While not nearly as directly influential as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (released on the same day), Bob Clark’s 1974 movie Black Christmas is considered by many to be the original slasher film—and they might be right. Ripping countless pages out of its cinematic book, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween may have become the blueprint of the slasher genre, sparking the deluge of copycats in the late ’70s to mid ’80s, but Clark’s film laid the groundwork first.
Black Christmas is set around Christmas time, but much like Halloween and its own titular holiday, it never becomes immersed in any of the ethos. However, unlike Carpenter’s film, this one allows the spirit of its respective season to inform its every mood and aesthetic—even if not directly.
We follow a group of sorority sisters who receive threatening phone calls at their sorority house, eventually getting stalked and murdered by a mysterious man one by one. We see each murder happen from the first-person point of view of the killer. His first victim, Clare (Lynne Griffin), meets her fate early on, and the first half of the film is spent on the girls and the police looking for her. Phone calls keep coming in, but only the audience knows that Clare’s body is, in fact, up in the attic with the killer himself.