Jess Bradford is the main protagonist of the 1974 psychological horror film, Black Christmas, and possibly the only survivor of Billy's murder spree. Jess is portrayed as the most level-headed of the girls and begins her own investigation into the obscene phone calls plaguing the sorority house, which soon intertwine with the murder of a local girl and the disappearance of one of the sorority sisters. She is portrayed by Olivia Hussey.
Jess is initially introduced as the most level-headed of Pi Kappa Sig, an older student dealing with numerous problems, such as an unwanted pregnancy and obscene phone calls. Some time before the events of the film, it is implied that the killer had already been harassing the girls for a while, making obscene phone calls and even possibly committing an unsolved rape. Eventually, after killing a young girl in a nearby park, the same assailant arrives at the sorority house, where he climbs up a trellis and into the attic, watching the sorority sisters and their significant others partaking in a Christmas party.
Before murdering Clare Harrison, the killer made another obscene call using the housemother, Mrs. Mac's, separate phone line. Jess was usually the one who answered the killer's calls, listening as he used different voices and personalities to taunt her, such as a disturbing encounter between a crying little girl named Agnes, and a boy named Billy. Jess's friend and fellow sorority sister, Barb, seemingly pushed the caller over the edge, cursing him, which led to him threatening to murder her. Eventually, the caller made good on his word and proceeded to violently murder Mrs. MacHenry, Barb, and another sorority sister named Phyllis. He also killed an on-duty police officer named Jennings, by slitting his throat.
Unaware of the caller's presence in the house, or the murders of her sorority sisters and housemother, Jess had informed the police about the phone calls, hoping to stop the man responsible. On Christmas eve, Jess is the recipient of one final phone call, following Phyllis's murder. The police instruct Jess to leave the house immediately, but she decides to go against their instructions to save Barb and Phyl, unaware of their murders. Arming herself with a fireplace poker, Jess crept upstairs and subsequently discovered Barb and Phyl's maimed bodies, before encountering the unseen killer, who referred to her as Agnes, the girl referenced in his phone calls. Jess slams the door up against the killer, momentarily incapacitating him, before running downstairs and to the front door, which she discovers is jammed. Soon, the killer appeared, screaming in a violent rage, and chased Jess around the house, before she locked herself in the basement. The killer beats on the door, before seemingly leaving the house; as Jess descended into the dark basement, her boyfriend, Peter, who seemed to be suffering some sort of emotional breakdown earlier in the film, due to Jess revealing her plans to abort their unborn child, appeared and smashed a window, having heard Jess's screams. Believing Peter is the killer, Jess bludgeons him to death with the poker, before passing out from shock.
Eventually, Jess is discovered, along with Peter's body, in the basement of the house by the local police and Clare's father, who had also come to the conclusion that Peter was the killer, having suffered a psychotic break. Jess is sedated and put to bed, with a police officer outside the house. However, the police and Jess are unaware of Clare and Mrs. Mac's corpses in the attic, where the real killer is still hiding. The caller climbs down from the attic, lurking around the upper level of the house, while Jess lays unconscious in her bedroom. The film ends as the phone is heard ringing, before the camera pans to the exterior of the house, leaving Jess's ultimate fate unresolved.
During an interview, Bob Clark revealed that if he had done a sequel, Jess would have survived and become the primary target for the mentally unstable killer, who had since been apprehended and institutionalized. This idea would later serve as a basis for John Carpenter's 1978 independent slasher film, Halloween. At one point, a sequel was in the works for Black Christmas, which would have revealed Jess's survival and that she was now working as the housemother in the same sorority house, possibly to confront or control her fears.
Jess is shown to be an intelligent, independent, and capable young woman, though she is somewhat naive, as it is implied that she is from another country, due to her accent. She is portrayed as being the most level-headed of the sorority sisters remaining over Christmas break, something which allows her to survive the longest, though she is initially unaware of Billy's presence within the house. At the beginning of the film, Jess is in a serious relationship with her boyfriend, an aspiring pianist named Peter Smythe. It is implied through dialogue between Jess and Phyl that Peter is a little neurotic, but things worsen when Jess reveals she is pregnant and planning to get an abortion. She is able to hold herself together when she discovers that Billy, who has murdered six people: Janis Quaife, Officer Jennings, Clare, Barb, Phyl, and Mrs. Mac, is lurking somewhere in the house and remains calm when she discovers Barb and Phyl's bodies in an upstairs room. Jess is seen as an underdog, being a young woman in a new and unfamiliar place who is pregnant and trying to handle things how she sees fit.
During the end of the film, Jess's fate is ultimately left open to the viewer's interpretation, with many fans believing she is murdered by Billy, due to his habit of making a phone call after each of his murders. However, some people believe she survives, and this is mostly backed up by an interview with the film's director and creator, Bob Clark, who reveals that if he had written a sequel, Jess would have returned and become the main target for the killer, who would have been apprehended and sent to a hospital, only to escape on Halloween; this would later serve as inspiration for the 1978 slasher film, Halloween.