With this, my Horror quota for the month has been filled. No one can say I didn’t watch anything “scary.” Take that, literally nobody.
My cowardice aside, Black Christmas was something of a choice based on curiosity. I had never heard of it before, and I was convinced that the title was more racially significant than it was thematically. Upon some further research, it seems this is considered a progenitor to the “slasher film” subgenre, which is neat! Even with the threat of many jumpscares afoot, my addiction to analysis overweighed my disdain for BOO!
“During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.“
My palette with Horror is admittedly fairly low, even with the amount of films I’ve absorbed and quantity of life I’ve wasted. Due to this reality, I am unable to gauge how brave I am. Though I wince at the expectation of BOO!, general creepy atmospheres and psychological torture isn’t going to have me shivering.
If video games are of any help, playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a very terrifying prospect. Perhaps it’s more the idea of simply being in that situation myself with no defenses. With films, it’s fairly easy to just accept that these events are occurring to characters onscreen. Maybe I should watch a first-person Horror film…
Anyway, the reason for conveying all of this is that Black Christmas didn’t really scare me at all. Only a single scene, fairly close to the beginning, had me leery of an impending jumpscare (it wasn’t really, thankfully). What the film does more than anything is pull the viewer in and drive suspense with anticipation.
Ironic that I bring up first-person viewpoints earlier (or was it planned?), because there are some occasional cuts to the killer’s viewpoint. Hearing his breathing, his sickly movements, and the slow process of rationalization as he stalks “prey” is a really unnerving form of immersion that I really appreciated. Kind of wish they did it a tad more often, but well, minimalism is likely key here.
Some performances here, unfortunately, were kind of shaky. Particularly Olivia Hussey, who is technically the lead, can come off as a little mechanical. Especially early on, I had an almost distinctly “vintage porno” vibe from it, though they found their footing as the plot progressed. Uneven at times, with the writing of various scenarios also at fault.
For example, there is a particular person with whom Hussey’s character is involved with. His actions, behavior, and convenient placement throughout the film make him a primary target for suspicion when the killing begins. Is he actually the killer? I will not spoil it. However, the lengths at which Black Christmas goes to try and play with those expectations can be borderline ludicrous. Coincidence and convenience, there are some holes that are present from a rational position.
One review I skimmed prior to viewing this pushed a theory that the plot was a critique on domestic abuse and the inadequacy of law enforcement to truly neutralize situations. Indeed, I can see that. Most officers present among the cast are painted as uncaring, rude, and literally inadequate. As one put it, “You couldn’t pick your nose without written instructions.” Their constant failures and necessity to put girls in extreme danger to even follow a lead comes across as amusingly tragic.
Then there’s the aforementioned person involved with Hussey’s character. Controlling and threatening, his entire role is dedicated to making Hussey feel alone and afraid. Constantly pushing for her to give in to his priorities, forcing her to question things that she had already made up her mind over well before. If that isn’t a clear indication of domestic abuse, you might need written instructions to pick your nose.
Black Christmas is a technically solid film that has a lot of good going for it—Scream and Halloween, among others, likely wouldn’t exist in their current form without it. Despite the praise I provide, I was never super into it. A passive enjoyment, with some slight intrigue gained by seeing how the plot would unfold and how many bodies would pile up. Otherwise, I can’t say I had a great time. Horror fanatics, far more seasoned than I, will likely gain more out of this.
Not a ravenously good time, even with a lot of praiseworthy camerawork and tension placed throughout. Horror fans will likely have a lot of enjoyment for this, if only for the historical significance within the genre. Despite my lukewarm overall feelings, I’m glad I watched it—a re-watch may even be nice every once in a while. It’s intriguing in various ways, albeit in limited supply.
Final Score: 6/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.