Black Christmas (2006)

Reviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 12/31/06 16:25:38

"Less fun than underwear as a present."
1 stars (Sucks)

I don’t hate the phrase “so bad it’s good”; I despise it and the concept it represents. I don’t want to find enjoyment out of something fundamentally idiotic, just because it’s laughably bad. I’d rather spend my time and money watching something that’s actually interesting and engaging. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about the phrase when watching the new “Black Christmas.” It’s just flat out bad.

One of these days Hollywood’s just going to skip the pretense and just name a movie “Crazy Cannibals Eviscerate Pretty College Kids Except for the Plucky Young Virgin That Miraculously Fights Back to Stay Alive and Kill the Killer…or Does She?” And when it comes right down to it, wouldn’t you rather see that movie than “Black Christmas”?

In case you couldn’t tell, “Black Christmas” is another cookie cutter holiday horror fest that actually features a cookie cutter slicing away bits of flesh to make the world’s worst treat for Santa. Fifteen years after being committed to an asylum for brutally offing his mother and stepfather, Billy Lenz (Robert Mann) has decided he wants to be home for Christmas, which has since become a sorority house, and oddly enough, the girls are fully aware of their home’s sordid past. In fact, every Christmas, they buy a present for Billy in the gift exchange…except for this year, since the uptight, conservative Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) thinks the tradition is idiotic. See what happens when you don’t buy a present for a deranged serial killer?

Based on the 1974 cult movie of the same name, the new “Black Christmas” drains everything that made the original such a smash. In the original, the girls are stalked by an unknown and unseen killer, who only reveals himself to them through phone calls and the occasional missing girl. Billy is much more present this time around, with half the story dedicated to telling the tale of his twisted childhood. Born with a liver disease that turned his skin yellow, his mother emotionally abandoned him and eventually locked him in the attic, except for one occasion when she molested him and gave birth to his inbred daughter. No wonder the guy is so messed up, but if writer/director Glen Morgan is looking for sympathy for Billy, he’s never going to find it. Sure, we get a better insight into why Billy does what he does and is what he is, but the dread of the unknown is what truly makes a slasher villain scary. Billy is just a guy with problems.

But at least Billy’s focused on his goals, or is at least smarter than the world’s dumbest insane asylum security guard. Honestly, if Billy attempts to escape every Christmas, how stupid do you have to be to wander into his room alone because he’s gotten out of his rocking chair? Not that the sorority girls are much smarter. After several girls go missing and after receiving several stalker-like phone calls and after hearing movement in the attic (Billy’s home) and after your lights go out (and yours is the only house affected), how smart is it to send one girl to crawl around a basement crawl space to get at the main circuit breakers? And after she goes missing too, why the hell would you just continue to hang around the house?

Morgan, who previously directed the forgettable “Willard” and produced a couple of the “Final Destination” films, just doesn’t seem to know how to make a good slasher. After years of simple disemboweling after disemboweling by the likes of Michael Myers and Jason, horror movies had finally started to become more inventive in dispatching the dead weight of the film, but Morgan apparently learned nothing from his own series. Billy’s MO is consistently to throw a plastic bag over the girls’ heads and stab repeatedly with nearby sharp objects, which definitely gets old quickly, especially with a cast as large as this. Another problem is that none of the potential victims (seven sorority sisters, one house mother, one boyfriend and one older sister) are pushed out front as the inevitable survivor. Without someone in particular to root for, it’s hard to care when they die. I picked “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’s” little sister Michelle Trachtenberg, AKA the grounded Melissa but I could just have easily chosen Katie Cassidy’s naïve Kelly or Lacey Chabert’s sassy Dana instead. The only sure thing is I wasn’t going to pick Crystal Lowe’s Lauren, the drunk who provides the only on-screen nudity, even though she was probably the most fun sister, or house mother Ms. Mac, played by Andrea Martin, one of the victims from the original film. If you die in the original, you don’t stand a chance in the remake. Not that any of it really matters anyway; you simply root for your favorite actress and shrug when she takes an icicle or ice skate or gardening fork to the head. And if you’re watching a horror movie and you’re bored by the gore, something is definitely wrong. Some Christian groups criticized the film as being sacrilegious during “a time of celebration and joy around the world,” but the film has committed a more grievous error than offending Jesus; it’s a horror movie that’s not the least bit scary.

I honestly wanted to like “Black Christmas.” I’m still holding out hope that one day, someone will finally make a horror movie that’s genuinely great. I don’t think that someone is Glen Morgan. In case you missed my point, “Black Christmas” is bad.

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