Black Christmas (2006)


Rating 2

Written and directed by Glen Morgan, based on the original screenplay by Ray Moore

Starring Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert, Katie Cassidy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kristen Cloke and Andrea Martin

If my memory serves me well, I have never seen the original 1974 film, a cult Canadian horror directed by Bob Clark, who went on to direct ‘Porky’s’ - both I and II! Although the classic 1978 John Carpenter film ‘Halloween’ is routinely cited as the first modern day slasher film, a lot of people contend that the honour should go to ‘Black Christmas’.

The 2006 remake was written, directed and co-produced by Glen Morgan, a veteran of ‘The X Files’ and co-writer of the first and third ‘Final Destination’ films, alongside director James Wong, another ‘X Files’ veteran and one of the producers of ‘Black Christmas'.

I wasn’t especially familiar with many of the cast. Michelle Trachtenberg played Dawn Summers in the TV show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and had lead roles in the films ‘Euro Trip’ and ‘The Ice Princess’. Lacey Chabert was one of the ‘plastics’ in ‘Mean Girls’. Kristen Cloke is the wife of Glen Morgan and Andrea Martin was one of the cast of the original film. Her role was originally offered to Margot Kidder, another actress who starred in the original.

Clearly, based on some of my other reviews collected on this site, I have a liking for rubbish films – or, at least, a certain kind of rubbish film, for example cheap and cheerful horror films. I don’t deny that. I would argue about the definition of “rubbish” in some cases. I do not consider ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, ‘The Faculty’ or ‘The Grudge’ to be rubbish films by any stretch of the imagination, although others would certainly contend that they are.

In the case of the remake of ‘Black Christmas’ it most certainly is rubbish, but I enjoyed watching it, not once, not twice, but three times. Admittedly, on the second and third occasions I was doing something else at the time and it was largely just on in the background.

The plot is simple enough…

Christmas Eve: a group of sorority girls are snowed in at their sorority house and are half-heartedly exchanging presents. The house was the scene of a series of grisly murders several years previously and the killer escapes from a high-security facility. The rest is obvious, as one by one the girls are murdered.

A great deal of the short running time is taken up dealing with the back-story of the killer, a lot which is unpleasant and frankly unnecessary. There is no other attempt at any characterisation and the sorority girls are too 2-dimensional to be either likeable or dislikeable. Morgan seems to have attempted to employ the same quirky off-kilter comic approach that was used in the ‘Final Destination’ films, but it never really comes together. The various killings follow a quickly tedious one-note pattern and lack much inventiveness.

The acting was roundly criticised in many of the negative reviews of the film. Certainly, there are no award winning performances here and I’m not convinced about Kristen Cloke, but the standard of acting is generally adequate. Michelle Trachtenberg is marginally the best of the bunch, even if her character is given to blurting out variations of the word “fuck” at random moments, often for no apparent reason. She does get the best line - “I love you too, but honey, you're really, really smelly.”

Generally speaking, Trachtenberg and Lacey Chabert are probably worthy of better material than this.

As these things go, ‘Black Christmas’ is not a great example of the genre. It doesn't so much have holes in the plot as huge gaping craters and there are a few unpleasant bits that I could have happily done without. That said, it’s a different kind of Christmas film and quite fun in its own way.



whitelabcoat said...

I haven't seen this version, but I didn't realise you haven't seen the original -- you're missing out. It absolutely deserves its (retrospectively) classic reputation;; indeed, it's one of the few horror films I can't watch alone. And, while you know how much I love "Halloween" (still my favourite), I'm always more than happy to tip my metaphorical hat to "Black Christmas" as the first genuine 'slasher' movie (plus, there's something beautifully ironic about the first movie in a whole - increasingly bloody - horror genre being set during the season of goodwill). One of the things "BC" and "Halloween" have in common is that they don't actually show an awful lot - either in terms of gore or psycho-background. What you might not realise, from other reviews I've read, it seems *this* version makes the same mistake that the likes of "The Haunting" remake does -- it shows far too much and loses a lot of impact (plus, it doesn't have Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey or John Saxon which, you know ... c'mon!); and, while the original "Black Christmas" is 'fun' too, it's also bloody terrifying. I'm currently rounding up unsuspecting viewers for its annual DVD airing. I still might get around to seeing this version, but I have to admit, my love for the original has dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. Thanks for the review though and, really, check out the original -- it's cheap, it's Canadian, and it rocks!

alienlanes said...

I am all for films that hold back and show very little, which is why for me it doesn't get a whole lot better than 'The Spiral Staircase'.

“It’s cheap, it’s Canadian, and it rocks!” How can I resist? It is on my rental pending list, but I might just ask Santa for a copy.