Oh my gosh, I think it's time for me to do this...so just wish me luck, okay?
Glen Morgan, best known for the Final Destination film series, decided to tackle on Bob Clark's 1974 horror classic Black Christmas. All of you should know that this was not a good remake. I'm just going to tell you right off the bat. Though most of the problems I have with this is the writing as the script will always be the backbone of any movie I will review. And I would also like to point out the lousy characterization of the girls. The characters are just awful in this movie and you just feel like throwing darts at them. Okay, there is one thing I like about this film, it's the directing. There wasn't any shaky cam or fast edits or it wasn't too dark that I couldn't see shit. It was perfectly fine and very much tasteful. It also has a way of capturing the beauty of Christmas while at the same time capturing the horror of it as well. The actors did a fine job, its just most of them had the misfortune of playing really shitty characters. The overall movie, though, is just a campy mess. It's too stilted and over-the-top to be taken seriously. I would point out the differences with the original but all I got is the sorority being trapped in a house for the holidays with a killer named Billy. So this version of Black Christmas is just your typical slasher movie who happens to have the same name as the 1974 movie. The end.
The Story: Bitchy sorority girls are trapped with an escaped mental patient while celebrating the Christmas holiday.
Like I said the cast is decent, especially Andrea Martin (who starred in the 1974 original) was a hoot as the house mother, Michelle Trachtenberg, and even Katie Cassidy, who is yet again in a horror remake. Don't worry we'll see more of her in the later reviews, trust me. But the rest of the characters are either bland, shallow, or just plain repulsive to sit through. There is no sense of realism to them at all. In the 1974 film, I related to the characters so much more. They were actual characters. People that you cared about. And they weren't these overglamourized Barbie dolls like how they are in this forgettable remake.
Katie Cassidy did a surprisingly good job. I'm not saying she's a great actress or anything, she was good with what she worked with. Though how I describe Kelli Presley is that she's really bland. The typical Mary Sue character who is a perfect blond good girl who has higher morals than the other girls. She actually one of the few likeable characters but that's what you expect from her.
I've always enjoyed Michelle Trachtenberg as an actress (though I wouldn't say I'm a Dawn fan) and I would say she was very charming in this movie. She doesn't really bring much to the table but that's only because there's not much focus on the character of Melissa. Though I would say she as well is one of the more likeable, nicer characters. You think she would have more agency to be the final girl or at least be one of the survivors but she gets it and she gets it quite gruesomely.
Lacey Chabert was really funny in Mean Girls but I can't help to say she pretty much plays the same character in this movie. Hell, I can't even remember the character's name. And therefore I don't care too either. So moving on.
Then we have this new version of Barb. Nothing else to say really. To add this though, Barb in the original 1974 movie was the epitome of the drunken sorority college girl. She was brass, told it like it is, and would play childish pranks for her own amusement. But through it all, Barb was really funny and likeable character and it makes you think, 'hey I had friends like that', which made her death in the original really tragic and disturbing. So you all know how my feelings about this version of the character is. She was just plain annoying and had nothing to offer. To be fair, this girl does NOT hold a candle to Margot Kidder.
We have the very underrated Mary Elizabeth Winstead but seem to be wasted as spoiled southern belle type.
Andrea Martin returns, this time as a house mother and I have to say she was kind of hilarious. In the 1974 film, she played Phyllis, the kind, nurturing friend to Jess and Barb. Now as a sort of shout out to the original, Andrea Martin gets a cameo remake that seems to be extended through time. However, I really enjoyed her performance and she was one of the best things in the movie.
A new character is introduced in the form of Leigh Colvin. She supposed to be a substitute of Clair's father in the original. In this version, she is Clair's half sister, who is trying to reconcile with her. It may seem that she's your typical frosty bitch like half the spoiled sorority girls but in the end, she really does care about her sister and even manages to save Kelli in the end. The acting of Kristen Cloke was particularly strong and gave the character a bit of an edge.
Lastly, we have Kelli's jerkass but also very hot boyfriend Kyle. It may seem he's the perfect boyfriend but in the end it's all a façade.
Turns out he was cheating on Kelli with one of the sorority sisters and videotaped it! What. An. Asshole. Let's just say he gets what's coming to him later.
Can I just say this? There is absolutely no suspense or tension in this movie. Okay, I would say there are certain intense scenes like the climax for that matter, but the biggest fault to this movie is the kills.
Remember Clair's death in the original and how she was suffocated with a plastic bag. Be prepared to see that in each of the death scenes in this version with an addition of an eye stab or an eye gouge. There is no creativity puts towards the kills and it just becomes repetitive afterwards.
From what I heard the script was received much better than the actual movie with more character development on the girls and a comprehensive story but maybe that had to do with studio interference.
Speaking of studio interference, this was the biggest sin created by the studio. Once you see the trailer, there are particular scenes that are not even from the movie. And my fifteen year old self was pretty much fooled by this. I regret ever coming to theaters to see this but hey I was a teenager.
There really wasn't a need to extend the backstory of the killer Billy. What I liked about the original was that he was more of mystery, not even going so far as to show his face. There was no rhyme or reason for his killings, he was a just psychopath, that's what scary about him. Having these chains of events like witnessing his father's death, being abused, neglected and raped by his mother, having a child out of incest, and eating human skin like cookies and milk was so forced. Okay, I will admit the look of Billy was kind of cool but I can't help to think the filmmakers tried to make him look like The Yellow Bastard from Sin City. Interesting look, though.
Lastly, the movie is over-the-top gory to the point where it's unnecessary. Sure, this could be a treat for gorehounds though what it's missing is the tight-knit suspense and the unease tension that the original had. It wasn't about the kills, it was about the scares. All I have to say is, just like with Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning, the gore is not going to help the movie.
There is, you guessed it, a twist. there is actually two killers in the movie. Billy's accomplice turns out to be Billy's daughter/sister, Agnes. Though, it puzzles me why after Billy attacked her, gouged her eye out, killed her family and then decides to join her dad's killing spree is beyond me.
This movie also have two endings, which baffled me. Just as you wanted the movie to be over, it just never ends and the second ending is a literal rip off of Halloween 2. There are also many alternate versions of scenes, even a UK edition and it makes me think, 'boy, this movie had a lot to go through for it's process.'
The Verdict? Go with the original. I can tell some people are fans of this. Yes, it is sort of a guilty pleasure if you have nothing to do on a Saturday night but at the same time, it's a campy incoherent mess that almost becomes a parody of the original. The original did have a sort of black comedic tone to it, however, it still had creepy, intense moments that balanced it out, which worked for it.
This should've have been remade at all. To have this titled Black Christmas is insulting. It was any other run-of-the-mill horror film with a strange premise as this, I would've went with it. As a horror remake, however, not in a lifetime.
My last word: Avoid this at all cost unless you're drunk with friends, of course.