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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Black Christmas 2006: Just Like the One I Used to Know?

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I won't bother going into the boring details of my personal thoughts on remakes as that always seems to be so much of the focus when actually sitting down to review one. It's almost as if you need to explain your stance beforehand. It's as simple as I enjoy them so long as they are good, which is the case with any film I watch, essentially. Last Death-cember brought about a review of Bob Clark's Black Christmas, a film that I simply adore for a number of reasons, many of which you can learn about by reading that review. Go ahead, I'll wait for you to read it…back already? Okay, so It's a year later now, and I figured it would be kind of fun (heavy focus on kind of) to watch and review the 2006 remake of, Black Christmas. So that's what I did, obviously. I mean, I am writing a review for it, aren't I?

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Moving on, the film has a basic set-up with a group of sorority sisters getting knocked off one-by-one on Christmas Eve. Easy enough, right? Well, not so much as things take a complicated turn when it is revealed as to why someone is killing them. As opposed to the original film, there is no actual mystery as to who is behind the murders. *SPOLIERS!* In fact, it's all simply laid out on the table in what is a number of lengthy and obnoxiously overbearing flashbacks, detailing a story about some creep ball named Billy, whom was locked in the attic for many years after he witnessed his abusive mother and her new boy toy murder his father.

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Now, Billy's ma dukes is, well, to put it simply, cock hungry and one night when her man is too drunk to fuck, she decides that it's time make up for all the years of abuse she put him through by going up in the attic and banging him. Naturally, this one time encounter results in Billy's mom becoming pregnant with her own son's child. I know, gross. Oh, and if that wasn't strange enough, I should probably mention that Billy is yellow? Like, for whatever reason, dude has yellow skin and that is partially why his mother hated him, even though she would eventually bone him. Yellow. Multivitamin colored urine, yellow. All of this whacky nonsense results in a murder spree thanks to a recently escaped from a mental asylum Billy and his inbred daughter, who looks a lot like Nicole Bass, come to think of it. *END SPOILERS!*

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Black Christmas - or, Black X-Mas as it was sometimes marketed as when trying to capture the attention of those kids and their skateboards – is a remake of a film that is considered to be very influential on the Slasher and horror genre. It's looked at as a classic of sorts. This time around, you have a film that is influenced by the success of remakes and in return is lumped in with an era of unoriginality. It would seem to have the exact opposite reputation of its influence, and essentially does little to discern itself from the pack, despite its incredibly odd backstory. 

Even though I somewhat appreciate the bold (and bonkers) story choices that were made in a Hollywood driven remake, it all feels so cheap. Like, if you really need to spend more than 25 minutes explaining backstory, you are doing no service to the characters at hand. You know, the ones we are supposed to care about in the present day. Not that they're the types of horror characters that one can actually feel for as they are about as interesting as a mouth full of yellow starburst and all that blame can be placed solely on the writing. This is a group of female characters that are as uninspired and uninteresting as it gets, which is very unfortunate with a cast that is actually very solid.

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The mostly all female cast consist of a slew of familiar faces, many of which I actually really enjoy watching on screen. Of course, I may be biased as I find most of the actresses to be more than easy on the eyes, and this is certainly a great looking cast for sure, but I do appreciate them for their acting as much as their physical appeal. I mean, casting Lacey Chabert and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is certainly a positive mark for me, but to give them no meat to chew on (yowza!) with their bland characters, then they are nothing more than good actresses that are being used simply as objects of visual stimulation. The actresses aren't challenged with characters that have depth nor are they interesting in any way, shape or form. Pretty girls in a film that seems to be a little too much about veneer, which doesn't end with the cast.

I'm sure many would be quick to piss on it, but in my opinion, Black Christmas is actually a pretty solid film on a technical level. It's not comparable to the original, at all, but there are a fair share of standout shots to be found in the film. In addition, what is possibly the only thing that writer/director Glen Morgan semi-successfully carried over from the '74 film is a nice looking Christmas aesthetic. To be fair, there is no way someone could recreate the awesome holiday look of the original without making a movie set in the 70s (and I would LOVE to see Ti West take a shot), but I would say that this is close to as good as can be done for a modern day set holiday tale. I simply love Christmas decorations, and right from the first shot of the film, with a great looking house covered in fat Christmas light bulbs, I actually became incredibly pumped for the movie. What can I say, I'm easily memorized by pretty lights and colors. And women.

