If none of the other HorrorSquad mutants are going to write an ode to the greatest Christmas movie ever made**, then by God, I will. You can keep your Rankin Bass, your Will Ferrell man-child flicks, and your Jimmy Stewart tear-jerkers. Nothing fills me with the yuletide spirit like a foul-mouthed lunatic murdering co-eds. Christmas to me *is* sharing a house with a sorority. And then butchering them.
Supposedly based on real-life Christmas-time murders in Montreal, Black Christmas tells the story of a seriously deranged killer who holes up in a sorority house attic. You can fill in the rest, right? As a game of Ten Little Indians ensues, the girls drop off one by one. Each shocking kill coincides with the most disturbing 'prank' phone calls ever committed to film - guttural gibberish that quickly transforms into extraordinarily perverse threats. After the police are involved, it's discovered that the calls are coming from inside the house. The survivors are pared down to the final girl, played by the delicious Olivia Hussey, but the shroud of ambiguous dread still lingers.
The cast is a B-list menagerie of cult figures. Lest this turns into a rambling piece of erotic fiction where I try to shoot Ronald Reagan to get Olivia Hussey's attention, I'll skip over my affection for her. Aside from the legendary John Saxon and SCTV's Andrea Martin, you've got Margot Kidder, stealing the spotlight. Forget Lois Lane. Her drunken and crass Barb is hilarious, the kind of slasher meat you don't usually see in a horror film. And if nothing else, you have to respect Art Hindle's hirsute pimp-coat.
Despite the unsettling string of murders, this flick is an exercise in restraint. Much like the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the gore is implied. The killer is only showed in fleeting glimpses and when he plies his trade, your imagination colors in what you don't see. As a whole, it holds up quite well and even manages to still be disturbing, even upon subsequent viewings. To this day, the most jarring part of the film is the aforementioned gibberish. The Moaner, later revealed as the mysterious 'Billy', starts off sounding like the Smoker from Left 4 Dead. He grunts and hacks into the phone, garbled sounds taking shape into pointed profanity.
Chances are, you've seen more of Bob Clark's films than you realize. While he made some truly wretched films, he also gave us A Christmas Story, Porky's, and one of my favorites, Deathdream. Maybe one day we'll see Black Christmas played in non-stop rotation. One can only hope.
Check out www.itsmebilly.com for a comprehensive look at the film and check out the trailer below.
**Disclaimer: Die Hard is actually the best Christmas movie, but hey, this is called Horrorsquad.