Festive Frights: Let's Flashback To 2006's BLACK XMAS
We all know Halloween is a horror fan's biggest holiday, but Christmas is a close second. Welcome to our celebration of yuletide fueled terror, our 12 Days of Festive Frights.
In 1974, Bob Clark directed what would become perhaps one of the earliest slashers in the horror genre, a “proto-slasher,” if you will. Black Christmas predated Halloween and was a noted influence and while it has never quite received the amount of praise and recognition of John Carpenter’s iconic genre affair, it’s extremely well regarded and praised by horror fans and film fans alike.
Then in 2006, Glen Morgan and Dimension Films put out a never asked for remake of Black Christmas, now colloquially known as Black Xmas. It was very poorly received, looked down on, it’s critically lauded on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s the by-product of the mid-millennial trend of remaking pretty much every horror movie that the studios could get their hands on. I absolutely love it.
Listen, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that this movie pulls of some Houdini level illusion and hides some deep and powerful meaning behind the dark and bloody sheen of a “CW era” postmodern slasher. It doesn’t. This movie needs to be completely separated from the original because although it shares a basic story and plot, it shrugs off any of the ambiguity and subtlety of the original and just completely shoves you face first into a fast paced, mean spirited, all too revealing romp that’s chock full of festive murder gags. In case you aren’t familiar, the basic plot is that the sisters of a sorority house get snowed in on Christmas and discover that the local urban legend of the boy who murdered and ate his family on Christmas is true, and now he’s made his way back home. Surprise! His former home slash murder pad is the very home that the girls inhabit.
Morgan distances himself from the ‘74 version by casting a light on the shrouded backstory and letting us in on the origin of Billy Lenz and oh boy, is it ugly. I’m talking physical deformation, family incest, eating eyeballs. Let me repeat. Eating eyeballs. It gets pretty whacky but in the most fun way possible. Halfway through the movie on a first viewing you’ll probably be scratching your head with a smile on your face because you’re not going to understand where all the twists and turns are taking you but you know that you’re having a damn good time getting there.
The cast is great, especially if you were in high school when this movie came out. You’ll find some many faces that you love. Michelle Trachtenberg of Buffy fame, Katie Cassidy who was pulling in guest roles on Supernatural and is now an Arrow staple, Lacey Chabert from Mean Girls, and we even get Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the same damn year that Final Destination 3 hit theaters. Outside of Winstead, none of these women are necessarily Oscar caliber actresses, but they don’t need to be. They’re attractive, they’re full of barbs and quips, and they’re not really all that likable. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition because while you’re going to enjoy seeing these girls take each other down, you’re also going to cheer on the frantic Christmas laced kills.
The claustrophobic setting of the house lends itself properly to frenzied pace of the film. Once the ball gets rolling, and it’s pretty quick, the foot never really leaves the pedal. The kills are particularly brutal and the central motif of eye gouging and suffocating with a bag end up balancing the feel of a movie that’s scattered throughout with dark humor and yuletide vibes. Morgan and crew have a lot of fun with the setting, using snow and Christmas lights to set up some particularly awesome shots, and I’ll tell you right now that silhouetting murder against flashing red and yellow bulbs is weirdly satisfying.
It’s not the kind of classic that Black Christmas is, not by a long shot, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s bloody, it’s exhilarating and it’s full of completely unnecessary and weird backstory that just adds to the complete insanity that is Black Xmas.