Black Christmas. I'm ashamed to admit I just saw it last night. For years, I've operated under the false assumption that John Carpenter's Halloween was the granddaddy of the modern slasher genre.
I read and loved Men, Women and Chainsaws. The Final Girl and gender politics. The boogeyman killer and his metaphorical phallus penetrating women sadistically. The women who are killed for their transgressions: premarital sex or being sassy or getting drunk. The genre is perfect fodder for me. I can pretend I'm conducting feminist criticism while actually enjoying hardcore violence!
I was wrong about Halloween though. Black Christmas has all the elements--and released in 1974, it had them four years before Carpenter's classic.
Plot: A sorority house during the holidays. A pregnant gal (who is the Final Girl) intent on having an abortion--just one year after Roe vs. Wade. That's edgy social commentary and it adds another layer in the morality tale. A male caller terrorizes the girls with kinky messages and subsequent murders. But wait--red herring!--the caller/killer might be the father of the baby; he is temperamental and insists that abortion is murder! Plus there's a potty-mouthed drunk Margot Kidder as an irascible women's libber. Of course, she's stabbed in the chest with a glass unicorn horn. In the grammar of the slasher, she got what she deserved. Liberated woman needs to be subdued.
The movie was scary, suspenseful and had all of the subtext I look for in a slasher flick. And it completely changed my view of the history of genre. If you haven't seen it, do so immediately!