It’s about time the world has caught up with “Black Christmas” and (thanks to Shout!) given it the proper treatment it’s always deserved. What is arguably one of the first slasher films ever made was always out of print and hard to find while “Halloween” was granted various editions of VHS, and DVD. While “Halloween” is a masterpiece, “Black Christmas” is far more superior. It works as a slasher film, a mystery, a dark comedy, and is genuinely spine tingling in a movie draped in Christmas ephemera. It’s surprising since the tone for “Black Christmas” is almost the same tone from his other Christmas classic “A Christmas Story.” Yet director Bob Clark really never misses a beat, offering up a very scary tale about an inexplicable maniac wreaking havoc on a small neighborhood during the holidays.
Set on Christmas in the college town of Bedford, the residents of Pi Kappa Sig are preparing for their various trips to family out of town for Christmas. As they’re readying to part for the season, a maniac randomly finds their house and sneaks in to their attic. Before long the girls begin receiving seemingly random obscene and disturbing phone calls. As the sisters are stalked by the maniac, the police attempt to trace the calls and figure out who is perpetrating these incidents. “Black Christmas” is a movie reliant on slow boil tension that begins with a lot of establishing of sub-plots and plants various threads for these characters that will come in to play later in the movie. Clark is very good about working within the expectations of the audience, and by the time the climax rolls around, we definitely want to see who this maniac is.
Clark’s film garners a genuine sense of uncomfortable tension and suspense, as he stages some incredibly scary scenes, including Margot Kidder’s death, and the final scene of a victim peering through a snowy window with a bag firmly planted around her shocked frozen visage. While “Halloween” launched the slasher crazed in o full force, “Black Christmas” laid down the foundation for holiday related horror films, and brought home the idea of mindless horror without an apparent motive. Michael Myers was destiny incarnate coming home to terrorize a babysitters during Halloween. Billy is a maniac without much of a motive, except to terrorize the sorority girls living in a small house. “Black Christmas” is a genuine horror masterpiece, one that’s flawless in delivery, and doles out a ton of brutally scary and uneasy moments of terror and menace.
Scream Factory knocks it out of the park once again with a Two Disc edition that fans will love. It comes with new reversible art, and a series of audio commentaries. There’s one with director Bob Clark, with actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea, with Billy, and there’s an interview with Bob Clark that plays over the film. On Disc two there’s the “2006 Critical Mass Version” of “Black Christmas” which is the original transfer used for the original Blu-Ray release, for fans that want a less restored version. “Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas” is a twenty six minute interview with Art Hindle, who discusses the fun shooting the film. “Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas” is a twenty six minute interview with Lynne Griffin, who discusses her own experience working on the film, and how the film defies all of the future tropes of the slasher sub-genre that would be exhaustively used in the 80’s.
“Black Christmas Legacy” is a wonderful retrospective from the 2006 Blu-Ray release. There’s also “40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014” which features John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso, all of whom speak at the Canadian Covention. “On Screen! Black Christmas” is a forty eight minute vintage featurette featuring people from the film and the Canadian film industry discussing the film’s long legacy. “12 Days of Black Christmas” is a nineteen minute look at how “Black Christmas” set the stage for the slasher film to dominate the eighties and how ahead of its time it was and still is; it’s narrated by John Saxon. “Black Christmas Revisited” is a vintage thirty six minute retrospective, there are over a hundred minutes of archival interviews with various cast and crew including Olivia Hussey and Bob Clark.
The most interesting of all is the twenty minute “Midnight Screening Q&A” with John Saxon, Bob Clark, and Carl Zittrer; here Clark discusses the film and tells fans his famous story involving John Carpenter and how “Black Christmas” and “Halloween” were connected. There are two scenes with a new soundtrack that give the film a new kind of nuance, as well as eight minutes of theatrical trailers in English and French. There are three minutes of TV and Radio Spots, and fun alternate title sequences when the movie was named “Silent Night, Evil Night,” and “Stranger in the House.” Finally there’s a four minute photo gallery with various posters, lobby cards, articles, et al.