Let’s get retro.
Black Christmas is sometimes credited with helping to form the slasher genre, and I think it does deserve this moniker. It is still widely liked, and most horror hounds will already be familiar with it. I suppose the question of this review isn’t whether or not the film is influential, but has it held up well?
We kind of have a mixed bag of quality in this one. Being an original slasher, it doesn’t fall prey to genre tropes as much as help create them. We have long stretches of stiff characters being stiff. We are given a teaser kill early on, but after that we have a long stretch of college students doing anything but academic work. Granted, it appears to be winter break, but it is always weird to me how schoolwork is rarely present in films about students.
Some aspects of the film work quite well. We get a GoPro 1.0 in the beginning as we are allowed to see how they killed sneaks into the home. The tension in these moments is nice and the direct POV works better here as we see the hands of the killer interacting with the world. The setting is also nice. Old sorority (or fraternity) houses are a lot like mansions in that there are many rooms, hiding spots, and differing feels. The film could have used some more lighting, but the setting overall works well.
Personally, any location that has a transitive nature to it I think works will in horror. The idea of who the location belongs to isn’t clear, and this film blends this feeling nicely.
Where the film suffers is that we have obnoxious characters who only seem to have singular personality traits. None of these people have much depth and it is hard to care about any of them. Unfortunately, this is one area that slasher films have basically copied wholesale. Without any connection we just wait for the killing to start.
I think the lack of interesting characters is a major flaw of the slasher genre as a whole. What happens is we end up with empty scenes that drag out the running time.
Another flaw of this movie is the relentless and profound stupidity of almost every character. After their friend goes missing no one puts their guard up. Coupled with perhaps the ineptest police force in classic horror we have a bunch of lemmings basically rushing to their deaths. The stupidity is simply shocking.
Throw in some poorly dated gender dynamics and plenty of shut shaming and we have ourselves a 1970s horror film!
The worst part is that the slasher genre hasn’t evolved much since 1974. This does mean that if you like the genre you’ll pry like this. There is little different between this and recent versions of similar stories.