In 2006’s Black Christmas, circumstance leaves a group of sorority sisters still in their house in the days leading up to Christmas. Simultaneously, Billy Lenz, the spree killer that lived in their home years prior, escapes from captivity. Immediately thereafter, he returns to his childhood dwelling. Bill then teams up with his sister-daughter Agnes, who has been off the grid for years. The pair join forces to wish the girls a Merry Christmas…and a blood soaked New Year.
With yet another remake of Black Christmas on the horizon, we thought it would be the perfect time to look back on the previous incarnation.
Black Christmas (2006) was written and directed by Glen Morgan (Final Destination). It is the remake that no one asked for and the remake that no one needed. It is Black Christmas modernized for the 21st century – complete with cell phones and sex tapes. The original is one of the greatest slasher flicks of all time and left very little to be improved upon in a reboot.
Among the film’s flaws, it takes some major leaps of faith that most viewers probably won’t be on board with. For example: While I’ve never tried it, I would be willing to bet money that a regular sized candy cane sharpened to a point is not strong enough to puncture a carotid artery. But that doesn’t stop this reboot from making it happen.
Also detrimental to the greater good of the film are some of the less tasteful effects. The eyeball gauging and subsequent sampling is absolutely grotesque. It is uncalled for and completely disgusting. The original is understated when it comes to violence and displays a great deal more tact and restraint in its depiction of death. Fans expect to see things amped up in a remake but the scenes where the killer is eating eyeballs and using them as Christmas decorations is just unnecessary. The same goes for the Christmas cookie sequence. Watching Billy bake a Christmas snack with the only ingredient being his mother’s flesh is in really poor taste.
Another problem with this 2006 redux is that it goes far too in depth in its efforts to give Billy a substantial backstory. The original left a lot of unanswered questions. It gave the viewer the perfect amount of information and then left the audience to draw their own conclusions. The remake hits the viewer over the head with expository dialogue and flashback sequences to make sure that everyone is keenly aware of Billy’s tormented childhood and murderous past. While I expected that the reboot would offer some additional explanation as to Billy’s disposition, I was not prepared for just how much of the film would be dedicated to his past.
Also hindering the success of this reimagining is that the acting is quite wooden and the characters aren’t particularly well developed. There are a couple of occasions where the sisters almost feel like human beings but those brief and fleeting moments are few and far between.
Since I’m not a total Grinch, I will point out one or two of the film’s (slightly) less distasteful qualities. One of the things I appreciated about this redux is that it goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the original film. As both the writer and director, Glen Morgan is careful to ensure that his flick doesn’t too closely parallel the 1976 original.
Also, to the credit of Morgan’s screenplay, this reimagining isn’t utterly predictable. The order in which the sisters die and the manner in which they die is sometimes unpredictable. And I think that about covers the film’s strong suits, if you could call them that.
If you’re in the mood to gear up for the reboot, might I just suggest rewatching the far superior 1974 original. After all, it is the gold standard for holiday horror and arguably the first attempt at the modern slasher film (predating Halloween by a whopping four years).