*1/2 (out of 5)
December 25, 2006
Katie Cassidy as KELLI
Michelle Trachtenberg as MELISSA
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as HEATHER
Lacey Chabert as DANA
Kristen Cloke as LEIGH
Andrea Martin as MS. MAC
Crystal Lowe as LAUREN
Oliver Hudson as KYLE
Robert Mann as BILLY
Studio: Dimension Films
Directed by: Glen Morgan
BY KEVIN CARR
When “Black Christmas” was released on Christmas Day, it caused a stir from Christian groups who felt a movie like this would soil the beautiful tradition of the holiday. I suggest that this hype was artificially created by the studio to get media attention. After all, their Christmas release of “Wolf Creek” last year came and went with nary a mention.
However, if there is any travesty to the 2006 release of “Black Christmas” is that the good name of the original film was sullied rather than the season itself. (After all, if you’re bothering to see “Black Christmas” on the night of Christ’s birth, you probably aren’t skipping church to do so.)
In general, I like the stuff that Glen Morgan and James Wong have put together. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the “Final Destination” films as pieces of modern slasher garbage, and their other works like “Willard” and “The X-Files.” In some ways, I was probably looking forward to “Black Christmas” too much, which is why I was so disappointed.
It’s not that you can seriously call the original film a cinematic classic. Like “The Amityville Horror,” which was remade several years ago, the original was bearable at best. Remaking it wasn’t trampling on any great legend, but that doesn’t justify turning out a stinker of a film.
Overall, the “Black Christmas” remake is better than the “Amityville Horror” remake. At least it seems that the filmmakers were in on the joke – even if they didn’t execute it very well (no pun intended).
It seemed that director Glen Morgan couldn’t really decide what his purpose was. Was he trying to make a serious horror flick, like “When A Stranger Calls”? Or was he trying to spoof the genre like the “Final Destination” films. Too much of the movie seemed over the top for no good reason, even for a teenage slasher film. The best example of this was the extended opening sequence which featured the murderous Billy escaping from a mental institution (which for some stranger reason housed a wing for the criminally insane as well as a children’s wing).
The mental institution angle has been done so often in horror films, pioneered in the original “Halloween,” that it had to be a nod to the genre. However, it was filled with such cliches, bad dialogue and just plain silly plot points (like a guard being lured into the room only to be stabbed with a pointy candy cane) that even I couldn’t stomach it.
If I were to hazard a guess, I suppose that Morgan wanted to send up the slasher genre while making a decent film for the fans. However, by trying to be all things to all people, he missed the mark on both. Instead of combing the archives for so-called classic films to remake, perhaps he should spend more time watching films like “Slither,” which managed to pay homage to 80s critter films while making a solid horror movie.
The cast of the film, a who’s who of modern eye candy, is disastrously underused. They’re decent to look at, and several of them like Michelle Trachtenberg and Lacey Chabert represent former child stars that look stunning all grown up. But these girls are mostly wasted. Chabert and Trachtenberg are given only snippets of bad dialogue and are dispatched with too much ease by the killer to make them worthwhile. Other stars, like Mary Elizabeth Winstead with a cheesy southern accent that comes and goes throughout the film, turn in such a terrible acting performance that you wonder if it was that bad on purpose.
For gore-hounds, “Black Christmas” doesn’t even work. Yes, there are intense shots involving ruptured intestines and eyeballs plucked from their sockets, but too many creative killings were repeated and overdone. What you’re left with is a mess of a script that doesn’t even deliver in the ultra-violent category. In fact, the most creative portions of the film were flashbacks to Billy’s bizarre life that seemed to be elements the writers put in just to see who could write the most disturbing Christmas memories.
Sadly, “Black Christmas” was an R-rated misfire from beginning to end. The off-the-wall gore and violence was too tongue-in-cheek for a decent horror flick, and it was too thin on the obligatory nudity to make it work as a sorority house massacre.