Black Christmas
By: David Michael Brown on March 15, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.66:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon
Screenplay: Roy Moore
Country: Canada
Year: 1974
AKA:'Silent Night, Evil Night', 'Stranger In The House.'

As I've said before on this site, Bob Clark is the unsung hero of American horror films. With the likes of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things and Deathdream already under his belt he made Black Christmas and almost single handedly invented the American slasher movie. Yes, the Italians had done it before but Clark brought it to the masses and made it a popular horror sub-genre.

Clark always wanted his teens in peril to be realistic and looking back at the film now, this is his trump card. The performances by the co-eds are fabulous, Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussy in particular are excellent. The characters all act like teens do; swearing, drinking and being obnoxious, long before they were allowed to on screen. Even when the film descends into horror film cliché, as Hussy climbs the stairs alone knowing that the killer is still at large, she does so trying to save a friend with a large poker as protection. John Saxon is always good to watch and he is great here in the role of the cop on the case.

The use of the phone as an instrument of terror was inspired and the twist in the tale pre-dates many an Eighties slasher. The distorted voice the killer uses even recalls the demented duck voice from Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper. Black Christmas's main effect on the horror genre though was the introduction of the horror holiday. Halloween, Friday the 13th, April Fools Day, Happy Birthday to Me, they all owe a huge debt to Bob Clark.

Clark shoes great restraint during the films many murder scenes, in fact only Kidder's demise features any real blood. The scenes of mayhem are supremely handled and often subtle in their execution. The soundtrack too is a strange aural accompaniment that adds to the mood rather than detracting from the terror being generated.

Video
The image is grainy in places but works well when Clark uses light and reflection to create his picture. It's a colourful transfer that has that classic Seventies look.
Audio
The stereo soundtrack is ok but it's a shame we don't get the 5.1 mix that features on the UK and US discs.
Extra Features

Roadshow have put together a fabulous selection of extras. First off we get two excellent documentaries. Black Christmas Revisited follows two of the films stars; Art Hindle and Lynn Griffin, as they revisit the original Black Christmas house (an integral part of the films sinister mood). Its 36 minutes of interviews with the cast and crew plus some goofing around by the hosts and makes for fascinating viewing. On Screen – black Christmas fills in the gaps with 45 minutes more, there are a few cross over comments between the two but overall they are a perfect accompaniment to the main feature. Clark is always an entertaining interviewee and doesn't disappoint here.

Add to this we also get trailers, a stills gallery, the press book and poster artwork and the original screenplay for PC users. We miss out on the running commentary by Clark that is present on the US disc but overall it makes for a great value local produced disc.

The Verdict
Excellent, Black Christmas is a scary roller coaster ride that was instrumental in creating the slasher flick. Its full of great performances, deft directorial touches and genuinely scary moments, Clark's decision to show less of the horror and concentrate on the characterisation and plot works wonders here and has created a classic of the genre. Add to that a DVD chock full of extras and you have a must buy release.
Movie Score
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