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?
I had seen reports of this new edition of Black Christmas, but at first, it was listed as a Canadian exclusive. But now Critical Mass has elected to release it here as well, which should delight fans to no end. I am pleased with this new, as Black Christmas is an excellent movie and of course, horror films aren’t often given this kind of fanfare. 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 pleased to see this disc brought to American shelves, as I think the easier access will provide more of a chance for newcomers to discover the film.
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 camerawork 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 a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I know there will be disappointment over the lack of an anamorphic treatment, but when compared to the previous full frame edition, this presentation is a lot better and as such, I won’t complain much. As a low budget picture, this film shows some grain and production limitations, but this is still a good looking treatment. The image is clean and quite sharp, with a high level of visible detail and good depth of field. I saw no hiccups with colors or contrast here, as both looked effective and consistent throughout. This looks better than the previous disc, but not by a landslide, so don’t expect a night & day difference between them. It is nice to have the widescreen edition however, even if it is non-anamorphic.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is basic in all respects, but as this is a low budget 70s horror movie, I didn’t expect anything else. The track has aged well, with minimal harshness or distortion and I doubt anyone will be let down here. The eerie music and assorted sound effects are in solid form, while dialogue is clean and never out of balance. You won’t use this disc to showcase your home theater, but it more than handles this material, which is what counts. This edition includes mono soundtracks in English and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This new edition kicks off with not one, but two audio commentary tracks loaded with insightful dialogue. The first is with director Bob Clark, who discusses the production and working with the cast, as well as assorted other tidbits. The second track is with stars John Saxon and Keir Dullea, who talk about their experiences and their take on the material, making for a candid and worthwhile session. A new featurette has also been included here, which has a wealth of newly created cast & crew interviews. This disc also includes the Dark Dreamers episode with Saxon, English & French trailers, television & radio promotional spots, alternate title sequences, and a selection of poster artwork & still photos.