Friday, May 31, 2013

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) movie review

Black Christmas (1974) d. Clark, Bob (Canada)

Director Bob Clark’s effective (and underrated) holiday thriller pre-dates the slasher film craze and its influence is felt in Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, and countless others. The simple set-up involves a college sorority house and an (unseen) homicidal killer, heightened by some of the most chilling and unsettling obscene phone calls ever recorded. Utilizing extensive handheld camerawork, this is also among the first usage of the “heavy-breathing killer’s point-of-view” shots that would become a staple of the slasher oeuvre.

Red herrings abound and, while a little meandering at times, Roy Moore’s script expends real effort to create distinct characters. These are nicely fleshed out by fine ensemble performances (including Olivia Hussey, John Saxon and Keir Dullea), with Margot Kidder’s foul-mouthed sorority sister and Doug McGrath’s dim deputy taking top honors.

Not as slick or sticky as the genre would become, this suspenseful low-budgeteer still packs a wallop (the sequence where the police are tracing the calls is particularly potent).

The murders, while relatively bloodless, are striking and violent, and the final scene is an absolute stunner. Unusual, discordant musical score by Carl Zittrer.

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