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The Independent Critic

Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Andrea Martin, Katie Cassidy, Jessica Harmon, Oliver Hudson
Glen Morgan
Rated R
84 Mins.
 "Black Christmas (2006)" Review 
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I love Christmas.
I so look forward to the joyful sounds of Christmas music everywhere I go, the family gatherings, the sharing of Christmas stories alongside a crackling fireplace and, lest I forget, the spirit of compassion and generosity that fills the air.

No, wait.

I was wrong. I HATE the Christmas season. I can't stand that damn piped in Christmas muzak, gathering with family members I won't see again for another year, Christmas stories that can best be described as fantasies and the spirit of commercialism and "me first" that permeates every cell of American society.

Yet, I do have ONE Christmas tradition that I cherish to the very core of who I am.

Every year, on Christmas Day, I travel out to my local movie theatre alongside the other holiday rejects and loners to view the latest, greatest horror flick to be released on Christmas weekend. This tradition, nearly 15 years old now, has weathered my many ups and downs of my life and, this year, felt especially appropriate as 2006 has been, by nearly every measure possible, a true horror.

This year's entry in my holiday horror film tradition?

"Black Christmas."

With disturbingly graphic trailers, gore fans have been eagerly anticipating this Glen Morgan directed remake of Bob Clark's 1974 vastly underrated original film. Clark, who has also given us another holiday tradition with "A Christmas Story," was involved in this remake...involvement that only increased the eager anticipation for those of us who loved the original's intensely frightening blend of suspense and predictable, yet well-paced horror twists.

In the hands of Morgan (the "Final Destination" films and "Willard"), however, "Black Christmas" is a gory yet pointless exercise in textbook horror that inexplicably removes nearly everything that made the original film special and replaces it with killings that, while gory, offer nothing unique, nothing entertaining and, worst of all, nothing particularly frightening.

"Black Christmas" centers on a young boy named Billy who grows up in a home with a loving father and a horrid, hateful mother. One day, he witnesses the mother killing his father. His abuse continues until he is one day sexually assaulted by his mother who becomes pregnant and eventually gives birth.

Are you following this?

Eventually, Billy exacts revenge upon his mother and stepfather in a most horrifying way. He is locked away until, of course, he escapes from the asylum and returns to the house (which, oddly enough, has been turned into a sorority house filled with only hot women played by the likes of Lacey Chabert, Katie Cassidy, Jessica Harmon and others).

While the "Final Destination" films are far from benchmarks in cinema, they've certainly always had their place. They're light, fluffy horror films with a certain tongue-in-cheek quality about them that makes them sort of like "pop horror" films that can appeal to a mass market.

Unfortunately, "Black Christmas" never gains a solid foundation and Morgan can't seem to decide whether or not he wants to make a hardcore gory flick, a suspenseful homage to the original film, an intellectual thriller or even just a decent film.

The end result is that Glen Morgan ends up accomplishing none of these things.

While "Black Christmas" is certainly gory enough for fans of schlock horror, it lacks the attitude, fun and uniqueness necessary to win over these very discerning fans. Fans of over-the-top horror films such as "Hostel" are likely to watch "Black Christmas" and respond with a mere "Eh."

The film's script, also penned by Morgan, is dreadful in its own right and even more inept when one considers the creativity and uniqueness of the original film upon which it is based. Morgan should get some credit for giving this update more of a back-story that attempts to explain Billy's behaviors, whereas the original largely left the background unexplained. Unfortunately, Morgan goes too far and spends way too much time building a background for characters who are never fully developed. The dialogue is nonsensical, the production design slick but often cheap looking (You will likely laugh when you see the film's snow). The sound mix is noticeably uneven, and Morgan paces the film so awkwardly that even at a mere 84 minutes it has 2-3 markedly dull moments.

The film stars Robert Mann, as Billy (with a slight, predictable twist), and a bevy of up-and-coming beauties who should have known better than to involve themselves in this trip. Fans of horror film nudity won't be disappointed, however, with the likes of Lacey Chabert, Katie Cassidy and the rest of the sorority sisters. Andrea Martin, who appeared in the 1974 film, makes an appearance here, as well, however, it's far from used to its full potential.

With disappointing gore, a poorly structured script, production deficits and a clear emphasis on style over substance, "Black Christmas" is a surprisingly disappointing remake of an underrated horror classic. With nary a decent performance from any of the cast, "Black Christmas" is seemingly destined for a quick run in movie theatres before it finds itself in its rightful place on the video store shelf waiting all of us holiday rejects and loners to rent and vent our holiday frustrations away next Christmas day.

If you really want to rent a campy Christmas horror film either head out and pick up the 1974 original "Black Christmas" or check out last year's "Santa's Slay."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic