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Black Christmas (1974) Movie Summary & Review

A horror movie geek and fan of the genre. I have been writing for many years now mostly freelance.

An Iconic 70's Christmas Themed Slasher

Since Christmas is around the corner, I am going to review the holiday slasher known as Black Christmas, the original not the two other remakes. It stars Olivia Hussey as Jess, Keir Dullea as Peter, Margot Kidler as Barb and John Saxon as Lt. Ken Fuller. The movie was produced and directed by Bob Clark.


The movie follows a female sorority being stalked by a killer who remains unknown throughout the runtime. We follow the unknown killer skulking around a sorority near the front porch before he climbs through a window and into the attic. He sneaks down from the attic into the second floor where the girls of the sorority are drinking and partying as college students do. We then meet Jess, the final girl of the film who walks into the party and you can tell she is different than the others right off the back.


As the other girls leave, Jess answers a phone call which is revealed to be The Moaner, which frequently calls the sorority house and is known by the girls at this point. The girls are obviously shocked, but Barb grabs the phone and tells him to leave them alone. The man on the phone threatens to kill Barb, which makes Clare go to the second floor. Not known to Clare, the killer is there waiting for her. Clare is strangled to death by a plastic sheet, where the body is moved to a rocking chair in the attic. None of this is heard by the other girls because Mrs. Mac shows up with presents.


We see a funny couple of shots as Mrs. Mac finds her alcohol stashes throughout the house, including one hidden in the upper part of one of the toilets.


Jess leaves in the afternoon meeting with her boyfriend who wants to become a piano player, Peter. They get into an argument regarding pregnant Jess and Jess does not want to have the baby while Peter wants to raise it as his own. They leave going their separate ways, not on good terms.


Now back at the sorority house, Jess receives another call from the killer, and the call as the man is obviously messing with her or is truly mad you take your pick. Jess tells the rest of the girls about the call, which prompts Barb to go down with her parents to the police station but does not receive a welcoming tone from one of the officers on duty, Officer Nash. Jess manages to trick Officer Nash into receiving the number of the sorority house.


Next scene we see Jess as she goes to a local hockey rink to find Chris, Claire’s boyfriend who is in the middle of a game. Jess reveals that she is missing and the police refuse to help, which prompts him to storm into the station and chews out Officer Nash for not helping. He manages to get some help from the Lieutenant about Claire going missing.

Later in the day, Peter has a piano performance where he is playing his heart out in front of three judges. Peter is later seeing smashing his piano with a mic stand, presumably from receiving bad news about his performance.


The lieutenant is out with Jess and Barb as the search for Claire continues in the town, with many people helping out with the investigation.


We then see Peter outside of the sorority house waiting for Jess not knowing she is out looking for Clair. Inside we find Mrs. Mac packing for a holiday trip. Mrs.Mac checks the attic getting her coat stuck and is hooked by a trap by the killer, as Mrs. Mac is dying she sees Claire’s body on the attic rocking chair and is pulled completely into the attic. A now visibly frustrated killer is shown as he throws a visible tantrum.


Back to the search now, one of the townspeople aiding in the search finds the body of another sorority sister Janice but her body is never shown.


Jess is then shown alone at the sorority house, as she receives another call from “The Moaner”, which scares Jess more because of Claire being missing. Jess is then told off by Peter is annoyed she did not show up for his performance. Jess call’s the police station which is overhead by Claire’s dad who is sitting in the crowded waiting room. He then takes the complaint to the Lieutenant who scolds Office Nash for his actions.


Back at the sorority house, we see Peter talk to Jess about quitting his job and he is going to marry her, but Jess is having none of it not wanting to drop all the things in her life for him. Jess says she is going to have the abortion still which infuriates Peter who ends up threatening her.


The Lieutenant shows up with another officer as Peter leaves, which gives the Lt a bad feeling about him. Officer Graham sets up the phone so if she is called again the call would be tapped directly to the police station. But Graham tells the girls they need to keep the man talking long enough, to give them time to track the phone. Another officer is outside in a car, to stake out the place. The officer sees as Peter is watching the house from a nearby tree.


The killer is then shown as he watches the girls sleep from a hallway. Jess is then seen tending to Barb who is passed out in bed due to all the wine she has been drinking. Jess then hears knocking on the door opening it to a group of children caroling. During this time the killer heads back into Barb’s room and kills her as she awakes to the shot of the carolers singing on the front porch as she is murdered. It is an iconic shot that is known by a lot of horror movie fans.

Jess then receives another call from the killer, and the officers down at the station cannot trace him since he hangs up too suddenly. The Lieutenant and Jess, both possibly think that it could be Peter who calls shortly after.


Jess and Phyl notice that the windows/doors are not locked up so they take the next few minutes to do so. Phyl notices the front door is open and walks out to it closing as the killer kills her off-screen.


Jess receives the final call from “The Moaner” which we all know to be the real killer. Graham gets a track on the phone and reveals to the Lieutenant that the calls are coming from inside the sorority house. Fuller then calls into the officer outside the house and we see he does not pick up because he has been murdered.


Jess gets a call from Officer Nash on orders from the Lieutenant and is told that the calls are coming from inside the house. Jess screams for the other sisters getting no response, grabbing a fire poker to go up the stairs to check out the second floor. She sees the bodies of Barb and Phil, before seeing the eye of the killer behind the door which she slams on him before running down the stairs. Jess goes down to escape through the front door which is stuck.


She runs into the basement and locks it as the killer bangs on the door before giving up. We then see the silhouette of Peter from the basement window, who climbs inside. Peter moves over to a freaked out Jess. The scene changes as the cops rush in to find the body of Peter slumped over Jess who killed him using the fire poker. Claire’s Dad seeing the whole situation falls into shock and is taken to the hospital leaving Jesse alone.


The real killer is then heard singing and is having a tea party next to the bodies in the attic.....



My Thoughts:

There is a reason that Black Christmas is an iconic slasher movie and noticed as one of it not the first movie of the genre. The movie has intelligent characters who act realistically and is overall a captivating experience. I would recommend any horror movie fan to watch it at least once for the experience alone. There is a reason why this spawned the slasher movie genre as a whole and made the genre as it is today.

The only downside is most of the kills are very bland or off-screen entirely which is a little disappointing.


Overall Score: 8 Candy Canes out of 10


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black-christmas-1974-movie-summary-review
black-christmas-1974-movie-summary-review

© 2020 Jared Martin

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