2006Director: Glen Morgan
Cast: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
his being the season of good will, I have decided to follow the reasonable advice of Jesus Christ rather than hunt down Glen Morgan, the director of this commercial fart, setting myself aflame and clinging to him until we are both honorably cleansed and happily dead.
A remake of the superior 1974 Bob Clarke film of the same name, this totally vacant and flaccid shocker goes something like this: a young boy named Billy is locked in the attic of his home by his mother and her lover. One day Billy breaks out and slaughters them. Years later, Billy’s home has been turned into a sorority house. Caught up in the psychotic melancholy of the season, Billy returns “home,” crazy as ever. Through the night, the house receives obscene phone calls, and the sorority girls are murdered one by one, along with my own dwindling expectations.
The original was genuinely unsavory. There was something distinctly creepy about the killer, his phone calls were demented, frightening: a squealing menace to be feared. Clearly a major influence on the slasher films to follow, Black Christmas presented a senseless and violent killer with the most tenuous of motives but, in recompense, an innovative repertoire of executions. This formula has been well and truly rinsed ever since. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street prove that such equations can at least be extremely riveting. In fact, two very recent and viscerally arousing movies—Switchblade Romance and Wolf Creek—were carefully constructed, playful narratives that moved the whole genre to a new level.
Unfortunately, this particular attempt really disappoints. It literally does nothing but wend its way moronically through the plot of the film like an overfed Christmas turkey, certain of its own imminent demise. The transparent, plodding storyline is set up, unravels all at once and then just ends. There is no subtlety, no discernible humor, no surprises, and no visual invention. Also, unlike the original, it doesn’t offer the smoked out, detached charm of Margot Kidder. She helped make Clarke’s film worthwhile, with her-end-of-the-world-eyes and lean, disco-toned body. The updated sorority house is filled with comely but vacant maidens ready for the chop; you’re almost on Billy’s side as he tries to eradicate the cast of the film. It’s a great, post-modern masterstroke: the film exterminates itself from the inside out, aware of its own guilt and corruption.
Glen Morgan has a decent horror record. As producer of Final Destination I and III, notable episodes of the X-Files and director of the creepy and distinctive Crispin Glover film Willard, it would be fair to expect a decent or at least entertaining piece of work. It’s hard to see what the thinking was behind the project. The original wasn’t especially successful and isn’t a highly regarded cult classic. So, from a purely commercial point of view, there’s no soft market to exploit, unlike the recent spat of Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. From an artistic view, Morgan hasn’t developed the story to a degree that justifies the re-presenting of the work to a new audience.
Black Christmas is fast paced and fairly slick, but, if we’re being honest, there are tons better ways to spend the precious time that it attempts to snatch away from you. The original is well worth checking out, though—it’s an intense and focused shocker that fully achieves its small but genuine ambitions. This reincarnation does none of those things. In fact, for a while it makes you forget that good films even exist.
Black Christmas is currently playing in wide release.
By: Paolo Cabrelli
Published on: 2007-01-02