HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Black Christmas
HTS Overall Score:79
There are two films that are credited with having HUGE influences on the slasher genre. The first is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Shot many years before the bloody slasher craze, many a film maker has been quoted as saying that it was used as inspiration for the monstrous villain stalking young women and men in order to butcher them. The second is “Black Christmas”. Bob Clark’s 1974 tale of terror was the film that kick started the 70’s and 80’s slasher phase that dominated the market for over 2 full decades. While most people remember “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and the other franchises, most people have forgotten about “Black Christmas”. It was a low budget Canadian film that came and went during its theatrical run without nary a thought, but it wasn’t till a few years later when the home video craze caught on that “Black Christmas” started gaining the cult recognition that it deserves. Despite several home video releases that were less than stellar, “Black Christmas” has remained a highly sought after release that is now not only getting the recognition that it deserves, but also the special edition release that it deserves (well, except for one issue that I’ll bring up in the audio section of the review).
It’s Christmas time and the air is filled with jolly singers and sorority girls getting ready for their Christmas break. However the girls Phi Kappa Sigma are in for a really crummy Christmas holiday. When one of the girls ends up missing the rest of the sorority are naturally upset. However, no one seems to really put much stock in the girl’s babbling until Lt. Ken Fuller (John Saxon, best known the father in “Nightmare on Elm Street”) decides to take them a bit more seriously. The girls had been receiving obscene phone calls for the last few days, but had thought nothing of it. Now with Clare (Lynne Griffin) the dots are slowly being connected. One by one the helpless girls are picked off as a crazed psychopath stalks his prey and kills them on the phone as he continues to call the Sorority house.
Lt. Fuller sets a wiretap on the house in hopes of catching the killer, and instructs the remaining girls, Jess (Olivia Hussey), Barb (Margot Kidder) and Phyl (Andrea Martin) to hunker down and wait for the next call so they can put a stop to him. Little does the police and the girls know, the mysterious killer is operating inside the very house that they’re holing themselves up in. Coming out when the coast is clear and grabbing his next victim. As the hunt continues, Lt Fuller and Jess work together to draw him out before there is no one left in Phi Kappa Sigma to answer the phone.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86546[/img]While Bob Clark’s film is widely considered the first REAL slasher of its kind, the movie almost seems like a thriller to modern audiences. The gore and wildly over the top kills that were representative of the 1980’s hadn’t been molded into popular cinema just yet and Clark had decided to make a film that relied on actual terror of WHO was doing the killing rather than enjoying kills themselves. The biggest allowance for that is in never letting the audience (or even most of the girls) see who the killer is or know why he is there. You never actually see the face of the mysterious butcher but instead rely on point of view shots as seen through his eyes or the occasional shot that focuses in on his eyes or a hand. The audience is left to sit and wonder just who this man is and why he’s there, but we DO know that he’s crazy as a loon. That much is very obvious. While most slashers tend to focus on the look and intimidation factor of Jason lumbering across the room, or Freddy jumping out and scaring you, but “Black Christmas” loves to keep you guessing. Which is one of the best parts of the scare. The constant confusion and wondering if you’re ever going to see the murderer.
“Black Christmas” is a great horror flick and one of the best in the genre when you compare it against what came next. While it is fantastic you have to look at the film as a relic of its time. The gore was fairly minimalistic and the acting was very much a “70’s” film, if you know what I mean. Horror movies are never bastions of cinematic genius or superb acting, but “Black Christmas” sports a very low budget B-movie vibe to it. The biggest claims to fame come in the form of Olivia Hussey (who was popular due to her starring in the 1968 version of “Romeo and Juliet”), John Saxon as Lt. Fuller and Lois Lane herself (Margot Kidder) acting the part of the foul mouthed drunken Barb. With that being said, Clark really knows how to bring out the best in his cast. It goes to show you that you don’t need constant gore and jump scares to make something frightening. He uses light, shadow and lack of seeing who the killer is to build tension and creep the audience out in a slow and methodical pace instead of the afore mentioned tactics that seem to dominate horror movies for the last 30 years or so.
