Review by Wyndham Wise
Black Christmas is a rarity, a remake of a hit Canadian film. The original Black Christmas, released in 1974, acted as a somewhat less-than-graphic precursor to the impending run of low-budget slasher films in the late 1970s and 1980s, including Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). It offered a preview of horror conventions such as the prowling, subjective camera, the phone call from the killer coming from inside the house, the slaughter of sexy but dumb young women and the uncertain death of the killer at the end. Directed by Bob Clark, who serves as one of the executive producers this time around, it was not huge at the box office at the time of its release, but it did achieve a cult status later on video. Its regarded by connoisseurs of Canadian horror films as being one of our best.
The plot is simple. A psychopathic killer terrorizes a college-town sorority house the night before Christmas. One by one the residents are brutally slain by a heavy-breathing maniac armed with plastic bags, sharp, pointy objects, and some serious childhood traumas. In this version, the backstory of the killer is flushed out with scenes of incest, cannibalism and butchery, which, in a perverse way, actually provide the only really interesting drama in this otherwise predictable chopping shop of a movie, in which the dead and mutilated bodies of the pretty girls are indistinguishable from one another. The original was better acted (a young Margot Kidder won the Canadian Film Award for Best Actress), and Roy Moore provided a better, tighter script. This version plods along, giving us a surprise twist on the identity of the killer at the end that can be seen coming miles down the track. Andrea Martin, who appeared as one of the sorority sisters in the original, is recast as the housemother, a part that went to Olivia Hussey in the original.
Given the recent trend for over-the-top gore in the horror genre, Black Christmas is relatively mild and cheesy, with our killer occasionally snacking on the eyeballs of the victims; nonetheless, it’s unpleasant. Not exactly the present you would want under your tree, unless you have a taste for this sort of thing. As one of the girls opines so eloquently, “Just fuck Christmas.” Says another, when startled by a noise in a closet, “Fuck you, Santa Claus.”
All I can add to that is a cheerful “and a Merry f*ing Christmas to you all!”
Poster and photo courtesy of MGM Pictures © 2006
Also see: The Cast & Crew of Black Christmas.
Copyright © 2006 by Northernstars.ca, this review was written for Northernstars.ca by Wyndham Wise, the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Take One: Film in Canada. Visit wyndhamsfilmguide.ca.