Black Christmas ★★★★

"It's him again ... the moaner!"

Sorority girls get an obscene phone call from a guy who suddenly gets serious and says, "I'm going to kill you." Before you say, yep, seen that a bunch of times before, this was 1974, it was much less common in horror films back then and this film is cited as one of the first few films to create the slasher genre (four years later we'd get Michael Myers Halloween).

Especially the vulgar language used by the caller, an unusual and disturbing thing in 1974. Don't know if this was the very first time the phone became a scary device (When A Stranger Calls (1979) focused even more on this device), but this probably was the first time it ever happened in a horror Christmas movie.

I vaguely remember watching this many years ago and it creeped me out. I think it was after seeing Superman with Margot Kidder who is also in this movie as one of the sorority girls. I looked up her filmography and this was one of her seventh film. She committed suicide in 2018, but there are still some films of her coming out.

(Sidenote: a bizarre and allegedly true story of Margot Kidder involving feeding wild wolves meat at her house in Montana is on Wikipedia. She told her friends if they found her dead to put her body out for "her friends" the wolves to eat her)

Kidder had a big enough role in this film to attract a Canadian Film Best Actress award. Her voice isn't as raspy as it would get (through years of smoking, perhaps?) in later films, but you can tell it's her. She's never been a knockout attractive actress, kind of like Meryl Streep, but her relative banality in appearance adds to her dramatic intensity. She's clearly skilled, even in this earlier film. She of course will always be remained most in popular culture as the Lois Lane, but exploring other films like this is worthwhile and recommended.

John Saxon plays a detective on the case to catch the slasher. That alone should intrigue those familiar with his role in Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon.

This isn't a cheesy hacker, slasher movie. Has more of a brooding atmosphere and there are some genuine uncomfortable, uneasy moments for the viewer. The camerawork is really well done, with nice slow pans of shadowy areas and the 70s pale, aged hue. Sound effects and music are a bit barren at times, but in an odd way that adds to the creep factor.

Too many horror movies later on rely on excessive, cheap jump scares. Shocking and surprising the viewer by abrupt images and loud noises becomes tiresome, not scary. The technique is effective only when not overused, but it's too often overused. It's used in just the right amount here and, again, contributes to the atmosphere and dread.

Originally shot with a budget of $620,000 and it grossed over $4 million. I like this one quite a lot, actually. I haven't seen the 2006 reboot/remake, so no idea how that compares. Not sure how I'll feel about the reboot by Blumhouse has showing in theaters this week December 2019, but wanted to see this original fim again, if only for comparison purposes. I understand the reboot is only "loosely" based on this film. That might be to its detriment, because this is definitely is a classic and should be seen by all horror fans and enthusiasts. Recommended.