Halloween Hangover 2011 : “Black Christmas” (2006)

Posted: November 26, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Okay, fair enough, I’m mixing holidays here by including a Christmas horror flick in with out (post-) Halloween roundup, but what the hell, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and I just caught this on demand last night (sorry I can’t therefore fairly critique any of Dimension Films’ DVD and/or Blu-Ray specs as I haven’t seen this on either format — and frankly don’t intend to)  so what the hell, we’ll do it now since my head is still reeling a bit and feel the desperate need  to regurgitate some thoughts on this abomination and get it over with. Yes, friends, your humble host just needs to talk and this blog is my (free, I admit) therapy session.

I’d been resisting seeing writer-director Glen Morgan’s 2006 remake of Bob Clark’s canuck horror classic Black Christmas since I hadn’t heard much good about it, and the original is such a beloved holiday staple at the TFG household that I didn’t feel the need to piss all over tradition. That being said, I was bored, it was on — and oh, dear God, I am so sorry.

On paper, it looks like things ought to work — Morgan did a great job with Final Destination, the late, great Clark himself was on the set almost every day by most accounts (not interfering or even advising, it’s been said, just having fun observing — he should have stuck his nose in a lot more frequently), in a nod to the original, SCTV alum Andrea Martin is on hand as the drunken house mother, and if you’re going to have a case of spoiled sorority hotties, the like of Lacey Chabert, Michelle Trachtenberg,Katie Cassidy, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are a solid, straight-from-central-casting bunch. But —

To be honest, the whole things goes off the rails more or less from the start when we learn that the emphasis this time around isn’t going to be on the various personalities of the soon-to-be-victims (a real strong point in Clark’s film — arguably the first modern slasher flick, although Carpenter’s Halloween distilled the formula down to its basic elements and has been the prototype followed ever since), who here are reduced to less-than-cardboard cut-outs, but instead we’re going to be inundated with Billy backstory until you just can’t take it anymore.

The first time around, Billy was a mysterious cackle on the other end of the phone line whose origins and motivations were slowly revealed as the film progressed. Not so here, as it’s all Billy, all the time, right out of the gate. We see that he’s born with some rare liver disease that makes his skin yellow. We see his mother reject him and keep him locked in the attic. We see his mom kill his dad. We see her bring home a new replacement, and when step-daddy can’t get it up, we see her come on up to the attic and force Billy to finish the job. We see the birth of Billy’s sister/daughter, Agnes, his Christmas day 1991 massacre of his family (except for sis/daughter), his incarceration in a nut ward,  and his escape on Christmas Eve 2006 — in short, there’s no freaking mystery here at all, apart from why a snooty sorority would buy the cursed house where a mass murder took place. It’s not even much of a secret who among the sisters is really Agnes and therefore knows exactly what’s going on when the (admittedly gruesome, but less-than-inspired) murders start taking place in the house. In short, what we’ve got here is another “let’s-tell-the-killer’s-whole-life-story” remake that ends up leaving no time to make the present-tense scenario interesting because it’s so focused on the flashback sequences (granted, the film’s sparse 78-minute runtime could have been padded out a bit to make the 2006 scenes more involving, but let’s be honest, cutting this thing short is probably the only favor Morgan did his audience).

So what we’re left with is, I guess, an overly-obsessive, Billy-centric story that sacrifices everything by way of horror, suspense, and mystery in order to tell us way more than we ever wanted to know about one character at the expense of all the others, who are left to die in a rote, by-the-numbers sequence of slasher set-pieces that the director just doesn’t seem to give much of a shit about because all his creative energy is spent demystifying one of the more unique, beloved, and quirky killers in horror film history, one whose appeal was largely based on the fact that, you know — we didn’t know every single fucking thing about his life!

Whew! — okay, time to calm down (free therapy, remember?). Honestly, though, this film has more or less nothing going for it, even though Morgan is obviously a fan of the original — too much of a fan, truth be told, and that’s the problem. His nerdy (normally not a term we use as an insult around here) compulsion to explain the entire life history of his favorite cinematic stalker ultimately transforms his remake from the respectful homage he no doubt intended it to be into an insult.

In the true spirit of Christmas, I’ll use the Christians’ favorite term for this sort of thing —blasphemy, plain and simple.

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