Sunday, December 24, 2017

Black Christmas (2006)

I'll never underplay how much I love the original Black Christmas, so when this remake was announced, I was not interested in the slightest. To the point of being offended that they were even bothering to try. I turned my nose up at the mere thought of it for years.

I am now older and wiser (well, older at least, etc etc) and realise that boycotting for these reasons - especially 11 years later! - is pointless , because y'know what? Sometimes remakes are all right.

That's a good word to describe this movie: alright. It's an interesting watch for fans of the original, and it's certainly got gore aplenty (which is a complicated aspect, as I'll explain later) but it never becomes anything more than an explicit and un-scary rehash of a classic.

Let's break it down...

The Good:
  • An actress who played one of the 1974 sorority girls plays the 2006 house mother.
Andrea Martin was Phyllis in Black Christmas (1974).

  • There's a moment where the sound of Billy slurping down prison food is overlapped with the slurping of a couple making out in a car.
  • Visually, it looks great, drenched mostly in a colour palette lifted straight from Christmas lights.
  • There's a really awesome shot that pushes through the branches of a Christmas tree, to reveal Billy lurking behind it. Really well done.

  • Someone dies by having a giant icicle fall on their head.
  • In amongst some pretty pedestrian eye violence, there's a moment that made me say "oh, jesus" 👀
  • This shot:

The Bad:
  • The drunk/lush character is truly awful. Even without comparing her to Margot Kidder's Barb, she's the worst.

  • I have never enjoyed Lacey Chabert in anything.
  • This is an incredibly early 2000's version of this story...
  • ...Meaning almost all of the cast are sarcastic ad-campaign-pretty sorority girls (did anyone else have trouble telling them apart?).
  • ...And cell phones are EVERYWHERE. I want to watch this again and do a shot every time someone is shown with a flip phone. #motorolarazrlife
  • It's light on suspense, heavy on jump scares and splatter (the studio demanded extreme gore: the director didn't want that. Always a winning recipe - see below).
  • Billy's backstory is told - often through clumsy exposition - in full. It's really messed up, which is pretty cool, but it also eradicates any sense of a terrifying unknown threat.
Oh, and he's yellow.

  • Being a sorority house, they hammer away at the sisterhood thing like mad, but it never really sticks. There's no sense of love or bond between this group of women, despite their insistence otherwise.
  • Billy is obsessed with ripping eyes out?! The one thing they don't explain about him.

You see, this movie doesn't make it easy to sit back and attempt to judge it on its own merits. Even though there's a lot added to the story, there are just too many things either lifted straight from, or heavily nodding towards Black Christmas (1974). I honestly tried to take it at face value, but it ultimately suffered from my knowing the original so well.

It's not worth actively avoiding, but considering its roots, it's an unremarkable, predictable stalk and slash.

The making of Black Christmas (2006) and what happened afterward, seems complicated and rather sad. Apparently director Glen Morgan was good friends with Bob Clark (director of the original) and had him come aboard as an executive producer, remaining on set for shooting. Clark saw the finished product before his death, and even though IMDb doesn't state what he thought of it, this interview suggests he was at least very happy with the backstory elements that were introduced here.

However, as mentioned above, the extreme gore was a matter of some dispute between Morgan and producer Bob Weinstein. Bizarrely, the film was marketed using multiple shots that weren't - and were never going to be - included in the final film. Morgan reportedly stated he stayed attached to protect as much as he could about the original idea, but Weinstein "urinated" all over the movie, trying to cash in on the torture porn craze. The end result is what we see today. Morgan never made another film after this one :(

A damn shame, all of it. I wonder what the intended film would have been like?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

For the past few years I've been meaning to get hold of Silent Night, Deadly Night. My collection is sadly lacking in Christmas-themed horror and this always seems to be doing the rounds with my horror friends and acquaintances.

(Black Christmas is the only spooky xmas movie I know well, so if you have any suggestions I am excited to hear them!).

Silent Night, Deadly Night was more or less what I was expecting:
  • that immediately greasy, scuzzy feel of an 80s horror movie
  • a fair amount of boobs
  • some pretty creative/amusing kills
  • optimistic setting up for a sequel - I didn't even know there was one sequel to this - turns out there are FOUR more SNDN films!

This film gives a very comprehensive lead-up to exactly why the killer has the motivation he does. We don't just see Billy at the moment his life completely derailed (the day he witnessed his parents assaulted and murdered by a guy dressed as Santa); we see the mid-point of his journey, too. And maybe if he'd been shown some human decency, care and love, he might have grown up to be faintly okay. Unfortunately for him, he's at a home for orphans run by a sadistic bitch of a Mother Superior.

In wonderful, classic 80s horror style, some superb groundwork is laid to monumentally fuck Billy up. This nun will have none of Billy's troubled past, and instead beats and berates him into submission. She thinks she is molding this poor kid into behaving (not that he is ever shown as being actually naughty), when really she is creating a perfect, messed up monster.

When we finally cut to Billy as a man, one of the nuns is getting him a job in a local toy shop. We're treated to a jarring musical montage of him successfully getting along in his new employment, that is... until the day comes that he's asked to dress as Santa. Already sweaty and freaking out, his true trigger moment comes when he witnesses his shithead coworker raping the girl Billy has a crush on. He kills him, obviously, and when she reacts (understandably) hysterical at this, he kills her too!

And so we continue with Billy making his way through workplaces and households, killing as he goes, and murmuring "naughty..." and "punish..." as he does so(!). The apparently one good nun in the orphanage is onto him though, and so are the police. This creates a fantastic narrative twist of innocent Santas all over town paying the price for Billy's homicidal tendencies.

Stand-out kills - and surely everyone's favourites who've seen this - are Denise (Linnea Quigley) being impaled on the antlers of a mounted deer head, and Billy decapitating a sledder as he comes down a hill.

This is a so-dumb-it's-kind-of-great movie. It may well become a fun yearly tradition to put on and giggle at it by the light of the xmas tree.