And no, it's not 'Halloween.'
If you were learning about slasher films at some university somewhere, chances are you'd sit down and watch Halloween on day one. But while John Carpenter's 1978 film about a faceless, knife-wielding maniac was pivotal in bringing forth the four-year onslaught of movies featuring faceless, knife-wielding maniacs, Halloween was not, indeed, the film that gave birth to the 1980s film movement known as the slasher.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9ChKJRtYnY
Now, to start, let's get this right. Black Christmas is not a slasher film. It predates what many consider to be the first slasher, Halloween, by four years, but many of its tropes, like premarital sex, deadly phone calls, and a faceless killer, were borrowed (some would say ripped off) by the films that would eventually comprise the slasher subgenre.
This video essay offers a very important lesson: if you look into what inspires a film movement, often what you find is that some relatively unknown filmmaker decided to take a risk and make a film that doesn't follow convention, which then opens the doors for others to walk through and more safely make something similar. As the video notes, director Bob Clark made a film that you tend to find right before the start of a film movement: it's ahead of its time, it dared to be different, it challenged convention—and, unfortunately, wasn't appreciated until much later.
The lesson here, other than knowing the true origin of the slasher subgenre, is that being different and taking risks can pay off in the end. Even if you may never benefit from your decision to draw outside the lines, you may make it a whole lot easier for others to do so—you know, until one day those lines expand, and the color within them becomes the norm.
Kind of sad and dark, but hey, we're talking about horror.
Do you agree with the video essay? Did Black Christmas really usher in the age of the slasher? Let us know in the comments below.