Day 2 of 25 Days of Unconventional Christmas Viewing: Black Christmas (2006 remake)
Generally, I am against remakes. There are, however, always exceptions and the remake of Black Christmas is such an exception. I'll actually be discussing the remake BEFORE the original due to a screw up at the rental shop. I asked for Black Christmas and received the remake instead of the original so I'm afraid tomorrow will be a bit of repeat business.

The original Black Christmas, released in 1974 the year of my birth, is largely considered one of the first slashers. As such, one can not criticize it too heavily for not being so creative in its murders. It's a more naturalistic slasher relying heavily on the danger is coming from INSIDE the house. This is probably because it's based on a series of actual murders that took place around Quebec during Christmastime.

Part of the trickiness of a successful remake is capturing the spirit of the original while updating the work to 1. take into consideration technological advances 2. address the media savvy of the audience. Thanks to movies like scream, current audiences are very savvy about the elements of a slasher (the survivor girl, the dangers of sin) unlike audiences in 1974 when slashers were just emerging as a genre.

One of the first things about that should capture audiences about this remake is the cast. It features Michelle Trachtenberg (best known as Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing remake and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter), Katie Cassidy (The Nightmare on Elm Street remake), Oliver Hudson as the dubious boyfriend Kyle, and the fabulously talented Andrea Martin as the den mother.

The movie opens with 3 murders in quick succession, which makes the viewer wonder how the movie will keep up the pace. Yet it doesn't disappoint. The pace is fast enough that one is willing to forgive kitschy touches like a killer christmas-y Rube Goldberg machine. Unlike the original, the movie takes full advantage of all the dangers of the season like candy canes, creepy clauses, and christmas lights .I won't go into anymore detail lest I reveal too much of the surprising creativity used to dispatch the cast. One touch I particularly liked is the use of christmas lights to lend a saturated color palate reminiscent of Dario Argento. Argento, a fan of deep red and green colors, would surely appreciate a film that uses strings of Christmas lights to produce the same unsettling effect.

One of the things that usually tips me off to a quality film or tv show is the attention given to set dressing. This film had one shot early one which was a whole horror story in itself. Billy, a chronically ill young man born to toxic parents, sets out a tray of cookies and milk by a letter for Santa. On the same tray sits a cup filled with cigarette butts (his mother's) who goes on to taunt him that "Santa Claus is DEAD." This brief moment alone totally encapsulates Billy's childhood: a child attempting to hold onto some hope in the face of a cruel and selfish parent.

One of the most successful aspects of the movie is its focus on the destructive nature of family. While Christmas is supposed to be a time to appreciate family, its more often about re-opening old wounds, attempting to be pleasant with estranged family members, or coping with loneliness. The movie emphasis this point with a cast filled with estranged sisters and daughters as well as destructive and selfish parents. This is the true horror of Christmas, and the movie exploits it to the hilt.

The film goes onto to use a rather clever system to recreate the tension from the original in terms of the killer being from within the house with mobile phones.

One of the main weaknesses of the movie is that the director LOVES to over utilize extreme close ups on objects that will be relevant: door knobs, computer screens, and phones amongst others. Yes, you should let the audience know that this will be a key plot point but you don't need to close up on an object every ten minutes. The only person who does that well is Edgar Wright, and this is not directed by Edgar Wright.

In addition, the movie lacks a denouement. It starts at a breakneck pace and ends just as quickly without giving the audience time to really survey the destruction, which would reinforce the true basis of horror of this film, which isn't actually about murder, but about the destructive nature of families particularly during the holiday season. Taking a few minutes to drive that point forward instead of ending the moment the killing does undercuts the real potential of this movie to transcend slasher and use it as tool to reveal the real terror of Christmas.

Still and all, if you come home from Christmas shopping and want to see some spectacularly seasonal deaths, I highly recommend this movie. I wouldn't watch it while eating milk and cookies me.

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