The awful Black Christmas represents yet another remake of a supposed cult classic horror, culled from the seemingly endless supply of 1970s slasher pictures by grubbing studios desperate to mine the last nuggets of revenue from a long exhausted seam. What this movie (like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Fog and The Hills Have Eyes remakes before it) illuminate is the true depth of Hollywood’s creative crisis; lazy, uncaring product spewed without care or craft into the eager Cineplex supply line and an example of audiences being fed leftover turkey before the Christmas.
The original 1974 film, which starred a pre-Superman Margot Kidder and a post-2001 Kier Dullea, was an efficient gore-fest by the standards of the time but clunky and almost comic today. It was directed by the hack Bob Clarke, who later made an about-face with the very cute adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story, but also made Karate Dog and Baby Geniuses 2, so it’s not like they’ll be opening film schools in his name anytime soon. The original movie teetered on the sole, subversive contrast between Peace on Earth and pieces of sexually precocious teenage girls. Nobody remembers it now, which might offer this shabby remake a snowballs chance at the box office, but I doubt it. As regurgitated by Final Destination producer turned director Glen Morgan, Black Christmas is a cretinous procession of sub-pantomime acting, illiterate dialogue and larcenous plotting, scattered throughout with scenes of torture, titillation and tacky gore. While I can never approve the former, I am generally in favour of the latter, especially in the context of an entertaining horror story. That is not found here.
The major difference between the two films, original and remake, is that this time out the psycho loses his anonymity and has an elaborate back story grafted onto his demented shoulders. After that shabby set-up, we cut to present day where the killer’s childhood home has been converted into a sorority house, a university dormitory that houses a gang of eight bitchy young women; Kellies and Megans and a couple of, like, Heathers. Barring internet floozies du jour Lacey Chabert and Michelle Trachtenberg, the cast are anonymous, but collectively they display all the life and humanity of a cutlery drawer. Their middle-aged minder Mrs Mac (Andrea Martin), tells them the legend of Billy (played by Robert Mann making his debut and, with any luck, taking his bow), while gathered to exchange grudging Christmas gifts. Soon, one of them turns up dead, with the cast of suspects including the aforementioned killer, a sleazy amateur pornographer boyfriend and the hilariously miscast ‘big sister’ of one of the teens, played by the director’s 40 year old wife.
Bonkers Billy stalks the skimpily dressed robots throughout the labyrinthine house, making noisy, threatening telephone calls and then picking the victims off, one by one, in a series of increasingly tawdry murders. Throats are slashed, eyeballs are plucked out and buckets of blood are splashed over Christmas decorations, while out in the cheap seats, yawns are stifled and watches are checked. The film is nigh on unwatchable. Word is that the studio Dimension enforced script changes and demanded an alternate ending, in effect taking the film away from Morgan, but the director doesn’t otherwise hint that there was anything here before the interference. He creates no atmosphere, no sense of dread or suspense and relies on the outward thrust of his cast’s cleavage and the staccato beat of his cheap shock moments, with the only scare being the speed at which both of fall victim to the laws of diminishing returns.