Glen Morgan’s update of Bob Clark’s 1974 slasher flick Black Christmas is an exemplar of how to screw up a modern horror film remake: ignore the original’s distinctively creepy elements, pile on obligatory gore and illogical red herrings, and make sure that every facet of the mysterious killer’s motivation is explained via deflating exposition. Clark’s seminal film remains largely noteworthy for establishing genre tropes (shots from the villain’s POV, phallic instruments of death) that were later refined by Halloween and The Slumber Party Massacre, with its frights primarily relegated to the schizophrenic prank calls made to sorority house inhabitants by a psycho. Morgan perfunctorily includes such devices and imagery but unwisely shifts his primary focus toward explicating the background of fiend Billy (Robert Mann), who we learn in numerous interludes spent his youth locked in an attic for witnessing his mom and boyfriend murder his father, then incestuously fathered a daughter with his mom, and then escaped confinement and went on a Yuletide killing spree. Such a turgid account of Billy’s traumatic life story might be tolerable if he weren’t a dreadfully bland boogeyman and Morgan knew how to establish a suspenseful mood. Yet Black Christmas’s lavish attention to nubile hotties’ cleavage, and to a sorority house set draped in garlands and twinkling lights, comes at the expense of masking the (painfully obvious) order of its characters’ grisly demise. Meanwhile, the facet of its source material most ripe for development—namely, the gender warfare dynamic of an abortion-seeking teen and her disapproving beau—is wholly bungled by Morgan’s do-over, with that conflict cursorily reimagined as a fight between a vacant blonde and the boyfriend who likes to surreptitiously videotape his sexual conquests and post them on the Internet. Some sinister, slinky tracking shots pay respectful homage to Clark’s standard-setter, but despite all the screaming and running by its female lambs to the slaughter—not one exerting an ounce of original victim Margot Kidder’s sloshed attitude—this ho-ho-horrible scary movie is as inert as an overweight uncle doped up on Christmas turkey tryptophan.
Like staring into a blinking Christmas light for an hour-and-a-half, which should pain anyone with functioning ocular nerves. Still, the image is a clean one, miraculously vibrant and spotless and with little evidence of edge enhancement. The surround track is almost as audacious though dialogue carries a rather synthetic ring.
Almost 10 minutes have been added to the film to produce this unrated edition (note: the 95-minute running time advertised on the back of the case is exaggerated by at least three minutes), and still there were enough scraps to pad out the extras with seven deleted and alternate scenes and no less than three alternate endings. Embarrassing in a different way is Bob Clark's appearance on "What Have You Done?: The Remaking of Black Christmas" and the depressingly hilarious implication throughout "May All Your Christmases Be Black: A Filmmaker's Journey" that Glen Morgan clearly sold his soul to the devil after Willard flopped at the box office. Rounding out the disc are previews for Grindhouse, Don't Miss the Bus, Hannibal Rising, Pulse, and Feast.
Not only unwatchable but bound to destroy a few Christmas memories.