Black Christmas Review: Only a Stocking Stuffer

December 26, 2006

Black Christmas is yet another horror remake to jingle its way into theaters before the end of this year. The original, released in 1974, claims to be one of the greatest 70's horror films of all time. Although this isn't a shot-for-shot remake, Black Christmas still retains some of the original film's classic elements, but suffers by trying to compress it into nothing more than an average slasher flick.

The story is the same as the first film: a group of sorority sisters are celebrating Christmas in their house when they start getting strange and threatening calls. The sisters - which consist of Hollywood hotties Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lacey Chabert, Katie Cassidy, and Michelle Trachtenberg - get picked off one by one by a serial killer who has escaped from a mental institution.

The movie starts by dividing itself into two story lines. One part tells the present story of the sorority sisters in the house, and the other part shows the killer Billy (Robert Mann) in his cell at the mental institution. At first I appreciated the choice of editing in terms of storytelling because I was really looking forward to these two storylines coming together. However, the movie picks up speed and never slows down; which was actually really disappointing. We are only shown bits and pieces (pun intended) of the girls interacting with each other, which could have been greatly improved upon. The girls themselves are snotty and mostly undesirable, and it would have been great to see a little more interaction between them to offer some more humor to the story.

Just some of the sorority girls who meet their demise on Christmas (from L to R): Leigh (Kristen Cloke), Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg), and Kelli (Katie Cassidy).

Black Christmas fortunately doesn't take itself too seriously, which is one of the best qualities of the flick. There is just enough "camp" to make many of the jokes in the film quite funny. This doesn't mean that the entire film is a tongue-in-cheek film like Army of Darkness though. Black Christmas is still grotesquely violent and offers many disturbing takes on some Christmas traditions.

The reason Black Christmas falls short of the original is the incredibly fast pace and underdevelopment of many elements of the film. For instance, I took a liking to the demolishment of common Christmas traditions and ideologies that everyone knows. There are many moments in the movie where we hear noises coming from the roof, and no it's not Santa. In addition, the use of music from The Nut Cracker Ballet is unsettling enough to allow the music to take a form different from the holiday production that we all know and love. However, none of these elements have enough time to develop into anything suspenseful or scary, because of the need to get to another kill as soon as possible. The only suspense comes from the disturbing scenes of early Billy and his evolution into the slaughter-baker who kills his parents. We never see Billy's face, even as a kid, until the end. A quality most "old school" horror films follow, and one that works well in Black Christmas.

Last Word:
Is Black Christmas the worst remake of 2006? Definitely not; that award goes to The Wicker Man. Black Christmas is, however, one of the better slasher films to come out since Scream, but the lack of character and story development prohibits anything particularly great from happening. Take Black Christmas for what it is, a fun slasher horror flick, and maybe you will enjoy it.

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