BLACK CHRISTMAS (aka: STRANGER IN THE HOUSE) (director: Bob Clark; screenwriter: Roy Moore; cinematographer: Reginald H. Morris; editor: Stan Cole; music: Carl Zittrer; cast: Olivia Hussey (Jess), Keir Dullea (Peter), Margot Kidder (Barb), John Saxon (Lt. Fuller), Marian Waldman (Mrs. Mac), Andrea Martin (Phyl), James Edmond (Mr. Harrison), Doug McGrath (Sgt. Nash), Art Hindle (Chris), Lynn Griffin (Clare), Leslie Carlson (Graham), Bob Clark & Nick Mancuso (Phone Voices); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bob Clark/Gerry Arbeid/Findlay Quinn/Richard Schouten; Warner Home Video; 1974-Canada)

"One of the better slasher films."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Bob Clark's ("Porky's"/"Deathdream"/"A Christmas Story") horror thriller is successful thanks to a well-executed twisty ending and the director's skill in building suspense. It's cleverly written by Roy Moore, and was shot with a $620,000 budget in Toronto.

A maniac during the Christmas season is making terrifying obscene calls to a college sorority house, while secretly living in their attic and using the house mother's phone. When one of the girls, Clare (Lynn Griffin), disappears, the sorority sisters notify the police. But the police ignore their concern until a 13-year-old local girl from the town turns up dead in the park. Head of the investigation is Lt. Fuller (John Saxon), who puts a tap on the sorority house phone.

The few girls who remain in the house for the holiday break either get strangled or slashed to death. Even the hapless drunken house mother (Marian Waldman) gets murdered when she goes up to the attic to look for her missing cat. Jess (Olivia Hussey) is the only survivor, as the police prove to be inept in protecting the girls. The music student boyfriend of Jess, Peter (Keir Dullea), is upset that she wants an abortion and refuses his marriage proposal, and becomes the main suspect because of his weird appearance.

Margot Kidder as the foul-mouthed sorority sister is a hoot, as is Doug McGrath as the inept desk sergeant. Otherwise all the senseless violence (not graphic for the most part, except for the horrible shrieks over the phone by multiple voices) makes the crude comedy attempts appear misplaced even if they're funny.

I'm not a fan of slasher films (most being created by copycat hacks), but I must say this is one of the better slasher films despite its faults. 

REVIEWED ON 12/24/2010       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"