Continuing the holiday-horror exploration is one of my all-time favorite horror movies, the 1974 classic “Black Christmas.” The movie is about a mysterious and disturbed caller who torments the main character, Jess, (played wonderfully by Olivia Hussey) and kills the women of the sorority house. The movie is significant as it was one of the first generation of slasher films: brutal kills by an unseen killer, sort of like “Friday the 13th” (1980) but without a big reveal of the killer. Now onto the quick summary.
The caller enters the house during a sorority Christmas party and places his first call. What seems like a prank by somebody who is disturbed, using multiple voices and maniacal laughs, he goes on about licking the girls “pretty pink cunts.” After Barb (Margot Kidder) tells him to go stick his tongue in a light socket he abruptly turns serious and says “I’m going to kill you,” before promptly hanging up. The killing starts immediately after as he knocks off the girls in the sorority house one-by-one over the course of a couple days.
The disturbing phone calls are a highlight as “Billy” calls and uses a multitude of voice which are usually just shouting at one another. It sounds like an abusive home situation is occurring on the other end as “Billy”, “Dad” and “Agnes” argue, scream and fight before each of the calls end. The calls are very disturbing and they just keep coming.
This movie is a true classic as the audience is left unsure of who the killer is until the main character, Jess (Hussey) has a progressive falling out with her boyfriend, Peter (Keir Dullea). All signs point to him as he is seen having a breakdown because of a piano recital, showing up inside the house unannounced, having an argument about Jess wanting an abortion and lurking around outside the house.
After all the girls are killed, with Jess being the final one, the police are able to trace the calls back to the sorority house. Lt. Fuller (John Saxon) gives his sergeant instructions that Jess is to leave the house. She doesn’t and discovers two more girls dead upstairs and “Billy” can be seen behind the door. He gives chase and Jess locks herself in the basement where Peter shows up outside a window looking for her.
She hides, believing him to be the “Billy.” He breaks the window and after finding her the camera cuts to the outside as the police show up. Lt. Fuller and the police discover Jess has killed Peter. The ending really caught me by surprise the first time I saw it. I was not prepared for it. The police discover some bodies, but not those of Clare (the first victim) and the house mother, both who are dead in the attic where “Billy” was camped out the whole time.
The film ends with the camera panning from a resting Jess to the attic where “Billy” says “Billy, it’s me Agnes” as the phone begins to ring again. We don’t know if Jess lives as the police are all outside the house, but I can imagine that “Billy” finishes the job.
“Black Christmas” is honestly one of my favorite horror movies that is top to bottom just fantastic. There’s some good humor thrown in to add levity to the mood. The kills are rather brutal, well shot and the lighting in the house along with the camera angles really set the mood. The soundtrack is great, Christmas tunes set to murder and wonderful use of piano to create that jarring emotion at the right moment
If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and get it on your TV. If you have seen it, go and watch it again. Here’s a link to the full movie on YouTube.