Black Christmas (2006)

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.

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10 years ago

I just watched what I consider to be the new best Christmas horror classic: Rare Exports – A Christmas Tale. It’s a Finnish film and available on Netflix. The shorts that inspired it are available on YouTube…
The film trailer is here…

It’s a great film about the discovery of the real Santa Claus who it turns out wasn’t so nice. You’ll never look at Santa or his helpers the same way again.

10 years ago

Wow, and here I was thinking I was the only sad sack who in December, hid away when the rest of the world slept for a viewing of the Black Christmas remake in order to hide my shame! Glad to see this soon to be legion grows by one. Perhaps soon, we’ll all be able to come out of the shadows with no fear of our like of this ludicrously awful film. I’m due for a slice of this crazy crap sandwich some time this week (after a viewing of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and Christmas Evil), and like you Unk, I strangely look forward to it.

Sure, it might be for my undying love for both Crystal Lowe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead talking (which is also the excuse I’ll use if I ever happen to get witnessed viewing this piece of tripe), but I do like a little trashy fun just in time for the holidays. 🙂

Joanna Boese
10 years ago

Actually, Andrea Martin was in the original, which is perhaps why she plays the house mother in this one.

10 years ago

Let me barge in here with a RedBox recommendation (you said you wished someone had tipped you off to “Black Death”, so…). If think a Kung Foo movie crossed with a Sherlock Holmes mystery, sprinkled with some horrifying death scenes and then wrapped up in a costume drama sounds good, I can wholeheartedly recommend “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” now at RedBox. Fun movie with tons of eye candy.

Jim Allcorn
10 years ago

SO glad to see that I’m not the only one who finds this to be an absolute “must see” guilty pleasure at this time of year ( along with, of course, the classic original BLACK CHRISTMAS which has had a permanent place in my top ten favorite films since I first saw it on HBO back in the early ’80s ).
I was all set to hate the remake when I finally got around to seeing it a couple of years ago after reading the plethora of scathing reviews & hearing nothing but negative things about it following it’s release in ’06.
But, a funny thing happened on the way to my hating it…
After about a half hour or so of being noncommital about it, I realized that I was actually enjoying the damned thing!
I liked the sheer, unapologetic sleazyness & audacity of it. And though it couldn’t come close to eliciting the sort of fear that the original did, it was pretty suspenseful in it’s own fast paced, over the top way.
other than the Bass & Rankin RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED RAINDEER & Bob Clark’s two holiday classics, the BLACK CHRISTMAS redux is the only other film that I absolutely HAVE to make time for each X-Mas season.

Chris Moore
10 years ago

I secretly love the Black Christmas remake on it’s own terms. I don’t know what happened during production, but I recall Glen Morgan saying how he was trying to rely on suspense more than anything, which is strangely absent from the final cut. I’ve heard Dimension tinkered with the film to no end (anyone remember those trailers for the film that featured scenes shot specifically for the trailer only? WTF?)

It’s impossible to compare the original and remake, because the way they go about things is totally different. I don’t really see how they could have made the remake darker, as the original is probably one of the darkest and more grim slasher movies ever made. Clearly, I can see why they decided to distance themselves and make it cheesy and sleazy.

I was a little upset when it was first released. The cast, the set, and the cinematography were all stellar, but the script had more holes than swiss cheese and the editor was clearly asleep at the wheel (how is Claire killed in the opening scene, but Billy is still in the asylum in the next scene. Kinda kills any mystery, doesn’t it?)

Now, I can appreciate it for being a fun little movie with lots of holiday spirit and Shirley Walker’s score, which I originally felt brought the movie down into cheeseville, is now sort of charming and goofy.

I’ve come to think of it as an hour and half Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark episode.

P.S. I actually love Katie Cassidy. She stole the Nightmare and When A Stranger Calls remakes (where she should have been the lead both times. Anyone remember Camilla Belle and Rooney Mara sleepwalking through those with the same expression on their face and deadpan delivery?Yeeesh!) , but she really is bland here. Clearly, she was given little to work with, but still, she wasn’t given much in those other two remakes, either.