Ten years ago, Black Christmas spread holiday fear at the box office.
It may not pop up on many “Best Remakes” lists, but Glen Morgan’s 2006 re-imagining of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas is a film I personally have a whole lot of love for – so too does Jess Hicks, who wrote a piece in defense of the remake back in 2014. Granted, the film was undoubtedly a bastardization of the original – Billy is freakin’ yellow?! – but as its own movie, it’s a damn fun flick that totally nails the Christmas theme. While the original is a scary and suspenseful masterpiece, the remake is a gory slasher that feels ripped out of the ’80s, and I love it for that.
After revisiting Black Christmas 2006 (Black X-Mas, if you prefer) this past weekend I found myself digging for info and fun facts about the movie – among other things, I learned that it was marketed as a Final Destination sequel over in Japan! – and I was reminded that the original theatrical trailer was home to some pretty memorable moments that never actually ended up appearing in the film itself. They weren’t in the theatrical cut, they’re not in the unrated cut, and you won’t even find them in the DVD’s deleted scenes section. What gives?!
First off, let’s revisit that original trailer.
What’s that? You don’t remember a scene on a frozen lake wherein a woman reaches her hand through the ice? And that spinning Christmas light killing machine isn’t ringing any sleigh bells either? There’s a good reason for that. Because neither scene is anywhere to be found in any cut of the movie. And it wasn’t that those scenes were cut from the film after the trailer was put together, as is often the case with scenes that appear in trailers but not in the actual movies. Rather, those scenes were shot specifically for the trailer, after filming had wrapped.
Weirder still, they were shot behind Glen Morgan’s back. And he wasn’t happy about it.
Speaking with Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay for the recently released book Anatomy of Fear, Morgan detailed the whole story.
The guy who played Agnes was a focus puller named Dean Friss. After the movie was finished, we got a call from Weinstein’s marketing guys about going to pick up some shots for TV spots, ornaments and stuff. So I said, “Okay, go ahead,” being a good sport. I get a call from [Friss] about being in LA shooting some stuff for the TV spots. He was telling me something about carrying a gun. So I looked into it and they shot footage of Michelle Trachtenberg running around with a shotgun, and there’s a weird lawnmower electric light thing on the roof. So if the audience sees that and likes it, they go to the movie and don’t see it. And if they don’t like it, they don’t go to the movie. I’m sure it was against guild rules, and I didn’t understand.
Most of the scenes shot for the trailer feature young actress Jillian Murray (Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero), who didn’t actually appear in Black Christmas at all; that’s her falling off the roof, tangled in Christmas lights, and that’s also her in the aforementioned frozen lake scene. As for the scene of Michelle Trachtenberg wielding a shotgun that Morgan references in the book, that was only used for a TV spot that I wasn’t able to track down – in the spot, she aims the shotgun at someone ringing the sorority house’s doorbell and says, “Merry Christmas, motherfucker!”
Morgan talks openly about his troubles with Black Christmas in Anatomy of Fear, revealing that it didn’t really even end up being his movie. The Weinstein brothers, he says, had their hands all over the film, insisting that he increase the violence, the silliness, and even change the original ending. The two killers (Billy and Agnes)? That was also their idea, rather than Morgan’s:
I felt that a ten million dollar movie of Black Christmas didn’t need anyone’s help, and they should have left us alone. But they had to have the two killers, and then they were after kids from “The O.C.” We compromised a lot.
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