Rated R by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86554[/img]Wow! I have never seen “Black Christmas” look this good! The last time I watched it several years ago with the cheap Somerville House release and that was decidedly subpar. Sadly “Black Christmas” has never had a really nice transfer to its name. The old Anchor Bay and Critical Mass DVD releases were mis framed to 1.78:1 (the critical mass transfer is actually available on the 2nd disc with the special features, and while it is definitely substandard in comparison to this new 2K rescan, it’s a nice curio for those of you who grew up with the 1.78:1 framing), and had poor video quality to boot. This new transfer opens up with the warning….“This new 2k scan was made from the film negative and retains the grain and softness you would have seen during its original release in 1974. We have not applied any digital noise reduction and restored the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio used in US theatres. We have done our best to clean up the element which had suffered some damage over the years. We hope you enjoy this new transfer.” Well, the new transfer most certainly is a beauty to behold. The film stock was definitely cheap and grainy, but that natural grain structure is persevered fantastically here, with all of the blemishes and orange tinged colors that was reminiscent of the 70s. Fine detail is amazing, and shows off more that I have ever seen the film give up before, including the not so subtle fake blood and cut marks that were less noticeable on the old Critical Mass DVD I have lying around somewhere. Blacks are solid, but sometimes I felt the grain levels would get a bit too high and obscure detail. The biggest offending scene would be where Clare’s father is waiting to pick up his daughter in the first 20 minutes of the film. It’s a great looking transfer nonetheless and probably the first time “Black Christmas” has had a proper video encode done to it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86562[/img]Scream Factory once again gives us a good amount of choice with the audio. We have a more modern 5.1 remix in DTS-HD MA 5.1, as well as 2.0 DTS-HD MA track that is a downmix of the 5.1 track and the film’s original audio in Mono. Sadly the Mono track is the original, but also the most flawed of them all. There is a problem with constant hiss and scratching on S’s in the mix, and it has a very harsh sound to it. The 5.1 track is much better in terms of hissing and pops, but it is not as good as the Mono track is in terms of quality. The 5.1 is really more of a glorified 3.1 track, with the surround channels lighting up when the music kicks in and the occasional background noise, such as in the police station. There’s still some roughness and harshness to the 5.1 mix, and while it isn’t as horrible as the original mono mix, it’s not as pristine on the upper end as I would have liked.
• New 2016 2K scan of the negative
• Audio Commentary with director Bob Clark
• Audio Commentary with actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
• Audio Commentary with Billy (actor Nick Mancuso)
• Audio interview with director Bob Clark
• 2006 Critical Mass HD Master
• Film and Furs – Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle
• Victims and Virgins – Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin
• Black Christmas Legacy
• 40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 featuring John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso
• On Screen!: Black Christmas featurette
• 12 Days of Black Christmas featurette
• Black Christmas Revisited featurette
• Archival Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark, & John Saxon
• Midnight Screening Q&A with Bob Clark, John Saxon and Carl Zittrer
• Two scenes with a new vocal soundtrack
• Original Theatrical Trailers (English and French)
• Original TV and Radio Spots
• Alternative Title Sequences
• Still Gallery
“Black Christmas” is a piece of cinematic history that is one of the most instrumental in creating my favorite horror sub-genre. The slasher has sort of fallen out of grace the last 10-15 years, but I still hold a very soft spot in my heart for the times when Freddy, Jason and Michael Meyers terrorized their neighborhood blocks, and “Black Christmas” is one of those movies that MUST be watched if you have any sort of appreciation for the genre. This this new special edition is quite the package. A brand new 2K scan of the film from the negatives and a TOOOOOON of extras. The one thing that I’ve always appreciated about Scream/Shout Factory is the sheer number of extras they are able to amass for these collector’s editions (coupled with the fantastic cover art and slip covers). The only complaint I have here is the substandard audio that was included. Still definitely worth picking up in my humble opinion.
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margo Kidder
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Roy Moore
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC (1.78:1 AVC for the 2nd disc's Critical Mass transfer)
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0, Original English Mono in DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Scream Factory
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 13th, 2016
Buy Black Christmas On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
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