Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Old Vs New Week: Black Christmas

Back again boys and girls and today we look at what are constituted as a disturbing thriller and its slasher scion.   We examine the need to make the holly jolly season such a night for gut wrenching terror or a view into sheltered lives can lead to mass levels of chaos.  So stock up your stuffers, light that Yule time log and grab your gifts.  This is Black Christmas.
Mmm have you been a naughty girl?

Spoilers have no reason or consciousness…

The 1974 thriller Black Christmas was directed by Bob Clark (Dead of the Night, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Murder by Decree, Porky’s and Turk 182!) a man that was not truly defined by a specific genre of film making but clearly a believer in the spherical lens as his main story telling  unit.  Our story opens up with a Christmas break celebration as the girls are planning anything from going off to see their parents to a skiing vacation in the mountains.  Now this mythological college is apparently in a town called Bedford which oddly enough looks an awful lot like Ontario Canada.   Claire (Lynne Griffin of Drop-In, The Heavenly Kid, The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew, True Identity and Dream House) a freshman is presumed missing given she did not meet up with her anal retentive father for their lengthy drive back home. 
Plastic bag: the silent killer

The sorority house sisters are baffled to her whereabouts, so Jess (Olivia Hussey of Romeo and Juliet, Death on the Nile, Sam Marlow, Private Eye, Escape 2000 and Ivanhoe) and Barb (Margot Kidder of 92 in the Shade, Superman, The Amityville Horror, Miss Right and Some Kind of Hero) get flack from the cop on duty and it is not treated like it should be investigated.  Clare’s boyfriend Chris (Art Hindle of The Brood, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Paradise Falls) tries to help the girls figure out what happened.  Meanwhile the sorority sisters are being attacked left and right while the Sheriff attempts a trap to catch this psycho of unknown origins.  That is the beauty of this story idea. No rhyme or reason to the killer. Is it personal?  Did these girls do our killer wrong?  We truly do not know.  A lot of the shots were done handheld and a few tripod set ups given the size of the house and town in question but the stairwells in the house were pretty narrow.
I just said plastic was deadly! Pay attention!

Black Christmas.    Ho ho hoo boy this is a stinker in the works.   Alright then let’s just dive into this festive holiday horror shall we?    For starters, this is a remake/re-imagining/re-construction from a storyline that occurred in 1974.   Pick and choose your own suffering, because this is a pale comparison to its predecessor.   The original had so much for all.  Police scramble to catch the killer after finding the body of a 13 year old girl.  They take note of the sorority house complaining about disturbing phone calls and place a wire tap on it in the hopes to catch the killer in time.  The killer is unknown, girls are terrified and the suspects keep racking up.  This existed prior to Halloween or Friday the 13th, a forerunner if you will to the beginning of the slasher films.   Suspense, nerve racking calls pre-caller id and a decent body count that would have made Jason Vorhees proud.   We are not reviewing that particular film however.  We get to enjoy its successor of the same title.  Brought to us in the year 2006 we open with a young girl at sorority house writing and wrapping presents for the family while enjoying a cheap red wine.  Startled by a noise in her closet (Oh damn you Bogeyman.  Must you ruin Christmas?!), she gets up to investigate, setting her calligraphy pen down. 

A sigh of relief to see it is only heat from the vent rustling her clothes, heads back to her presents only to find the pen missing and since she has NO peripheral vision has a bag placed over her head and is stabbed right in the skull with said pen.  At this all takes place at 2 minutes 38 seconds.  Well, if that doesn’t set the tone I do not know what will. 
Mind your manners, psycho boy.

Writer/director/producer Glen Morgan dusts off and retouches the previous screenplay.  Probably needed a few jump scares added no doubt.   Glen Morgan has written both TV and Movie and will be the director/writer for our current pain.   He has written on such shows as: X-Files, Millennium and Space: Above and Beyond as well as Final Destination and Final Destination 3.   At the 18 minute mark and 4 deaths later, two of which occur at the sorority house prior to Billy Lenz’s escape, we finally get some back story on the lad who is definitely on the naughty list.    Is there two killers roaming about?  Will there be a holly jolly bloodbath?  What of Timmy trapped in the well?  This film is littered with enough back story and flashbacks to rival most Highlander films and/or TV series. Our notorious killer was born with a liver disease that yellowed his skin at birth.  Mommy didn’t love him at all.   Aw.   After receiving his Christmas at age 12 he hears Mother and father arguing about her secret lover.  Billy sneaks downstairs to witness Mom tying a plastic bag over his father’s head and stab him repeatedly.  Later she and her lover bury his body in the basement and lock the boy in the attic to his teen years.    Guess the school board didn’t know about the boy…ever.
And what holiday story wouldn’t be complete without the unfortunate incest addition to it.   Boy any wonder why Billy is nuttier that a fruitcake?   I can’t imagine myself.   Incest leads to little Agnes being born and Mother once again shuns Billy from her life.   Drunken lover is none the wiser.  So the film is already ruined.  We know too much, movie.  Thanks a heap really.  The death scenes are more violent and I guess with killing the story arc they had to up the gore factor with arterial sprays, gouging and disturbing imagery of cannibalism.   Young actresses in this schlock fest are (Lacey Chabert of Party of Five and Mean Girls) (Michelle Trachtenberg of Buffy and Eurotrip) and last certainly not least (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Final Destination 3 and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World).   While I am enjoying their performances overall, what the hell were their collective agents thinking getting them in this turd?   OoOo here’s a career saver, girls. 

Boyfriend Kyle to Kelli in the first portion of the movie sneaks in for a scare and some more exposition on Billy.  Yeah we have even more flashbacks.  Man, Vietnam vets don’t have this many flashbacks.   Billy gets out of the attic and has a heart to heart with his “child” in the form of mutilating her.   So much expanded and spoken about in this film it is a wonder if we left anything for our killer to do at all.  Bottom line is thus:  No suspense and build up leads to gorefest goodies for those that just want mindless violence. I get the fact this film was meant to take people completely out of their comfort zone but it was too much, too fast and way too many cut and paste flashbacks that did not intertwine well.  The funny fact is they use the same house from the original but they make it Billy's childhood home.  Cozy, huh?