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Blu-ray Review: Ring In The Holidays With Horror — Bob Clark’s ‘Black Christmas’

Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through. But I still have one gift to give, a special one for you. Black Christmas review, darling. That’s right! It’s Christmas time and I just had to squeeze this “controversial” release out just in time!

Over the years there has been a plethora of Christmas themed horror films. So much so that my stack of Christmas movies starts looking more and more like a Halloween marathon every year. I mean, it makes sense. The idea of Santa Claus itself is of that of a home invader. Give him an axe and you’ve got yourself a bonafide slasher. So where did this fascination of Christmas horror all begin? In 1972 we received two festive scares with the Tales from the Crypt segment “And All Through the House” and the “made for tv film” Home for the Holidays. This trend continued with the film we are discussing today, Black Christmas. Now while it is common knowledge among horror fans, it’s funny to see that we received Christmas horror films before a Halloween horror film. As a matter of fact, director Bob Clark, gave us a “face” of Christmas terror a whole four years before we were introduced to Michael Myers. Funny enough, Black Christmas was the direct inspiration for Halloween and some say the latter was a blatant rip off of the Clark film. I’m not here to argue either way but I will say that there are clear differences between the two. However, there’s no denying the influence this early slasher had on the genre as a whole. Now, let’s take a look at how this influential slasher holds up against the test of time as it gets the, proven excellent, Scream Factory treatment.

Black Christmas, released on December 20th 1974, tells the tale of the Pi Kappa Sigma sorority as they prepare for winter break. The film begins with the group holding a Christmas party. All is well until they receive a few obscene phone calls that would fit right in with the “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” line from The Exorcist. Of course one of the girls, Barb (Margot Kidder) provokes the caller causing him to threaten their lives, and boy does he make good on his promises. It’s pretty much a run of the mill slasher from that point forward with “Billy” stalking these girls, but remember this was early on so these weren’t exactly seen as “tropes” at the time. Honestly, I’m a young guy and had seen all of the slashers that took influence from this film before I actually watched this film. Now while I respect everything this movie did for the genre, it honestly doesn’t hold up very well in my eyes. This film is the horror equivalent of It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas. Meaning I put it on in the background around this time of year and do things around the house while it’s on. It’s festive background noise. There are three saving graces that make me concentrate at times however: festive visuals, John Saxon, and the ending.

Anyone that remembers my Tenebrae review knows my undying love for John Saxon. This guy just knows how to make me smile. Whenever he’s on screen I know that I’m getting a good performance, excellent timing, and overall great stuff. He makes everyone else in the room that much better. And that ending, to this day there have been few endings that leave me with a sense of dread like Black Christmas does. While most of the movie loses me, I’m pulled directly back in during the finale and left feeling alone. It’s a wonderful feeling that few movies capture now. All of that being said, regardless of my feelings, this movie has garnered a cult following and multiple bluray releases. How does it stand up as it gets the Scream Factory treatment?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the original mono audio track. If you’re looking to watch this film with the original mono track I will tell you that it’s a bit muffled and hard hitting but not nearly as “unwatchable” as many are stating. I understand the frustration but it’s truly a minuscule thing to continue to whine about. That being said, Scream Factory has begun a replacement disc program for those that want the issue fixed, I’ll just stick to the 5.1 track myself. Visually the film looks fantastic. The new 2K scan truly brings out those festive colors throughout the film. It’s a Bob Clark film so we know it’s going to have those warm festive colors.

Now the features! Whoa! It’s a Scream Factory release so you know it’s going to be packed features, however, due to just being released on a packed “Season’s Grievings” edition just last year, a lot of the features here are recycled. Disc one contains three recycled commentaries: one with Bob Clark, one with Keir Dullea and John Saxon (my personal favorite), and one with Billy himself, Nick Mancusco. Disc two, as per usual, contains the meat of our featurettes. We have a brand new, and insightful, interview with actor Art Hindle…..and that’s about when the new features stop. All previously released material is included so this is the quintessential Black Christmas release if you don’t already own this film on bluray.

THE VERDICT: If you’re a big fan of the film then pick this up. If you don’t own this film, pick this up. If you just enjoy the film but aren’t a big fan, you can stick to whatever previous release you may own. In my opinion the new 2K scan looks phenomenal and worth a pick-up in itself, but I can completely understand not picking it up due to the majority of the discs being recycled material.

So those are my thoughts on the new Black Christmas Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory. Now I’m going to close my eyes and dream of sugar plumb fairies. Make sure you put those cookies out for Santa and I hope you get that AT-AT you’ve always been wanting. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, etc. Enjoy your time with your family and have a fantastic new year!