It All Happens In The Dark

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The eyes have it.

Black Christmas (2006)

Can we talk? The reason the original 1974 Black Christmas was so scary was not only because it gave us characters we cared about and an almost unbearable slow simmer of tension, but because we had no idea who the killer was, what his motives were, or why he was doing what he was doing. It just happened, much the same as Michael Myers in the original Halloween just happened. In this totally unnecessary remake we now know everything – Billy used to live in the house before it was turned into a sorority, Billy has yellow skin, his mean old mom told him that Santa wasn’t coming because the Russians shot down his sleigh, his mean old mom locked him in the attic, he had a sister named Agnes… blah, blah. Needless, lame back story. Also lame is someone being stabbed with a candy cane that has been sucked (yes, sucked) into a pointed weapon and the big climax featuring a killer falling onto a Christmas tree and being impaled.

At Billy’s home away from home in the criminally insane psych ward he is allowed to have a rocking chair, and decorate his room with Christmas lights. How quaint. How progressive. How therapeutic, I’m sure, since most of his madness and trauma are a direct result of Christmas related yuletide misgivings. Billy’s escape from the asylum and the flashbacks to his Christmases past are played mostly for laughs and boy are they dull. They drag the rest of the film down… not that there is much going on elsewhere.

I did like the girls of the sorority even if they didn’t hold a candle to those in the original. I especially enjoyed our Barb replacement who informs us “Christmas is just Darwin” and then tells us about all of the festive rituals and their Pagan backgrounds.

The phone calls in the original film were supremely creepy – probably the best obscene calls ever put on film – in contrast those that the girls in this film receive are not unsettling in the least.

One Christmas Billy is locked in the attic after witnessing his mother and her lover murder his father and a few December twenty fifths later, when Billy’s mother’s lover passes out in the middle of sex, Mommie Dearest goes up into the attic and spends some icky quality time with her son. Nine months on little baby Agnes is born. Billy totally snaps one Christmas some more years later, kills his mother, and proceeds to make Christmas cookies out of her, by pressing an angel shaped cookie cutter into the skin on her back.

Eyes, eyes, eyes! In the original there was an absolutely chilling scene in which we see a single eye through a crack in a door – so taking that to its logical conclusion (note my sarcasm) we now get eye imagery overload. There are numerous shots of Billy looking through holes in the walls and the floor, eyes are ripped out of their sockets and munched on or used as decorations on the crazy serial killer Christmas tree (with a severed head serving as a topper of course) there is an eyeless doll, Billy tears out one of his sister’s eyes… on and on it goes.

We also are treated to a sex tape subplot – because, hey, sex tapes make it all seem so current and cutting edge. The line “She’s my family now” is repeated about nine thousand times. Oh, yes and death by icicle.

I do love Christmas horror, I only wish there was more of it that didn’t suck. “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” is used to good effect here – a tune I’ve always thought was majorly creepy and fitting for a horror soundtrack. The film does cultivate some good Christmas atmosphere with all the trimmings, including a tacky plastic Santa Clause – and I appreciated the raging snow storm which cuts the girls off from civilization.

Also, it is nice to see Andrea Martin as the housemother – she isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as Mrs. Mac, but a member of the original cast makes it all feel somewhat less senseless. This film does pay homage to its namesake, but in such an ignoramus way. For example, the glass unicorn makes an appearance here, given to Mary Elizabeth Winstead by a creepy sorority sister because, as the girl says to Mary Elizabeth’s character, “I know you like the bible and stuff.”

The version I originally saw was the UK theatrical cut, which has some different death scenes and a better ending. It isn’t a greater film by much, but it is the version to see if you do watch this remake. C


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