5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An Atmospheric Classic,
This review is from: Black Christmas [DVD] (DVD)
"Black Christmas" is often cited as the pioneering feature of the slasher genre, paving the way for a succession of celluloid knife-wielding maniacs via John Carpenter's "Halloween", released four years later. However, slasher fans are likely to be disappointed with "Black Christmas" since it mainly relies on the use of suspense and atmosphere for its shocks rather than sickly violence and gore.
Of course, for mainstream audiences, this makes it rather superior to genuine slasher fare. Director Bob Clark utilises the principle that true fear arises from what we don't see and don't know - the audience never get to see a tangible perpetrator. Unlike the tiresome backstories of invincible homicidal maniacs which diffuse rather than heighten the fear factor in the typical slasher plot - there is absolutely no exposition hinting what the source of death could be. The director's insistence on ambiguity lends the macabre proceedings a demonic, supernatural quality, during which the audience are invited to imagine and speculate feverishly without any relief for their trouble.
The unerringly wooden but undeniably beautiful lead Olivia Hussey ("Romeo & Juliet") suspects her very melodramatic, creepy and bizarre boyfriend Keir Dullea, to whom all the circumstantial evidence points to. Whether Dullea has put in a great performance or is simply this creepy in real life isn't clear - I certainly wondered whether HAL wasn't actually rather justified in his attempt to jettison him in space in "2001: A Space Odyssey". There are better performances from the then unknown likes of Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin as Hussey's fellow sorority girls, and a guest star turn from B-Movie legend John Saxon ("Enter the Dragon") as a baffled Police Lieutenant.
The biggest star of the show for me is the use of sound - Clark's team juxtapose the mundane and sinister sounds of the empty house to brilliant effect, and the guttural voices on the telephone calls are truly terrifying! Generally the film is well worth a visit and Tartan have produced a very decent package with some nice retrospective interviews from some of the original cast.