Black Christmas


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
Karin Konoval as Billy’s Mother
Dean Friss as Agnes
Robert Mann as Billy
Jessica Harmon as Megan
Leela Savasta as Clair
Kathleen Kole as Eve
Cainan Wiebe as Young Billy

Directed by Glen Morgan

Despite the fact that this is a remake, it’s hard not to think we’ve seen everything in it before, and seriously, who needs Scrooge or the Grinch to ruin your holiday cheer when you have tired horror rehashes like this one?

Note: Dimension Films doesn’t want you to see this movie. Or rather, they don’t want critics to see this movie. That’s why ye ol’ ever-loyal critic was sitting in a near-empty theatre on Christmas Day with a handful of creepy single men who seemed to be taking notes, maybe for their own holiday plans later that day?

The young women at a suburban sorority house are terrorized by a brutal killer on Christmas Eve, after he escapes from the loony bin where he was placed after killing and eating his family 15 years earlier. Yum.

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 rain 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 winded 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 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.