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Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Black Christmas is always one of the horror holiday season staples and one not only one of the finest slasher films, but one of the proto-ones that were ahead of the trend. Scream Factory will be updating their Collector’s Edition from six years ago to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. While there’s of course  brand new transfer, they’ve also updated both the original mono and 5.1 tracks this time around. The 5.1 also fixes some cues that were missed the last time around. And as if that isn’t enough, we even have a pair o new bonus feature additions to go with all the previously released ones. This all somehow fits onto 3 discs in the set, which you can order for arrival when it comes out on December 13th. It gives you plenty of time to fit this pristine new experience into your viewing schedule. You can use the paid Amazon Associates link to order below.

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Film

Originally published 11/27/2016

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.

While Black Christmas may be able to claim “first”, most people never saw it.  Halloween was the little film that picked up steam and scared the world.  Black Christmas was a Canadian film that got a smaller release, came and went.  It wasn’t until after the slasher boom of the early 1980s and also the rise of VHS that people were able to go back and see it.  It then gained a lot more popularity and cult status and people were able to be surprised something like this existed prior to 1978.
And then came the late Bob Clark’s little tale.  He would attend screenings and meet fans and such and share a story seems to be him mistaken or is a fabrication maybe due to some jealousy over Halloween being a bigger success than his film and receiving tons of accreditation for creating the slasher genre.  Clark touted that after Black Christmas came out he met a young man by the name of John Carpenter that was a huge fan of the film.  He claims the man said that Clark should make a sequel to it.  And if he did he proposed that this time the killer struck on Halloween and the movie should be called as such.  Cue hammy mug toward the audience.  I do believe Carpenter drew some inspiration from Black Christmas with Halloween, the first scene in the film says as much.  However, Carpenter didn’t come up with the basis for the film.  It was producer Irwin Yablans that came up with the general premise of a man with a knife stalking and killing babysitters.  It was titled The Babysitter Murders going into preproduction.  And then later on, it was Yablans again that came and gave the title Halloween.  So, I really don’t know if you can really take too much to home with Clark’s tale.
Clark shouldn’t have gloated like that.  He made a damn fine slasher film.  The film boasts very rich character work and logical motivations, complete with legitimate red herrings.  It borrows the whole “caller in the house” urban legend and does the concept miles better than the latter When A Stranger Calls would (although the opening scene in that movie is dynamite).  The cast here is colorful and fun.  This is my favorite all time performance of Margot Kidder.  She’s an absolute riot as the nasty loudmouth drunk Barb.  And she’s not in the “I can’t wait til that bitch gets it” type role either, you actually enjoy her presence because of the humor she brings.  The only cast member that I think is weak is our “final” girl, played by every middle school youth boys’ first set of boobs seen in school, Olivia Hussey (it seemed in my generation we all had to sit through her in Romeo & Juliet in which she went topless and it was a big deal to us middle school guys).  Hussey just doesn’t come across as likeable.  I like the character and I really think the abortion dilemma subplot is fantastic, she’s just not coming across as sympathetic or moreso likeable.
The film surprisingly finds itself a fine amount of humor that actually works.  There are as many laughs, if not more, as tense moments in the film.  If more people had seen this movie and it been a hit, I really could see this thing being one of the more quotable films of all time.  Like I said before, Margot Kidder steals this movie.  If you were ever on the fence with her, or don’t care for her (yet still sat through 4 Superman films), check this film out and maybe you’ll see why I’ve always kinda liked her.  The police even get to have some fun here.  And the killer is so raunchy at times, its comes off as both creepy as hell and also a little bit funny sometimes.
The film isn’t directed near as well as Halloween, but that doesn’t mean it’s any sort of slouch.  The bag over the head kill has become pretty iconic.  There’s also the POV shots with breathing, where Halloween ribs most.  I really like the almost “clean grindhouse” aesthetic the film has.  There’s a level of comfort I get when I see films that look like this.  The script is also pretty smart too.  The police aren’t dummies (well, one gets a gag pulled on him, but when it comes to his job its different).  They also put out a missing persons search almost immediately.  The red herrings are present without being super obvious that that’s what the script is trying to set up.  And then it has a wonderfully creepy ambiguous ending to boot.
Black Christmas is in my all time favorite slasher films.  Its largely bloodless, but plays in suspense and mystery.  One of its larger triumphs is that it tells jokes that are actually funny.  It also has deep, rounded characters, that even the most one note stereotype seems wealthy in details.  If you like Halloween or really the golden age slasher films, go back and check this one out.  Because its better than a lot of those.  And yes, I’ll agree, it was first in what it was doing.
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Video

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/DetailBlack Christmas debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative. This is an even better improvement over the previous release of the film. Its still plenty grainy depending on the lighting of the scene. The image is much more defined with finer details, better black and color saturation too. This is the strongest the film has ever looked and this one always has a bit of a challenge in restoring/transferring to disc, but this one has been done with good results and a nice look that is akin to being plenty filmic.

Depth:  Depth of field is rock solid here with some good pushback and a nice scale on display. The camera movements and lenses are good and confident. Motion is smooth and cinematic with no distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and carry some heavier grain in plenty of scenes. Nighttime and indoors have a haunting look thanks to the black levels. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors features some better looking saturation in this new transfer. There is also some decent pop to the Christmas lights and other lighting fixtures with the contrast and HDR adding some nice glow.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are plenty visible from any reasonable distance in the frame and most impressive in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

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: Black Christmas features a 2022 restoration of the the original mono track and also one of the 5.1 that restores missing dialogue, music and sound effects. There’s a bonus feature of the extensive work done here, but its quite a caring stroke here. The film’s mono track carries less hissing on the “S’ sounds and comes across much more clean. The 5.1 track has had a lot of work done in removing the additions from the previous 5.1 track to contain more from the mono track as well as hitting cues and getting missing sounds and music back into it. Personally, I say go with the mono track, but the 5.1 now is a better experience with less jolting unbalanced volume and distracting modern sounding additions.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer hits with solid impact and feels complimentary and accentual to the effects that get a decent thump in the mix.

Surround Sound Presentation: The mix hangs out in the front but crafts some good, lifelike ambiance in the rear channels and knows how to care for things that are off screen. Travel across speakers is accurate and comes with some decent force from time to time. The fun tracing room in those sequences proves to have some fun.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are now much cleaner and crisp with nary an instance of the analog hiss that used to be really sharp.

Extras

Black Christmas – Collector’s Edition is a 3-Disc set with 1 4K disc and 2 standard Blu-rays. Aside from the commentary tracks, all bonus material is found on the 2 standard Blu-ray discs.

Blu-ray Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Bob Clark
  • With Actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
  • With Billy
  • Interview with Director Bob Clark (Audio plays over film)

Black Christmas: Restoring the Sound (HD, 8:05) – Brett Cameron discusses the hundreds of hours put into the restoration of the film’s audio track for this release. This has some great examples of before an after scenes with Cameron showcasing specifics as to the immense amount of work he had to do get this film back to a more faithful natural state and for an overall more pleasant experience.

Newspaper Ad Gallery by Drive-In Asylum (HD, 3:28)

Blu-ray Disc 2

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.

Summary

Scream Factory has put in the work to update their previous standard Blu-ray Collector’s Edition of Black Christmas. Not only do we have a fresh new transfer that looks as great as its gonna be, but they’ve done some extensive work on the audio tracks for both the original mono and 5.1 to give it a more faithful presentation. We even get a pair of new extras to go with the vault of wealth collected over the years from releases of the film. This is an instant upgrade for anyone who loves this movie.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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