Ah yes, my fine fiends. It’s that time of year again. It’s Christmas season, which means we all have to break out as many holiday themed horror movies as possible and watch them until the bitter end of this blasted year!
Inevitably, there comes the point in the month where you have to revisit Bob Clark’s immortal classic BLACK CHRISTMAS. It’s not only one of the best holiday themed “slashers,” but arguably one of the best horror movies of all time, and definitely among one of the absolute best in Clark’s filmography. (Which includes A CHRISTMAS STORY, PORKY’S, MURDER BY DECREE, CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS.)
Every year, here in Los Angeles, the New Beverly screens the original BLACK CHRISTMAS with another holiday themed horror flick. The event always sells out and draws a good crowd, but for whatever reason, I instead really wanted to host my own BLACK CHRISTMAS party this year. It could be because Scream Factory just put out a brand new 2 disc set of BLACK CHRISTMAS on Blu-Ray, and let me tell you – it is the best the movie has ever looked on any home video format. Take a peek!!!
Anyways, one of the friends at the party had never seen either version of BLACK CHRISTMAS, so we opted to make it a double bill! Original and remake. The return of “Double Take,” my double feature series where I argue that if a remake of a movie can successfully play with its original, then it’s a decent remake.
I had actually written about this same double-bill last year. And after careful consideration, decided that the two play well together. Boy, was I wrong!
First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way. The 1974 BLACK CHRISTMAS is a classic. And in being a classic, it’s impossible to properly remake. How do you improve on perfection? Literally, every single year, I rewatch it and marvel at the sheer dread and power that movie has; everything from the creepy phone calls, to the beautifully directed humor in between the horror, and a final shot that still haunts me every time the credits roll.
I remember way back in 2006, Christmas Day, trying to go see BLACK XMAS on the big screen, and giving up when I couldn’t find any parking at the theater. I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to see this film. I was skeptical as it was, but I liked Glen Morgan’s other work, which included THE X-FILES, FINAL DESTINATION and the WILLARD remake with Crispin Glover. So, it took me years to finally sit down and watch BLACK XMAS. Now, it’s not a good remake. It’s barely a good movie. But it is a bonkers, over-the-top, sleazy, exploitive “slasher” movie unlike anything you’ve ever seen, let alone anything that came out during the 2000s!
Over the years, I found myself to be one of its very small group of defenders. It’s a difficult debate to get into, because I can’t argue that it’s a shitty remake of a great film. But taken out of context, there are so many weird, off-the-wall, head scratching decisions made just about every step of the way, that I can’t help appreciating its absolute lunacy. Rather than articulating a whole article to defend this thing, let me just illustrate a series of bullet points about what you’ll find in BLACK XMAS. Again, forget that this is a remake, just pretend I’ll telling you the bullet points of some random horror gem from the 2000s.
OK, here we go:
– The opening kill involves a plastic bag and eye gouging. This movie has more eye violence than a Fulci film!
– Right off the bat, there are about 3 violent kill scenes within the first 10-15 minutes of the movie. Oh wait, make that 4!
– Oh, the killer is yellow. Literally! Nothing cracks me up more than the fact that Billy has a rare liver disease which makes him appear yellow.
– There are two killers (not really a spoiler. It’s confusing as all hell, but they show that right away) and the female killer is totally played by a man. (That’s a man, baby!)
– This movie is a series of scenes that either go back to “flashbacks” or tell stories from the past.
– The killer’s mother murdered his father, locked him in the attic of their house for the majority of his life, and then had sex with him so she could have a daughter, Agnus! Incest!
– Billy (the killer), for whatever reason, likes to eat eyeballs and make Christmas cookies out of human flesh.
– The main cast consists of a group of girls that all look identical and therefore are next to impossible to tell apart. That said, most are well known now! So, there’s ARROW’s Katie Cassidy, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE’s Mary Elizabeth Winsted, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’s Michelle Trachtenberg, and Kate Hudson’s brother Oliver Hudson.
– Relationship drama! There’s an internet sex video made by Oliver Hudson’s character with another girl from the sorority, even though he’s already dating the perfect Katie Cassidy!
– One kill comes courtesy of a giant icicle falling from the ceiling.
– Another is probably the best “ice skate thrown at someone’s head” death in cinema history!
– Speaking of, this movie clocks in 18 deaths total. Most of them are gory, over-the-top and thankfully all done with practical FX! Only one of them is off screen.
– Look, what more can I say? It’s ridiculous, but strangely fun.
One thing worth pointing out is the cinematography is gorgeous. It’s among one of the best looking horror movies of that entire decade. And although a Blu-Ray of this doesn’t exist, the DVD looked spectacular on my high-def set-up!
Once again, it’s not a successful remake of the original BLACK CHRISTMAS. Who knows why this movie turned out the way it did? I assume there was a lot of behind the scenes tinkering courtesy of the Weinsteins. Maybe delving into the production troubles is worthy of another article at some point? But for now, our friends over at Bloody-Disgusting did a great article on some of the footage that’s in the trailers, but not in the movie. (Check that out HERE.)
If you want to watch a pretty wacky Christmas “slasher” movie, give BLACK XMAS a shot. This year marks its 10th anniversary! So it’s worth another look!