It’s the story of a sorority house where a killer (the film gives us the name Billy but we don’t know much else about him) is hiding in the attic and picking the residents of the house off one by one. The girls also receive creepy phone calls which range from Billy’s heaving breathing and moaning, to Billy shrieking and repeating earlier conversations the characters had back at them.
If I’m going to draw comparisons to another film on this list then I’ll make it Halloween. As I said in my review of Halloween I found the parts where Michael was standing behind Laurie then suddenly not there anymore scary. It’s that feeling of oh-shit-is-someone-behind-me? then turning around and nobody’s there. Black Christmas, for me at least, preyed on something similar. You hear a noise in the house and have to wonder: is it just a random creak, or is it some lunatic who has been hiding out in the attic? (I am, by the way, choosing to comfort myself with the knowledge that we do not have an attic that anyone could hide in) The way the killer sneaks around- you never see much of him, either- was really, well, scary. If Halloween is going to make me nervous to turn around while walking down a street in broad daylight then Black Christmas is going to make me suspicious of every teeny-tiny noise I hear in my home.
So what are the characters like?
Jess, the main girl, is very likeable though I’m not too sure about her boyfriend, Peter. In the film she has fallen pregnant and wants an abortion while he tries to stop her. I’m hoping it’s just values dissonance but I was getting emotionally abusive vibes off of Peter. Jess is the person who receives most of Billy’s phone calls and is the girl who takes charge of the situation as the film wears on. One of the things this film did really well was that it got me to want Jess to survive which made the climax very effective.
There were three other girls in the house who were actually named. One called Barb who just irritated me, one who I liked but whose name I can’t remember (which annoys me because I liked her) and the girl who is killed first- she’s the one you can see in the picture. There was also the house mother, a Mrs Mac who hides bottles of what I think is gin around the house. Oh, and a cat who Billy imitates to lead people astray. These characters all die in tense scenes that are very well done.
Bravo thinks that the scariest moment is when the first girl is killed with what looks to me like cling film (I’m not sure/can’t remember what you call it in the US) and yes, that bit is very tense. The girl is shown as so sweet and innocent and, in comparison to her housemates, still very childlike which makes you want to protect her. It’s done in a way that makes you want to shout turn around! Get out of there! except of course she doesn’t and you see her die in such a horrible way. One thing that made it really sad for me is that her corpse isn’t found until the very end. Throughout the film the characters are searching for her and you know where she is and where they should look.
There’s a later scene around the climax where Jess is trying to escape from Billy and you just see his eye through a crack in the door- that made me jump and was very effective and we saw part of him without seeing much at all. It just hammers home that we know nothing about this guy; we don’t know why he’s doing these things and we know nohing of his past. Hell, we don’t even know if we should be calling him Billy.
I really reccommend this one. It deserves more recognition because it is a good slasher with some good scares, good performances from its actors and is just generally chilling. If you want a Christmas film that’s a bit out of the box then give this one a go.