If you love the sight of lights twinkling on an evergreen tree and carols wafting through the air, then this movie is NOT for you. If the season of Christmas drives you crazy with its endless barrage of over-sentimentality and consumerism, then sit back and enjoy! Although Friday the 13th (1980) inspired two generations of Dead Teenager Movies, it stole everything that was good about it from Black Christmas. The setting is a sorority house instead of a summer camp but nearly everything else is the same.
We see significant portions of the film through the perspective of the killer as the "slasher cam" walks us through the house. The killer is not "unmasked" until very late in the movie. [In Black Christmas we may see his hand or his eye but never the whole person.] The movie intentionally leads us down the wrong path so that we think the killer is someone else. Teenagers are dispatched in creative and violent ways. I think you get my point.
Black Christmas tackles these elements very well. It creates a great deal of suspense throughout the film and I found myself squirming in my seat a number of times as these sweet sorority girls are knocked off in horrific ways. That's a high complement from me because I'm pretty "unsquirmable." Black Christmas follows the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock who instinctively knew that what we don't see is far more frightening that what we do see. Therefore, there is actually very little blood spilled on screen but your mind fills in all the gory details [and does a better job in the process].
The cast is great and includes Margot Kidder [The Amityville Horror, Superman], Olivia Hussey [Romeo and Juliet], Andrea Martin [SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding] and John Saxon [A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Dragon]. Everyone is excellent and there's not a weak link in the bunch. Particularly enjoyable is Marian Waldman who plays Mrs. Mac, the alcoholic house mother who watches over the girls. She provides some much needed comic relief in the midst of the bloodletting.
Black Christmas was remade in 2006 with Andrea Martin returning to play the house mother instead of a sorority girl. I consider it to be as enjoyable as the original and, in some ways, it's better. The remake includes the backstory of Billy the killer and does it rather effectively. These "nostalgic" moments enhance the film and provide some of the most twisted and disturbing elements in it. [You'll never look at Christmas cookies the same way again!] The remake is more violent but it's still well done. My recommendation is to watch both of them. Start with the original and then view the remake. Let me know what you think. I watch Black Christmas every holiday season with my adult kids. It's our version of A Christmas Story and helps us to cope with the madness that is the holiday season. [You might find it hard to believe but Bob Clark directed both of these films. Thanks to him we have both Ralphie and Billy as our holiday mascots. WOW!]
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.