I’ve got to say, up front, that I’m a big fan of the original Black Christmas from 1974, a creepy, smart slasher film way ahead of its time. When I heard Wong/Morgan (from the Final Destination film series and, farther back, the X-Files and Millennium TV series) were helming the remake, I thought it had potential to be a decent updating of a now-classic though little-known film. Unfortunately, Black Christmas 2006 isn’t nearly as effective as the original and comes off as more than a little strange.
Part of the power and tension of the original film is that you never see the killer… at all. One of the first slasher films to employ the POV device (where you see through the killer’s eyes), Black Christmas 1974 was frightening and decidedly voyeuristic. With the remake, director Morgan discards that device and makes the killer a fully-realised onscreen character (even fleshing out his background and tragic family history). This change thwarts the tone of the original, further separating the audience from the killer’s perspective. Ironically, even through making the killer a more rounded, three-dimensional character (to a certain extent), Black Christmas 2006 is a less realistic film than the original. Perhaps the studio felt that audiences in 2006 wouldn’t accept a POV killer rather than an onscreen one, or perhaps Morgan thought he could bring something new to the story. Unfortunately, this choice damages the tone of the film and helps to further weaken the creepy atmosphere.
There’s no shortage of shock and gore in Black Christmas (no surprise the trailer for Hostel Part 2 was screened beforehand). I was honestly surprised by the amount of visceral and graphic violence in the film (pleasantly surprised, as I’m a bit of a gorehound). This film isn’t afraid to be ruthless (something refreshing in the Hollywood horror genre) and many people will squirm uncomfortably in their seats through certain sequences. This gore factor is strangely contrasted with an almost camp edge to the script and storyline. The dichotomy is a little weird and I can honestly see Black Christmas becoming a minor cult film in the near future. Even with the camp elements, there are some genuinely creepy moments that will stay with you after you leave the cinema.
The acting is a little ‘all over the place.’ Some standouts are Kristen Cloke (a much underrated character actress) and Andrea Martin (one of the stars of the original, here playing the house mom lush). However, most of the other actresses are interchangeable and forgettable (as in most teen slasher pics).
Though an interesting update of the original film, I can’t totally recommend Black Christmas. I think it’s a film I’ll like more on repeated viewings, but other people won’t be so forgiving. The muddled tone, questionable acting and often disturbing content make the 2006 version of Black Christmas very strange indeed. In any case, I’d recommend you seek out the original version for a creepier experience and the remake if you like your horror a little more camp.