Tis the season to talk about horror Christmas movies! It’s a constantly growing sub-genre with quite possibly the most, lowest rated horror movies of any subgenre. Today I want to revisit a movie that’s not only a Christmas Horror but also a remake (a remake of a widely adored horror movie no less) and well, I think it’s just great!
Black Christmas hit theaters on Christmas day 8 years ago and effectively brought Christmas horror back to audiences on a wider scale. It gets an abysmal 14% on Rotten Tomatoes so it’s pretty safe to say the remake of Black Christmas, wasn’t well received. But why? In order to enjoy this film I think you might have to remove yourself from Bob Clark’s original. Yes, the original Black Christmas is a staple of the horror genre in the 70s and for good reason, but there is still a lot of merit to the remake.
Before we get started, for those of you who somehow missed both films here’s a brief synopsis: While several sorority girls are snowed in for the evening they begin getting obscene and disturbing phone calls. The girls are terrorized and killed off one by one by the caller. Pretty simple plot and it remains roughly the same in both films.
Now, there are some differences in the plot that may be why people tend to dislike it. In the remake, the girls are terrorized by a caller but instead of it being some maniacal stranger the caller is given a back story (a recently growing phenomenon in the remake biz). Poor little Billy Lenz was doomed from early childhood to grow up a freak, he had perpetually yellow skin and his mother hated him. After disposing of the only person who ever loved Billy, his father, Mrs. Lenz soon remarries to get the child she always wanted. To make matters even worse for Billy, his mother’s new beau isn’t living up to his role as baby maker so she turns to Billy himself. She soon gets pregnant but her happiness is short lived when Billy attacks the child and his mother, but not before preheating the oven to make special human Christmas cookies.
As I said, you may need to remove yourself from the original to really be able to enjoy this flick. It came out when I was in high school so I hadn’t yet seen the original when I first watched the remake. If it hadn’t been a remake I think this would have been a lot more successful with horror fans. For one, it is one of the few horror films that have come out in the past 15 years to hold an “R” rating. And it’s a pretty hard “R”. We are constantly swimming in a sea of “PG-13” travesties that it’s kind of nice to sit back and enjoy a blood drenched “R” rated horror movie.
Speaking of blood, I want to point out that Black Christmas really kicked up the gore for the remake. It’s a full blown slasher from the minute it starts and it doesn’t let up until the credits roll. With each kill the audience gets a bucket of blood to go along with it. Being a gore hound myself, I loved it! I understand that some fans might be thrown off because of this drastic shift in tone from the original but Billy really does bring it home for the body count.
So, yes, the tone is extremely different but it was a change that director Glen Morgan made to get asses in seats. I wish the atmospheric horror of the 70s would make a comeback but current generations just don’t seem to give as much money to those. So creative decisions had to be made and Morgan opted for a more vibrant and fast paced story.
I want to take a minute to acknowledge the leading ladies of this film. Sure, I did miss Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey on my recent viewing of this but I think there is something to be said about the girls in this film. The cast consists of Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Lacey Chabert. Each of these girls brings their own spin to the “sorority girl” persona and the result we get is a cast of girls who you actually start to like. At least I did. They aren’t your typical dumb/bitchy girls that are usually portrayed, instead they are resourceful and put up a damn good fight against their attacker. Yeah, Lacey Cahbret plays her typical Mean Girls role but even that’s entertaining.
And speaking of entertaining, this movie is just plain fun. It’s crammed full Christmas imagery to get you feeling festive and it’s got a nice grain of humor to it as well. Often in slasher movies it’s easy to get bored or distracted when someone isn’t getting gutted but in Black Christmas there is always something to amuse you. Between the incredibly creepy phone calls (just as creepy as the original even) and the banter between the girls, I was never bored.
So who else likes this holiday treat? I can’t be the only one. Give it a watch, or a re-watch, and come back and let me know what you thought!