The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The Call Is Coming from Inside the House

A review of Black Christmas (1974)

The setup is simple. Someone is home alone at night when the phone rings.

When they answer, they are met with frightening noises, threats, or some other

unnerving response. They may hang up, and so the caller rings again. And again. And

again. Either way the call is somehow traced, to the protagonist’s horror, to be coming

from inside their own home.

Black Christmas(1974) is written by Roy Moore and produced by Bob Clark. It is based

on the famous urban legend of the caller inside the house. It takes place in a college

sorority house during the winter holiday break when all the girls are leaving for

vacation. The house has been continuously harassed by obscene phone calls from

someone they have nicknamed “The Moaner” due to his vulgarity and raspy voice.

During a Christmas party one night, the very same caller sneaks into the attic of the

house and for the next few days begins killing off members of the sorority, continuing to

taunt them with phone calls all the while.

While characters in many slasher movies are often used as props to be gorily

disposed of, Black Christmas doesn’t suffer from this trope and the movie greatly

benefits from it. The characters have unique dynamics with each other, they have family

that they plan to visit and struggles they deal with as young adults making their way in

college. The sub-plots add to the overall mystery in the story, instead of padding out run

time. Our protagonist, Jess, is kind and supportive of her friends, and the most mature

of the cast. Barb is the perpetually drinking comedic relief and Mrs. Mac is the

house mother. Phyl is the put-together best friend to Jess, and Clare is the young

freshman who is ready for independence. They are as well characterized as they are


The phenomenal acting in the movie does a great deal to make these characters

feel even more real. Olivia Hussey does a wonderful job playing Jess, a girl hiding the

ever-growing terror of her situation with a calm exterior. Margot Kidder as Barb is

always the focus of whatever scene she’s in due to her sheer acting ability and charm.

The supporting cast is similarly charming, and even unnamed background characters

with one or two lines feel like fully developed characters.

The tensest and most frightening scenes of the movie are all centered on The

Moaner himself. His breathing is heavy and nasally as he climbs into the attic.

When he is alone with one of the girls’ corpses, he sings a haunting lullaby to it as if it

were a child. His calls are the most graphic and hard to listen to, and his voice changes in

strange ways as if multiple people are on the phone. Most of the time his words are

barely coherent or strangely garbled, but other times he is jarringly clear. One of his

most famous lines is when he completely drops the act. In an unrecognizably monotone

voice, he states, “I’m going to kill you” and hangs up. The perverted nature of his calls

changes as well. The Moaner starts to use other voices, sounding like old women and

small children. In a moment of possible lucidity, he begs Jess to help and stop him

before returning to his usual screaming. His voices talk to each other like characters in

their own movie, often in moments of rage, pain, or fear. It sounds surreal compared to

the rest of the film, heightening the distorted nature of it all.

As the credits roll, the camera stays on a single shot of the house a single police

officer paces in and out, and cutting through the silence, the phone rings again, and

again, and again.

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  • Barbara Talvitie ~ Oct 3, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    Wonderful critique!