Shrouded in secrecy, the original Black Christmas was a long, drawn out affair that didn?t offer the viewer any easy answers. A group of sorority sisters Christmas is turned upside down as they find themselves stalked by Billy, a psychotic killer who has taken up residence in their attic. It may not be one of the best stalk and slash flicks, but it?s certainly one of (if not) the best holiday themed. Black Christmas '74 relied on its characters and mood to draw its scares. Director Bob Clark has had an eclectic career (from Porky?s to Baby Geniuses) but he?ll always be fondly remembered for crafting two of the best Christmas character-themed movies of all time in A Christmas Story and 1974?s Black Christmas.
Glen Morgan?s (Final Destination series, X Files) take on the original is much more common and threadbare in that it?s pretty emotionless leaving little to the imagination. And in the end, Black Christmas ?06 comes across as little more than standard slasher fare. While the original had likeable (and of course, unlikable) characters and an impressive structure that strayed from the norm. Black Christmas '74 was fresh and unlike anything that had come before it.
The remake not only runs strictly by the slasher book, but by some of the worst slasher books imaginable. It?s a copycat of a copycat. However, there?s something to be said for its by the book antics, bad slasher formula and visceral style. And if nothing else, the remake sustains a thoroughly creepy Christmas vibe throughout its (barely) 90 minute runtime. Upon reflection and a home video viewing of the film, I find that I like and appreciate the remake more. No, it?s not a great film (by any stretch of the imagination), but it is a fine slasher throwback that delivers on its promises.
In the original, Billy was relegated to the sidelines, keeper of the shadows and a real mystery to the viewer. This was one of the original?s many successes in crafting unique and unexpected fear. For the remake however, there?s an attempt to give Billy real personality and in doing so he?s brought right out into the open. Billy (along with his ?sister? Agnes) has a sordid history that includes abuse, incest and disease. Morgan has no problem bringing this entire display out into the open and exploiting it in gross and morbid detail. Unfortunately, these scenes play off more as broad comedy than pure terror.
The body count continues to grow (just the way the kids like it), as do the sexed up sorority sisters including Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy series) and Lacey Chabert (Party of Five). Andrea Martin returns from the original film not as a sorority sister however, but as the sorority mother Ms. Mac, which is a pleasant surprise for fans of the original.
Murders are pretty gruesome, including eyes gouged, suffocation, brutal stabbing and a lot of after the fact splatter. It's the final revelation of Billy and Agnes that gets really goofy towards the end, but the silly slasher standards are played out as if we were right in the midst of an early 80?s Friday the 13th knock off. I certainly hope that Glen Morgan wasn?t taking himself too seriously here. In the end, there?s a slight bit of nostalgic charm to be had, if you know what you?re getting yourself into. But those looking for something fresh, might find these Christmas cookies slightly stale.
DVD extras include 7 deleted/extended scenes, which for the most part are (unexpectedly) quite fun. And in some instances, feature additional gore. 3 alternate endings along with ?What Have You Done?: The Remaking of Black Christmas? and ?May All Your Christmases Be Black? A Filmmaker?s Journey featurettes. The arrival of Black Xmas on DVD is bittersweet, with the news that Bob Clark and his son were killed by a drunk driver just the other night. Bob?s presence in the DVD extras here is worth its weight in gold and also worth the price of admission on its own. The remake has his stamp of approval, so check it out.