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Before Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Halloween, there was another killer on the loose. His name was Billy.
Sometimes credited as the first slasher, Black Christmas became a cult classic that kept its killer a scary secret with creepy results. Step into the sorority house below!
1. It was based on true events.
Roy Moore was the first to write a draft of what would become Black Christmas. The story then was based on the urban legend of a babysitter terrorized by a killer, very similar to murder of babysitter Janett Christman on March 18, 1950, who also served as the inspiration for When a Stranger Calls. When Timothy Bond came onto the project, the project was renamed Stop Me! and took elements from a true story about a killer form 1946 who wrote “Stop me before I kill more” on the wall of his victim. Eventually, the film’s location was moved to a sorority house set around the holiday where it finally became Black Christmas. Interestingly, Roy Moore is the only credited screenwriter for the movie.
2. Bette Davis turned down a part.
Director Bob Clark first offered the role of the sorority den mother to Bette Davis. In his mind, attracting professional talent, such as Olivia Hussey, who had just recently finished Romeo and Juliet, was key to helping the film. However, Davis turned down the part. Gilda Radner was also attached at one point, but she had to drop out from the project. Years later, Bob Clark revealed some details about Billy, explaining that he was abused by his parents and little sister, which developed his dislike toward women.
3. Billy’s identity was meant to be a secret.
Details about the killer in Black Christmas were intentionally withheld. However, when writing the film, the screenwriter fleshed him out completely. “There’s a full back story embedded in the character, his behavior and responses. But never revealed,” said co-screenwriter Timothy Bond. However, Roy Moore took some convincing before he agreed that keeping the killer’s identity a secret helped keep the terror.
4. Its TV premiere coincided with a very tragedy.
When Black Christmas was scheduled to premiere on television, a horrific attack at a sorority house occurred. At the Chi Omega Sorority House on January 15, 1978, Ted Bundy murdered two students and injured others. Black Christmas was removed from the schedule and didn’t air on NBC as intended.
5. The ending could have been different.
Director Bob Clark wanted to do two alternative endings – one in which Jess lived and one where she died. “In one of the versions, they were going to kill me. And then [Clark] said, ‘Better that we just leave her in the house and the phone rings,” said Olivia Hussey.
6. Halloween was *maybe* influenced by it.
According to director Bob Clark, John Carpenter, director and co-screenwriter of Halloween drew from the film. He said, “He liked Black Christmas and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did he copy the idea.” But Clark did tease a potential sequel idea with Carpenter when he asked if he would ever return to the film for another go-round. Clark said, “I would do a movie a year later where the killer escapes from an asylum on Halloween, and I would call it Halloween.” Interestingly, Carpenter was actually offered Halloween when they chatted, though he had yet to complete the script...