I’m weirdly proud of my Christmas horror movie collection. Every December I drag out the same rag-tag pile of VHS and DVDs and decorate the house by lining them up on a shelf. When I first viewed 2006’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, I felt only disappointment and frustration. They got the whole thing wrong, I thought and what a sack of horrible choices and bad ideas. I never really expected the remake to hold a candle to the original but with the director of the underrated WILLARD remake (GLEN MORGAN) cracking the whip, I saw no reason why it couldn’t be passable entertainment. Completist that I am, I ended up buying the DVD anyway at a used joint four years ago for four dollars (the price sticker is still on it!) and much to my embarrassment and chagrin, I have witnessed it evolve over the past couple of years into a guilt inspiring holiday staple for me. Honestly and perhaps sadly, as I write this, I cannot wait for this year’s secret eggnog-soaked rendezvous with the film.
Don’t cry, I’m not going to try to sell you on the idea that this is a good film. It’s crushingly convoluted, it makes little logical sense, it’s lethally disorganized and it’s about as scary as a kitten crawling out of a stocking. Even so, it’s hardly an amateurish effort in the technical department. The cinematography is sharp, sometimes glowingly gorgeous and the snowed-in claustrophobic set-up along with the late SHIRLEY WALKER’s sometimes jingly, sometimes ominous score does create a snug little nest of freaky holiday ambience. I know that sounds like cold comfort when you are dealing with a movie that insults your intelligence by throwing snowballs of nonsense at your head on a regular basis, but a movie like this needn’t be taken so seriously.
It’s true, I have decided to officially pardon this ill-conceived mutation based on two reasons. First, regardless of how much of a failure BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06) may be, it is still a Christmas-themed horror movie and therefore deserves some leeway. When held up against the original it does look buffoonish, but amongst a mini subgenre which includes SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT!, ELVES and DON’T OPEN ‘TIL CHRISTMAS, it’s hardly the runt of the litter. Fact is, with the exception of BOB CLARK’s classic and a precious few others, Christmas horror movies have a tendency to be a bit dopey. It’s an important part of their tacky appeal. Secondly, like many other movies that juxtapose the shmaltziest holiday with rampant depravity, I believe BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06) operates as and can be considered complete and utter camp. I don’t throw out that word lightly but it’s unavoidable here. Appearing in cartoon form on THE SIMPSONS, JOHN WATERS once identified camp as, “Anything ludicrously tragic or tragically ludicrous” and that fits this flick like a mitten.
Tone-deaf BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06) has much more than just its holiday setting shoving it into the territory of camp. It’s visually excessive (so many wild garish blinking colors!), it randomly churns out treacly tunes, it’s shamelessly histrionic in places and it centers about a nearly indistinguishable cast of nasal, cell phone stroking, self-proclaimed “spoiled bitch” sorority sisters, a house mother played by a comedienne of a certain age, a long lost sister portrayed by the director’s fierce husky voiced, playing for the balcony wife and not one, but two ill-conceived not very threatening killers; one with yellow (really chartreuse) skin and the other a very unconvincing dude in drag. If this is not a smoking smorgasbord of clueless camp, I don’t know what is. Furthermore and importantly, as cartoon-y and broad as all of this is, the kills, acted out by lame maniacs or not, are surprisingly mean spirited and extravagantly vicious (at least in the unrated version).
To fully appreciate the depth of the bungle you have to examine the DVD’s special features. It is there that you will find that all involved were sincere and unaware of what they were constructing. If we were talking about a knowing parody that would be something else altogether but BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06) is straight faced and on the level. Its unbelievably burlesque back story is designed to be taken seriously as is the film’s constant drum banging to alert us of its heavy handed “family bonds” theme. I don’t mean to mock the efforts of those involved, I’m just pointing out that this level of delusion is imperative when creating a worthwhile mess. There’s nothing worse than a knowingly ironic, consciously camp film and this clearly is not one. This is uncalculated camp- the best kind. The sad thing is, if you ripped out the preposterous killers and added some patient down time with the victims things would be merry.
It is with the above reasoning and the honest assessment of my private viewing habits that I have come to the conclusion that I like and am in no way angry with BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06). Being angry at BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘06) would be like being mad at a hot dog for not being a Dachshund. Unlike other remake disasters, this exaggerated misfire, if you have a sense of humor about it, will provide a howl of a good time particularly in the month of December, when the days grow shorter and the whiskey bottle grows emptier.
As I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone to enjoy this fiasco too. It’s just that for me, regardless of the film’s misguided nature, the end result delivers the type of somewhat silly somewhat nasty entertainment that I once spent a lot of time trying to track down on VHS. I’d love to continue carrying the torch of the outraged fanboy who feels unreasonably violated but I can’t. (Henceforth I will simply reserve my righteous indignation for the soul sucking FOG remake. ) This movie may be goofy but it’s got multiple impalement deaths and it churns out dense and hokey CHRISTMAS atmosphere non-stop. Yes, the story is full of holes and kind of blows but it’s a good looking film that features wonderfully unlikable, sassy, up and comers whose deaths you can happily route for. I know it’s not very dignified but I’d rather be accused of bad taste then be a hypocrite. It’s trash like this that makes better horror films so worth the wait. I’m too old to afford to sit around a couple decades for the sardonic appreciation of this movie to become en vogue and so here I am opening up this present to myself early.