DVD Review: Black Christmas (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
Release Date: April 3, 2007
Distributor: Dimension Films
· Glen Morgan
· Katie Cassidy
· Mary Elizabeth Winstead
· Lacey Chabert
· Robert Mann
· Andrea Martin
· IMDb: Black Christmas (2006)
by R.J. Carter
Published: April 2, 2007
"Willard" director Glen Morgan unabashedly and unashamedly goes for the flinch factor right from the get-go in this remake of the 1974 cult classic, "Black Christmas". Spree killer Billy Lenz (Robert Mann) killed his mother and stepfather one Christmas morning, after he broke out of the attic where they kept him locked away. He's been in a home for the criminally insane ever since. This Christmas, he escapes, and he's intent on going home for Christmas.
But home is occupied now, and it's not a nuclear family in the residence. It's the Delta Alpha Kappa sorority house, and the girls who haven't yet gone home for the holidays are grousing about being snowed in. Housemother Mrs. Mac (Andrea Martin, who had a role in the 1974 original "Black Christmas" alongside Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder) is busy keeping up the Kappa tradition of the Secret Santa exchange -- which involves putting a present under the tree for Billy, for whatever reason! But there's a twist to this deadly little Christmas: the killing's have already started, and at this point in the plot, Billy hasn't yet broken out!
Let's meet the girls -- also known as the nearly interchangeable victims: Kelli (Katie Cassidy), Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg), Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dana (Lacey Chabert), Lauren (Crystal Lowe), Megan (Jessica Harmon), Clair (Leela Savasta), and Eve (Kathleen Kole). One by one, the girls begin to disappear, and after each death a mysterious phone call comes in to the house -- from the victim's cell phone!
As the story progresses, we see glimpses of Billy's young life, beginning with a mother who hated him since he was an infant. When he was a boy, he saw his mother and her boyfriend kill and bury his father, and it was at this point he became locked in the attic, slipping into a withdrawn catatonia. A few years later, when mom is unsatisfied one night with her drunken boyfriend, she slips into the attic and conceives a daughter, Agnes, through incest with Billy.
Finally, one Christmas morning, Billy breaks out of the attic, tears out one of Agnes' eyeballs, kills mom and stepdad, and uses the Christmas cookie cutters to press out shapes from their flesh, which he then cooks and eats.
You just don't get much more disturbed than that, folks.
You'll Put Your Eye Out! Mrs. Mac and Heather find an
unexpected present from Billy under the tree. Notice the lamp
in the background, left, a tribute to another Christmas film.
(L-R: Andrea Martin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead)
Now, with Billy on the loose once more, and Agnes not having been seen since the orphanage released her, the girls of Kappa house are the target of two convergent psychopaths bent on reuniting as a family for the holidays. In their way, of course, are the girls and their housemother, so let the culling and eye-gouging commence, as any and every available sharp object at hand is fair game as a weapon of death.
If the producers were hoping to spawn a franchise, they should perhaps have gone with one of the three alternate endings (viewable via the special features of the disc) instead of the one they ultimately selected for the feature film. While a writer could no doubt bring Billy Lenz back for another Season's Beatings, I don't think the audience has any doubt at the end that he's not only merely dead, but he's really most sincerely dead. Although, to be fair, we're not as certain about the fate of Agnes, and she's a lot creepier than her jaundiced father/brother Billy.
"Black Christmas" is one of those flicks where you really have to excercise your suspension of disbelief: the snowstorm that supposedly has the victim's all housebound doesn't appear to be that intense (and certainly didn't deter Billy from getting from the sanitarium to the house); there are the requisite "sticky doors" that get stuck shut at inopportune moments; and there are the usual "wrong place, wrong time" elements that make things almost too easy for a spree killer. The special effects were neatly done, particularly the repeated theme of eyeball removal, which (if it doesn't sound impossible) was pulled off without being too awfully gory, visually. The horror here comes more from the disturbing things Billy both endures and does.
Robert Mann does his best Norman Bates playing the role of Billy Lenz, but the other actresses aren't exactly burning up the screen with their performances; Martin still seems to be doing SCTV, visiting big sister Kristen Cloke is stuck in the "stubborn and bitchy" personality throughout, and the sorority girls all deliver their lines as though they just read them before the scene.
The special features on this disc, in addition to the three alternate endings already mentioned, include seven deleted scenes and two featurettes. "What Have You Done?: The Remaking of 'Black Christmas'" is a twenty-eight minute look at the making of the film, with a guest appearance by Bob Clark, director of the 1974 original. He talks a small bit about that particular era of filmmaking, and is followed by Dan Duffin, webmaster of the "Black Christmas" fansite dedicated to the original story, ItsMeBilly.com. What's interesting to note here is how the original film broke technical ground that later influenced another, better known holiday-themed horror: "Halloween".
The second feature, "May All Your Christmases Be Black: A Filmmaker's Journey" is a twenty-six minute look at director Morgan through the eyes of the cast and crew. Morgan delves into what makes a slasher film different these days from the more exploitative days of yore, and we discover the evolution of the Agnes character and how they found the actor to play the role -- in their own film crew!
Audio is in English, with subtitles available in English and Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "Grindhouse", "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show", "Hannibal Rising", "Pulse", and "Feast".