Black Christmas (Unrated)

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Rating: Unrated

Starring:
Katie Cassidy as Kelli Presley
Michelle Trachtenberg as Melissa Kitt
Kristen Cloke as Leigh Crosby Colvin
Crystal Lowe as Lauren Hanon
Lacey Chabert as Dana Mathis
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Heather Lee
Oliver Hudson as Kyle
Andrea Martin as Ms. MacHenry
Jessica Harmon as Megan Helms
Leela Savasta as Clair Crosby
Kathleen Kole as Eve Agnew

Special Features:
What Have You Done?: The Remaking of “Black Christmas”
May All Your Christmases Be Black – A Filmmaker’s Journey
Deleted Scenes
3 Alternate Endings

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“Let the slay ride begin.

The horror classic ‘Black Christmas,’ which spawned a wave of hit slasher films, is re-imagined for a new generation of fans in this terrifying remake. A group of sorority sisters, snowed in over the holiday break, tried desperately to survive the night as a relentless killer terrorizes and murders them, one by one. Featuring an old-school slasher story, the modern horror touch of director Glen Morgan (writer/producer, ‘Final Destination’) and a cast of today’s hottest stars, including Michelle Trachtenberg (‘Eurotrip’), Lacey Chabert (‘Mean Girls’), Katie Cassidy (‘When a Stranger Calls’), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (‘Grindhouse’), ‘Black Christmas’ is a thrilling, blood-soaked screamfest.”

“Black Christmas” is not rated. The theatrical version is rated R for strong horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and language.

The Movie:
It’s been over thirty years since “Porky’s” creator Bob Clark came up with the high concept premise about sorority sisters being terrorized by a vicious killer on Christmas, two simple ideas that have been dredged up a couple hundred times since then, most notably with “Halloween.”

Just when you thought your Hallmark holidays were safe, here comes a remake of Clark’s film by one half of the team behind the similarly high concept “Final Destination,” who’s first film as a director was a remake of the rat thriller “Willard.” This isn’t the worst horror remake of the year–that would probably be “When a Stranger Calls”–but it’s pretty obvious how tired the teen stalker-slasher premise already was before this latest entry. Heck, wasn’t the whole point of Wes Craven’s “Scream” series (also distributed by Dimension) to put a nail in this tired genre coffin?

After a rather unceremonious killing, we get the perfunctory horror movie set-up at a hospital for the criminally insane where the film’s killer will escape after being imprisoned for years to once again reign terror on the holidays. We also meet the girls of a nearby sorority house who have conveniently (for the sake of terror) stayed behind for Christmas. Oh, and let’s make sure to remind the audience with a bit of fireside storytelling and obligatory flashback that the house used to belong to the family of that killer, who he systematically killed and ate 15 years earlier. It doesn’t take long for girls to go missing, and fingers to be pointed, because none of them know what we already know… that the killer is loose and probably back in his childhood home just in time for Christmas.

Actually, you’ll probably already know most of that if you’re seen the trailer or the original “Black Christmas.” Direct comparisons aren’t necessary, since most of that movie was pretty forgettable after being trumped by the likes of “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.” It takes some time for this remake to find its legs, partially due to the way it jumps around between the present and past, and there are way too many girls, most of them fairly interchangeable due to the lack of differentiation between them. There are plenty of red herrings to try to throw the girls and viewers off the trailer of the killer, who we already know has escaped. There’s Eve, the creepy girl who was accepted due to nepotism; there’s bad boyfriend Kyle, who happens to show up at all the wrong moments; and just to make things interesting, there’s Leigh, the older sister of one of the missing girls. The only other characters who standout are Crystal Lowe as the drunken cynic Lauren, and comedienne Andrea Martin even returns for her second “Black Christmas,” this time as the house matron. At times, you have to wonder who in the cast lost a bet with their agents to have wound up in this. At others, you’re somewhat thankful that there isn’t as much of the gratuitous nudity that’s usually the draw for this kind of movie, since it might make you feel a bit dirty ogling former TV child stars like Lacey Chabert and Michelle Trachtenberg, now that they’re all grown up… and noticeably filled out.

Otherwise, no one really stands out as the typical horror movie heroine that you know will make it through the end of the movie, so you simply have to tick them off as the killer gets to them. (One character even dies in a freak accident, saving herself from being murdered outright.) Of course, the first thing you wonder is why they don’t just call the police as soon as girls start going missing. After all, this is 2006 and every single one of them has cell phones. Fortunately, the police in this town are just as incompetent as in every other horror movie precinct. It won’t come as too big a surprise that the dialogue is horrendous, and credit must be given to the entire cast for being able to get through a single take without falling over laughing. It’s that bad.

Otherwise, there really isn’t very much suspense or tension as Morgan telegraphs every kill pretty blatantly, and the earlier kills are pretty unsatisfying, with lots of splattered blood and little else. With movies like “Saw,” “Hostel” and yes, even the “Final Destination” movies upping the gore ante in recent years, one would have expected this remake to follow suit. The only thing that might make anyone even remotely squeamish is the overt cannibalism and a bit of incest, which is more funny and creepy than gross or scary. The short bursts back to the past tend to be more entertaining than any of the present day story.

Just as it looks like the movie will end with the kind of overblown battle between the heroine–they eventually figure out which one she is–and the killer–ditto–even then it’s not over, as things are stretched into an extended epilogue. Of course, one would expect it to be necessary to set up sequels, but like the original movie, the chances of that happening are thankfully slim.

The Extras:
There is a modest selection of bonus features on this DVD. Here’s what you’ll find:

What Have You Done?: The Remaking of “Black Christmas” – This is pretty much your standard ‘making of’ featurette. It’s almost 30 minutes long and it has interviews with cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. They focus a lot on the remake aspect of the film.

May All Your Christmases Be Black – A Filmmaker’s Journey – This is a featurette highlighting director Glen Morgan. It focuses a lot on him getting his groove back after doing “Willard.” This is a half hour long as well and features a lot of candid behind the scenes footage. You’d think this movie was high art by watching it.

Deleted Scenes – 7 minutes of deleted scenes are included. Kicking things off is a long, sleepy intro establishing the layout of the house and the fact that someone is living in the attic. Other scenes show a little more interaction between the girls including risqué gift given to one of the girls. A couple of the scenes redirect more of the suspicion about the killer on the awkward girl in the sorority house. A couple of other scenes show some more gory killings.

3 Alternate Endings – In the first alternate ending, the girls are in the hospital and have a heartwarming discussion about family. Then the one of their phones rings and they see from the caller ID that it’s from one of the victims. That’s it. The second alternate ending is similar to the theatrical ending. However, Billy isn’t revived to attack again. (I can’t say much more without getting into spoilers.) The final ending simply shows Billy reviving and escaping in the hospital, nothing more. It lacks the ‘over-the-top’ fight scene of the theatrical version.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for a bit of dumb retro-fun that pretends the last 20 years never happened, this horror throwback pretty much rehashes the same formula that surprisingly hasn’t evolved much in the thirty years since the original movie. There are some moments so laughably bad that it’s almost entertaining, and it’s too bad that everyone involved seems to think they were making high art cinema rather than being in on the inherent humor of the film’s holiday premise. This remake could and should have been a lot more fun and tongue-in-cheek than it was.

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