Black Christmas (1974)

We’re going old school today! While the original Black Christmas was not the first movie involving what we today would refer to as a “slasher” killer (the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre came out the same year), it helped popularize the horror subgenre. But is this film really about Christmas? Absolutely not. It would’ve been just as easy to set it during spring break. But it happens right before Christmas, so here we are, talking about it in December. Merry technicality!

The film takes place at a sorority filled with a bunch of “teenage” girls, including Juliet (Mrs. Olivia Hussey), Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). As the girls start leaving for winter break, a crazed maniac sneaks into the building and hides in the attic. He calls the girls occasionally, alternating between making intense sexual catcalls and rehashing what may be his tragic backstory, including switching to something like 4 different voices. A father arrives and starts asking around where his daughter might be, not realizing she was one of the killer’s first victims. As a police manhunt begins, more and more girls are killed, their disappearances attributed to leaving for break or just sleeping in a locked room. In the end we have Juliet, who I should probably say is actually named Jess in this. She’s worried that her moody artist boyfriend, Peter, might be the killer after he freaked out at the idea of her getting an abortion. Things really hit the fan when the cops manage to trace his calls, leading to an iconic movie line: “Jess, the caller is in the house! The calls are coming from the house!” The killer attacks but Jess manages to hide in the basement. This is an unfortunate time for Peter to see her down there, and she kills him in what she believes to be self defense. The nightmare is over with the killer now killed, but as the cops leave we find out that the real killer is still in the house. The only sound over the credits is a ringing, unanswered phone.

The film was based partly on the urban legend of the babysitter getting creepy calls, then finding out that the killer is closer than she thought (i.e., upstairs). It doesn’t make a lot of sense normally–who had two different phone lines in their house?–but it’s excused here with a mention that the housemother had a separate line all her own. It’s also inspired by the real life murders committed by Wayne Boden mainly in Montreal between 1969 and 1971. Not so fun fact, but part of his MO was biting the breasts of his victims, which led to him being the first person convicted of murder in North American through forensic dentistry. He’s obviously not the highest profile killer convicted this way, though; that would be Ted Bundy, who lived in my hometown for a long enough period of time that my father went to high school with him. This has nothing to do with the movie; I just thought it was an interesting tidbit.

Speaking of things I didn’t have any good place to put in this review, but Margot Kidder had the absolute best line in the film: “You’re a real gold-plated whore, Mother. You know that?” Amazing. I need to incorporate “gold-plated whore” into my daily vocabulary at once!

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