Are ‘Black Christmas’ & ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ the Best 1970s Slasher Flicks?
Two movies released in 1974 are arguably the titles most frequently identified as the decade’s predecessors to the original Halloween: Bob Clark’s Black Christmas and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (note: whether it’s Chain Saw or Chainsaw has been debated; Fangoria editor Phil Nobile Jr. said go with how the title appears onscreen, which is two words in the case of the original).
Clark, who also directed the beloved A Christmas Story, waited years for his low-budget, Canadian slasher to get the respect and appreciation it deserves. In Black Christmas (aka Silent Night, Evil Night), Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder play members of a sorority unknowingly sharing a house with a killer during a holiday break. Clark frequently utilizes POV shots as an unseen individual begins to murder young women inside the house. It took much longer than it should have, but Black Christmas has come to be embraced by horror fans. It has been remade twice, in 2006 and 2019.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is another low-budget success. Costing around $140,000, more than double the original budget, it made more than $30 million in the U.S. and launched a franchise. There are three sequels, a 2003 remake, a 2006 prequel to the remake, another sequel in 2013 and a 2017 prequel to the original (got all that?). Yet another sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was released in 2022. The original features a group of young Texans traveling a rural part of the state as they search for an old family homestead. Leatherface, with a chainsaw and a mask made of human skin, disposes of the young people with support from his psychotic family.
Elements present in Black Christmas and/or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, like a deranged maniac stalking young people, a masked killer and POV shots, can be found in Halloween. That said, Carpenter’s film is far from a clone and very much its own thing. A box office smash, it led to a franchise that is still going strong today. David Gordon Green’s 2018 remake was an enormous hit and its sequels, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends wrapped up the trilogy. Looking back to the late 1970s, the original’s success directly led to a wave of slashers in the decade that followed. The ’80s were peak-slasher and a Halloween imitator helps get them started.