A Christmas Story”. Yeah, that guy who brought us a beloved holiday classic also gave us another, lesser known (but no less classic) holiday film.
Black Christmas is a little bit different in tone, of course. It is set on Christmas Eve at a sorority house. As the women engage in festivities, their house is plagued by an obscene caller who speaks in guttural cries.
The film is mainly focused on Jess (Olivia Hussey) who is pregnant, and set on having an abortion. Her boyfriend, Peter (Keir Dullea), is dead set against it. There is also a hunt for a young missing girl, and the first girl to die. But nobody is sure if the sorority girls are running off or truly missing.
We the audience, of course, no better. The killer is in the house, but what is his motive? Why this house? It is a mystery that the film never chooses to answer. “Billy” has no origin story. He just shows up and terrorizes the girls. And it is an effective and unnerving choice.
Black Christmas is well acted, with great visuals. Rather than focus on gore, it is focused on mood. And it is powerful. The film’s final shot as the credits begin to roll are chilling. There is no music as the camera pulls away from the house. Just a lone ringing telephone…