Directed By: Glen Morgan
Screenplay By: Glen Morgan
Based upon the 1974 film Black Christmas, written by Roy Moore
Produced By: Marty Adelstein, James Wong, Steven Hoban, Glen Morgan, Dawn Parouse, Victor Solnicki
Cast: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson, Lacey Chabert, Kristen Cloke, Andrea Martin, Crystal Lowe
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes
Review Date: December 24, 2010
In Black Christmas, dimwitted victims impale themselves on sharpened candy canes, ornaments, and icicles, thankfully purging themselves from the human gene pool, all to a traditional holiday playlist. I have a sneaking suspicion that the movie was designed with the idea that its viewers would take bets on which characters bit it, and in which order. Architects Glen Morgan and James Wong, the dream team behind the Final Destination franchise, knew exactly what they were doing. They knew it was bad, and they did it anyway. There is no protagonist in Black Christmas, only a psycho killer and a ditzy assortment of sorority girls. Let the festivities begin.
What I love about Black Christmas is that it makes no fanciful claim to be anything other than a gimmicky horror movie. You’re either naughty, or you’re nice — and if you’re naughty, you probably went to go see it when it opened Christmas Day. At its best, it’s an irreverent mix of unapologetic gore and tongue-in-cheek humor that actually doesn’t plod through every slasher cliché in the book. Some of the characters, while failing to recognize an ice scraper, do appear to be informed by the tactics of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees.
Once you stop regarding the movie as pure irony — and yes, it does run out of steam eventually — that’s where you run into trouble. This is a black comedy, intentional or not, and will only entertain on that level alone. The Yuletide bloodletting of characters who deserve to die for making the most unforgivable errors remains its core plot mechanic. It’s one Darwin award after another for ninety minutes. Get comfortable.
The story isn’t really that important, and echoes the trend of recent horror movies in which the killer’s troubled childhood had something to do with sadistic parenting. By the same logic, Harry Potter should be a butcher-knife wielding psychopath.
Billy (Robert Mann), the escaped mental patient of the week, scurries about the house’s woodwork like a mouse, sometimes peering through little holes in the walls to spy on the occasional Sorority girl in the shower. From time to time he pops out to pull bags over his victims’ heads, and then stab them viciously in the face. With each murder, the collective IQ of the human race goes up a percentile. Billy recalls Sin City’s Roark Junior (“that yellow bastard”), but the result is more comedic than anything. Watching him creep around the shadows is like picking out a yellow golf ball on the fairway.
More than once my frustration with the characters’ stupidity boiled over. By this day and age, shouldn’t prison guards, like customer service agents at call-centers, have some sort of, I don’t know, script to follow upon investigating any suspiciously empty prison cell? You know, one that would force them to, maybe, check under the bed first?
I have a feeling I stopped becoming invested in the plot right about the time Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character bit it, not because her character was anything special, but merely because there was suddenly that big a chunk of eye candy gone. By the anticlimactic third act, I’d completely lost interest.
Black Christmas is a glass of eggnog that somebody spiked with metal shavings: it doesn’t exactly go down as smooth as it should. It’s devious, mindless fun to be sure, but overstays its meager running time and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Josh Medcalf is a freelance writer living in Chicago.