Black Christmas is a film that I’ve spent many years referring to as underrated, underseen, underappreciated, forgotten, unknown…you know the drill. But, as I review this Blu-ray and I look back at it, I wonder if it really is any more. If you’ll look at the bonus material, you’ll see there are a TON of interviews and retrospective documentaries on the film. You don’t get that if people aren’t interested in seeing that sort of thing. There was also a remake of the film. You also will see many articles on it throughout the given year as a part of lists for horror things and seasonal tidings. The film has also been remade, which is saying something too. In 42 years since it’s release, I think its finally crossed the boundary and IS the great horror classic it has always been. And for me, I’ve always called it one of my favorite slasher films, one of my favorite horror films, one of my favorite Christmas movies. But, its time I cross a boundary and just say its one of my all time favorite films. And its always exciting when one of my favorite films gets such a definitive release like this one.
The college town of Bedford is receiving an unwelcome guest this Christmas. As the residents of sorority house Pi Kappa Sig prepare for the festive season, a stranger begins to stalk the house. A series of obscene phone calls start to plague the residents of the sorority and it becomes clear that a psychopath is homing in on the sisters with dubious intentions. And though the police try to trace the calls, they discover that nothing is as it seems during this Black Christmas.
While I think Halloween is the film responsible for “getting it down” or “nailing it” or whatnot, Black Christmascould indeed count as the first real slasher film. It does and doesn’t fit the whole mold. But at the same time, this really is a fantastic little thriller, that if you haven’t seen it, I think you should go back and give it a shot. The film features some inventive kills and humor that actually gets you laughing out loud pretty good.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Disc 1) / 1.78:1 (Disc 2 Critical Mass Version)
Clarity/Detail: Scream Factory’s Black Christmas comes with a brand new 2K transfer of the original negative. They’ve made it clear that they have not touched or done anything extra to it. It does feature some heavy grain and print damage, though overall this is a much better experience than the original. Its presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio because that’s how it screen in theaters in the US. While Black Christmas, I just don’t think is ever going to look pristine (Unless there’s someone like a JJ Abrams out there that could Phantasm it), this still looks genuine and has some very impressive moments in spots. The image is softer, but it also retains some more detail and manages to keep a consistent timing with color and skin. Those who are fans of glossed up, over done slick post work done on vintage titles aren’t probably goign to fancy this, but I get a kick out of the slight grindhouse aspect to it.
Depth: The depth work is a little improved on what was a little bit of a flatter image overall. Characters movements are cinematic and very smooth and more confident than they were before in the previous Blu-ray. Background imagery lacks in detail when the focus is dropped but actually pulls some decent stuff when its in some focus.
Black Levels: Blacks are very deep and more grain appears in darker scenes and dark areas like clothing or dark spots in a low lit scene. Details still come through, but there are plenty hidden in the shadows or in hair, clothes or surfaces. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.
Color Reproduction: Colors are much better this time around. They are stronger and have a more varied palette. They no longer bleed into one another and are sharper in holding into their own ground. Yellows, golds and oranges look pretty strong and impressive. Blood is a standout too, of course. Brightly lit scenes provide some more vivid (for this transfer) looking colors.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout surprisingly. This is one of the biggest steps up from the previous release as the skin tones were all sorts of bad (pink, flushed out, etc), flickery and different scene to scene. Facial details are best in close-ups but still pretty discernible from a medium shot.
Noise/Artifacts: Heavy grain, some streaks, print damage and a couple parts have a very thin looking image. Its a bit grindhouse-y but a decent enough step up. Its not like those modern fake grindhouse movies.
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Original Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH
Dynamics: The English 5.1 track is the same one from the previous release. What’s new here is the original mono track. And that one truly gives a vintage feel to everything, but be warned as it can be a bit rough. Its very light on the low end and does feature plenty of hiss/pop distortion with things brushing up. Home theater junkies will probably not care for it, but purists will love it. But guess what? You get to choose what you want to listen to, everybody wins!
Low Frequency Extension: The 5.1 tracks gets more into it, which features some scoring moments and jumpy bit getting the deep thumping treatment. Its not a film that asks for a lot, but when it does, the track manages to be able to deliver.
Surround Sound Presentation: This is a more front-laden 5.1 track, but there are some good, cool winter airy ambient presences lurking in the rear speakers. Movements and volume placements are both accurately tracked here in the mix.
Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and clean on the 5.1 and 2.0 track based off of that one. On the original mono that are a bit rougher and raspier with S’s being pretty sharp and hissy.
Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that contains reversible cover artwork featuring the original poster design.
- With Director Bob Clark
- With Actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
- With Billy
- Interview with Director Bob Clark (Audio plays over film)
2006 Critical Mass Version (HD, 1:38:05) – This is the transfer used in the original Blu-ray release. So, if you’re not a fan of the look of the film on disc 1, you’ve still go this to hold on to.
Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas (HD, 26:11) – An interview with Art Hindle. He talks about what seems like a fun shoot to him, as well as sorta where he was in his career and what it was like to go out for a film like this. My favorite is his anecdotes regarding his hockey scene, which I’m not sure I’d heard anything about before.
Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas (HD, 26:35) – An interview with Lynne Griffin. Shy and secretive about her age when she was shoot, the actress recalls her own experiences on the film. She also points out how retroactively Black Christmas manages to defy the tropes of the era of slasher films it would later lump in the 1980s.
Black Christmas Legacy (HD, 40:22) – The full on retrospective from the previous Blu-ray release of the film.
40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 (HD, 18:02) – Features John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso talking at a Canadian convention.
On Screen! Black Christmas (SD, 48:41) – A vintage featurette featuring people from the film as well as others in the Canadian film and entertainment industry discussing Black Christmas and its legacy.
12 Days of Black Christmas (SD, 19:48) – Narrated by John Saxon, cast and crew from the film discuss how Black Christmas was first and set the stage for what would later come in the slasher film and how it was ahead of its time.
Black Christmas Revisited (SD, 36:25) – Another vintage retrospective with cast and crew discussing the film.
Archival Interviews (SD, 1:41:30) – Featuring Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark and John Saxon. These are the full takes from interviews used in the other featurettes from previous releases.
Midnight Screening Q&A (SD, 20:21) – With John Saxon, Bob Clark and Carl Zittrer. This is where Bob Clark tells his John Carpenter story.
Two Scenes With a New Soundtrack (SD, 3:04) – These are a couple discoveries made when mixing the 5.1 that have sounds that weren’t present in the final cut.
Theatrical Trailers: English and French (SD, 8:16)
Original TV & Radio Spots (SD, 3:09)
Alternative Title Sequences (SD, 2:47) – “Silent Night, Evil Night” and “Stranger In The House”
Photo Gallery (HD, 4:33) – Posters, lobby cards, articles and a few promo shots.
Scream Factory’s Black Christmas is easy reason to retire any previous edition you still have of the film. They’ve included pretty much every damn thing that’s come before. They also give you two new interviews. What’s awesome is you get the new 2K transfer from the negative as well as the older transfer in case you don’t fancier a little rougher (truer) appearance. AND AND AND, its coming out just in time for the holidays. Don’t hesitate, don’t make lewed phone calls instead, don’t tell Agnes what you’ve done, just get out and order this thing as its a great release for a great film.