A Brief History and Review of ‘Black Christmas’ (1974)

[This review may contain spoilers]


‘Black Christmas’ (1974) (photo courtesy of IMDB).

Julia Alvarado, Freelance Writer

At 7:30, on a dark and stormy night in March 1950, 13-year-old Janett Christman arrived at an isolated home located on the outskirts of Columbia to babysit 3-year-old Greggory Romack.

At 10:35 that same night, the police received a phone call, and upon answering were met with the frantic screams of a young woman–before the line was abruptly cut. The call was too short to trace, and the woman had given no information about her location. There was nothing the police could do but wait for another call.

At 1:35 a.m., the Romack’s returned home to find the porch light on and the front door unlocked. Janett Christman was sprawled out on the living room floor in a pool of her own blood. A few feet away, the landline phone dangled off its hook, and just upstairs, Greggory Romack was still sleeping soundly in his bed. Christman’s murderer still remains unknown.

In the ‘60s, Janett Christman’s murder became the most commonly credited source for an urban legend–usually referred to as “The Babysitter or “The Man Upstairs”–about a teenage girl babysitting children and receiving ominous calls from a stalker. This urban legend–as well as a series of murders that took place in Montreal–heavily influenced one of the very first slasher movies: the 1974 film “Black Christmas.”

The film, directed by Bob Clark, follows a group of sorority girls as they are stalked over Christmas break. As a concept, the movie seems plain and uninspired–but the execution of the film is outstanding and proved to be revolutionary for the slasher genre. The movie has been retroactively recognized as one of the greatest horror films ever made, due to its mysterious killer, unsettling atmosphere, and strong female leads. It laid the groundwork for future slashers–one being John Carpenter’s “Halloween”–while still standing out from other films in a genre known for being particularly formulaic.

For those who tend to feel a little less “holly jolly” throughout the Holiday season, “Black Christmas” is the perfect film, and an appropriately festive ⅘ paws.