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In the end, there are just barely enough positives that keep Black Christmas from being a complete lump of coal. There are a good amount of kills, most of which are decent but they are also very repetitive. It seems the only way someone can die in this movie is to be stabbed in the eye(s) with a bag over their head. As far as modern day Slasher films go, Black Christmas is sub par, but not a complete loss. The wild Billy backstory, the pretty Christmas lights, the attractive cast and a scene where Billy eats flesh made Christmas cookies makes Black Christmas worth at least a viewing. It's the type of holiday Slasher film that will be nice to pop in every few years when something different is needed outside of the usual suspects.

11 comments:

  1. Aside from its obvious shortcomings when stacked up next to the original classic, I love the BLACK XMAS do-over simply because it amps up the Christmas factor by about a hundred. Lights and ornaments and presents and snow and The Nutcracker theme all over this thing, it simply oozes yuletide gruesomeness.

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  2. I told myself to finally finish watching the original before seeing this one. From your review I'm thinking, 'Okay i get it, add a backstory that original didn't but it just sounds so lame and part of the scary was not knowing who the freak was in the house. The cast looks great I agree. Not rushing to see it. Maybe if it's on Instant Watch.

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  3. This is my new favorite holiday film, it is so stupid and ridiculous, but only with the intention of being so. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Faeries cracks me up every time it comes on, and you have to appreciate how pissed Billy looks when he opens his present up stairs in the attic. God damn I love this movie..

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  4. Something for you, and a happy holiday wish...

    http://izombielover.blogspot.com/2010/12/fair-dinkum-award-and-hearty-thank-you.html

    thanks for being out there, making the world a better place.
    :)
    jeremy [iZombie]

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  5. Astro: That's really what makes the movie for me too. The set design was pretty incredible as far as being a holiday themed one. I love how the hallways of the sorority house had light in them...it's like, theses chicks must have spent a month decorating! Naked!

    Ashlee: Yeah, it's not one you need to rush to see at all, but it is fun enough and there is enough to drool over to make it worth an instant viewing.

    Carl: The seen when he makes the flesh cookies is one of the funniest, and one of the reasons I ended up enjoying the movie more than I would have expected. I can see this being the type of holiday slasher that grows on me with repeated viewings over the years, and even though I love them, most holiday Slasher films are not always that great, either! So it fits in well enough.

    iZombie: Thanks, Zombo! Already checked it out and very much appreciated!

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  6. It seems like there are some positive vibes about this one, but I could not stand it. Seriously. The suspense from the original went kaput with the back story sequences. The only reason I stayed for the whole thing? Two words: Katie Cassidy. Love her!

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  7. I agree with you Matt - on a technical level, Black Xmas was not a bad movie - plus it had a cool, fresh cast, an utterly grotesque back-story (though as you rightly pointed out, this detracts from the main story because of the screen time it's given) and a director more than capable of telling a pitch-black story (Willard). So what went wrong? Poor script? Constant comparison to the original? It has a LOT going for it, but still only manages to be a moderately good slasher. I still enjoy it though, and wouldn't turn over if it was on TV - but there are just other slasher films I'd rather devote my time to.

    Merry fucking Christmas!!

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  8. I couldn't stand it for how over the top the whole backstory was.The incest and the yellow Billy,flat out retarded not too mention horrible,boring characters.

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  9. Geof: Yeah, I can't disagree about the suspense, which there was none of at all, but that Katie Cassidy! Yowza! That was actually the first time I had ever seen her in something, and I must say, I found her to be quite the beauty indeed.

    James: It's really tough to say...I think it could be trying to do too much and it just didn't come together properly. A lot of potential and I think it could be one that gains a small following down the road in about 20 years. Speaking of Willard, I always liked that film and thought it was slightly underrated. Never understood why people hated on it so much.

    Erik: I agree the back story was a bit much, but I admire that in a it reminds me of an 80's sleazy horror movie kind of way. But the characters are boring as all shit, which is a wast of some strong actresses.

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  10. You know, Black Christmas kinda saddens me. The movie has such potential. After all, Glen Morgan was a collaborator on some pretty high profile projects like X-Files and the Final Destination films. The cast is good looking and talented. The gore is in display. The movie is extremely macabre.

    So what went wrong? I can only chalk this up to what they had to work with. Black Christmas is one of the best examples of what horror can be. It is stripped down to its elements and to build on that is folly. Unfortunately they tried, and they failed simple as that.

    Great Review Matt. Love the website.

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  11. Thanks man!

    I agree, I think The Final Franchise has been a solid one and they do come from a good overall horror background, which is shown in some ways with Black Christmas.

    I think that trying to add too much to what was originally a simple premise is what hurts the film overall. Yo can't be stalk and slash but spend half the time going over the killer's history in flashback sequences. I bet a massive reedit could make a huge impact on the film if the structure was moved around, but the characters would still be bland, I suppose.

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