It’s time for Christmas break, and sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When one of the sisters disappears, they contact the police, who don’t express much concern. When a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park, the police finally take an interest. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?
Amelia: This movie is Canadian as fuck! Now a lot of shit gets filmed in Canada. Toronto is a stand-in for places like New York and Chicago in a lot of stuff, and British Columbia is television. Just all television. The X-Files, The Flash, Fringe, Supernatural, Macgyver – literally everything. But when I say that Black Christmas is Canadian as fuck, I mean it was filmed about ten kilometres from where I live in Toronto. Right by Casa Loma actually. It’s just someone’s house nowadays. That’s fucking Canadian as fuck, dude!
Billy: Talk about Canadian, SCTV’s Andrea Martin is in this movie! This movie also feels so 1970s. Look at that afro in the opening scene or the way kids coming to see Santa are called little bastards. It’s also the last era where drugs, sex, and alcohol in a sorority would be considered shocking. Those are requirements nowadays and to be honest, and a little passe depending on what corners of the internet you choose to inhabit. Yet it must be shocking as they’ve brought in a character specifically for all this debauchery to shock, and we get some pretty chuckle-worthy scenes of a matron (??) trying to either explain away or cover up the behaviour. The fact that this matron was an alcoholic, ever sneaking around with her flasks and bottles in hollowed out books, brought a much-needed lightness to this bleak film.
Amelia: Speaking of shocking, I was fairly surprised by how many times the word cunt was used in this movie and that’s really saying something because it’s my favourite swear word! I’m no stranger to spitting out what most people consider the harshest, most despicable curse word at the drop of a hat. It’s vulgar, it’s levels above the word fuck, which I’ve been using regularly since grade three (so it’s lost some of its appeal), and I honestly didn’t expect it in this 1974 Canadian horror movie.
Billy: Checking out Black Christmas this deep into 31 Spooky Nights is interesting because I really notice a lot of later movies that held its influence. Scream obviously comes to mind for the way it uses phone calls to make the killer omnipresent within the world. It’s also a forerunner of the entire slasher genre, something that’s obvious in its multiple extended killing sequences or POV shots. I was unsurprised to learn Halloween was at one point developed as a sequel to Black Christmas since it shares so many structural elements with this film. One nod to the past I liked was Psycho’s influence in the way the body is displayed upright in a chair and remains a character present in the film after death. That body, face wrapped in plastic, remains potentially the most iconic element of Black Christmas, to me, that survives the legacy of films it’s influenced since.
Amelia: What I think could have been completely cut from this story arc is the subplot with the one sorority sister who’s pregnant and wants an abortion but her dick boyfriend is all like ‘you can’t kill our baby’ and ‘you need to have it because I don’t care about your stupid lady hopes and dreams’. I’m paraphrasing the second one, but the tone and idea is spot on! This is what most of the plot concerning these two is. It’s used within the movie as a red herring for the police to follow but we as the audience know that whiny, pro-life fuckboy isn’t the killer. It’s being used as dramatic irony but it’s not thrilling. Having to watch that guy talk about not killing the baby made me want to slap someone and exclaim that it’s not a baby, it’s a clump of cells with no brain activity until six months in! I honestly almost turned the whole thing off to put on some Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. That woman knows what I want to hear and it’s talking down to fuckboys while talking up pro-choice!
Billy: For me, Black Christmas was just a little too premature in the slasher genre for me to really get into it. Seeing John Saxon in this was nice. Having the dad from Nightmare on Elm street as the cop legitimately made me take notice, but like my experience in Friday the 13th, several of the characters just blended together for me and, if I’m being truly honest, not even Saxon did anything special. Maybe it was the time of day that we decided to watch this one, or the particular mood I was in, but I just I didn’t get into it. Everything this film did to create the slasher genre is fantastic, but I can’t shake the feeling that later films did it better. Things like pacing and character development mean a whole lot more to me than first and I just zoned out one time too often to really say I enjoyed this film on anything more than an academic level.
Amelia: Five Christmas trees out of ten
I was into Black Christmas about as much as I was into the original Halloween. Which is to say not very. It’s good filmmaking and I can see where parts would have been tense as hell to someone less desensitized/jaded as me, but I didn’t get any thrills out of it. No, that’s not technically right. I was thrilled that the cat survived the ordeal. I guess what I mean to say is that I got no chills out of it.
FYI, I zoned out here and there during this movie, so if the cat actually does die, fuck off and don’t tell me, okay? Let me live in my bubble of cat-related happiness unscathed!
Billy: Four Christmas trees out of ten
As iconic and influential as it is, I just didn’t totally get into this one. It’s an entry that came too early in the slasher genre for me to approach it the way I felt I should have. I definitely appreciate the aspects that made it groundbreaking, I didn’t feel the tension the way I should have. Having finally seen it, I can now respond that Black Christmas did it first, even if I didn’t like it.