While average folks celebrate the holidays with Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, horror fans rush to Bob Clark’s terror flick Black Christmas. Starring Olivia Hussey, John Saxon, and Margot Kidder, the film is just as dark and disturbing as ever as the festive season descends upon us. Now with a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Scream Factory, the new Dolby Vision transfer looks terrific complete with newly restored audio tracks with a massive collection of bonus features. Highly Recommended
As we’ve already reviewed Bob Clark’s creepy anti-holiday film a couple of times, I’ll leave it to those reviews for full thoughtful analysis. For my two cents, Black Christmas is delightfully creepy. Much like its other holiday-themed horror film sibling, John Carpenter’s Halloween, the film hinges on suspense and tension instead of shock and awe gore. From the first creepy phone call to the chilling final shot, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat. True to form, Clark also makes room for some fun humorous bits. When it comes to holiday movie viewing, I try to run a double feature of A Christmas Story and Black Christmas. In my warped little brain, A Christmas Story is a prequel and Ralphie has grown into a deranged psycho-killer after years of wearing that terrifying pink bunny costume!
Here are the previous High-Def Digest reviews of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Black Christmas crawls out of the attic for a new three-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory. Housed in a three-disc case with separate trays so the discs aren’t stacked, the set comes with an identical artwork slipcover of the classic poster art image. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-100 disc with a Region A BD-50 for the 1080p version and another BD-50 disc for bonus features. The disc loads to an animated main menu with standard navigation options.
For this release of Black Christmas, Scream Factory goes back to the original negative for a new 4K scan and Dolby Vision HDR grading. The film always had a heavy grain presence and dark shadowy almost muddy appearance so I wasn’t expecting much when I turned this disc on but much like what we saw with Warner Bros.’s A Christmas Story 4K disc, Reginald Morris’ dreamy cinematography looks terrific. The old 2008 Blu-ray had any number of troubles making it a coaster disc from the start. Scream Factory’s 2016 disc went a long way toward fixing those issues and this new 4K Dolby Vision version is another notable upgrade offering tighter cleaner lines and fine details. Grain is still quite heavy and can be noisy in places, but the one time I saw a film print projected it too looked that way, it’s kind of a cooked-in feature of Morris’ style of photography. Image stability is also improved without the frame judder that was present in past releases, especially during the opening credits. This film has always been dark and gloomy for a holiday flick and that doesn’t change here with a new Dolby Vision grading.
Deep shadows and black levels are nice and inky with some improved shadow gradience to give the image a little more depth and breathing room. There are still a couple of areas where black levels take on more of a deep dark coffee brown, but it doesn’t diminish or take away from the overall experience. Colors also look better balanced this time around for both the new 4K and Blu-ray discs. The first thing I noticed was primaries didn’t look quite so over-saturated - especially yellows. The 2016 disc lost a lot of shadow depth with the various yellow/brown shades and a lot of that has been fixed up here. Given the early 70s clothing styles there’s some pop here and there, but the real standout is the lovely twinkle lights strung around the various locations. Daylight scenes offer some crisp clean white snow to pull you out of the dreariness.
As a whole, I felt this release is a marked improvement over all previous releases and makes a welcome addition to the 4K catalog. That said, it’s not exactly the most colorful or beautiful film to start with so it’s best not to compare this to something like Maverick as a benchmark example of what the format has to offer. But after seeing this and the recent A Christmas Story 4K, I’m confident that with a new scan and a little TLC, Bob Clark’s excellent Sherlock Holmes thriller Murder by Decree could someday look amazing.
Next on the docket of “New and Improved” is the audio department. While the 2016 disc looked solid, it had some pretty well-documented issues in the audio department. Now with newly restored Mono and DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio tracks, fans should have an easy viewing experience regardless of home theater setup. For my money, the restored Mono track is where it's at. The 5.1 mix is very good and for some of the busier scenes it shows off its flair for atmosphere and dimension but I just like that mono track better. For how close and intimate the film is, the tighter soundscape feels more claustrophobic and frankly a more terrifying experience. But with that, I’ll admit the 5.1 track works nicely on its own merits. It’ll all depend on personal preference there.
Scream Factory isn’t exactly one to skimp on its bonus features. While nothing too new and exciting has been added to the soup for this release, we’re getting everything and the kitchen sink thrown in from the previous Blu-ray Collector’s Edition. The highlight for me remains the Nick Mancuso “In-character” audio commentary, but for informational purposes, the other commentaries are impressive and detailed along with the cast and crew interviews. If you’ve never dug through these, they’re worth the attention. The lone new extra is an 8-minute show and tell about all the work that went into restoring the audio for this release, which is a pretty fascinating piece of restoration trivia.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Disc One
Blu-ray Disc Three - Identical to the Special Edition Bonus Disc
It isn’t Christmas until you pull out Black Christmas… in my house anyway. While I dearly love Bob Clark’s kid-friendly A Christmas Story, the holiday season doesn’t feel complete without a viewing of this dark and creepy horror flick. Now the 2006 remake wasn’t half bad and I’d love to see that get a nice release one day, but this film is still the signature classic for Christmas-time horror. Now just in time to fill those stockings that were hung with care, Scream Factory gives fans of this little horror opus a brand new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Collector’s Edition to celebrate. Complete with a new Dolby Vision transfer and fully restored 5.1 and 2.0 Mono audio, this set also brings over all of the gory goodies in the bonus features for a truly stacked release. Highly Recommended