Plot: What’s it about?
As Christmas approaches, a group of sorority sisters begin to make their holiday plans, but those plans might not work out as expected. The mood is sort of tense as it is, but when a series of strange phone calls start, the mood turns for the worse. No one knows who is on the other end of these menacing telephone calls, but it is starting to get to the girls and of course, they want to figure out who is behind them. On edge already, the girls are sent even deeper into fear when one of them disappears without a trace. As the phone calls and now this missing girl have them terrified, they contact the police, but as there is no real proof, the authorities all but ignore the pleas. At the same time, Jess (Olivia Hussey) and her boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea) find themselves in a serious situation, while Barb (Margot Kidder) has a bad attitude toward everyone, it seems. The police enter the picture when a thirteen year old girl is found dead, but will their help be enough to save the sorority girls from whatever force lurks in the night?
Black Christmas is a landmark horror movie, but sadly, it isn’t often given the respect it deserves. This was one of the original & more influential stalker pictures, which even predates Halloween, which seems to have taken some elements from this movie. I am unsure why Black Christmas is still not well known, but perhaps it is due to the approach taken, which values tension over blood & guts. It has touches of violence of course, but focuses more on the atmosphere, visuals, and overall eerie presence. I think it works very well, as I don’t miss the buckets of red stuff and as you know, I love piles of gore. I suppose sorority house murders and the holidays just go hand in hand, as I like this movie a lot and I think it’s one of the elite level horror pictures. I am thrilled to have Black Christmas in high definition, but this disc from Somerville House isn’t a home run. The transfer is better than the DVD, but not by a wide margin, though the extras are excellent. So as far as an upgrade, more casual fans might not want to indulge, but diehards won’t want to be without this Blu-ray edition.
The director here is Bob Clark, who is better known for his comedic work, but as he proves here, he can handle horror as well. Clark had some experience in the genre however, so he wasn’t flying blind and you can tell he had a distinct vision here. The camera work in Black Christmas is terrific, very well done and atmospheric, which is vital in this kind of flick. The tension is tight and ever present, which is one of the main reasons this picture is so effective. Clark follows some traditional guidelines in terms of horror, but also paves some new roads, ones which would be used by horror directors for years to come. Not to mention the touches of humor, which are the main fingerprints that let us know Clark was behind the camera here. Other films directed by Clark include Baby Geniuses, Porky’s, From the Hip, Loose Cannons, and A Christmas Story. The cast includes Olivia Hussey (Death on the Nile, Saving Grace), Margot Kidder (Sisters, Superman), and Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey, Blind Date).
Video: How does it look?
Black Christmas is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer looks passable, with more detail than the DVD, but won’t turn any heads. The print is in decent shape, but still shows a lot of grain and debris, though it does seem to be cleaned up, at least to a minor extent. I found color and contrast to be inconsistent, some scenes look great, while others come off as not so impressive. This seems to hold true for the transfer on the whole, which is a let down. In the end, this is better than the DVD, without question, but the improvement isn’t as great as I hoped.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option has been included, but the surrounds aren’t given much to do. The mono roots of the material are evident, as the audio is rather thin, with little presence in the rear channels. This is acceptable however, as I’d rather have a reserved, natural soundtrack, than one with forced, hollow surround presence. The music sounds good, with some added life, while dialogue is clear and never hard to understand. Not a blockbuster track, but a solid one.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The extras here include a twenty minute featurette, a Q&A session with Bob Clark, newly found sound elements in two scenes, new cast interviews, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.