Black Christmas Review

Dec 25, 2006 | 9:27am EST

Black Christmas is a nihilistic evolution from the 1974 horror flick in which a solo good guy or girl always survive. It is also an exceedingly gruesome frenetic update of the original with distributor Dimension mandating a second cut of the film after the first wasn't bloody enough much to director Glen Morgan’s chagrin. In 2006's version a jaundiced sickly boy Billy is born to an abusive household. He learns to hate Christmas when his alcoholic mother murders his father on the holiday. Predatory spirit lingers in the building 30 years later now a refurbished sorority house. At least one killer is terrorizing the girls who are snowed in for the holiday. Billy meanwhile is a killer Santa locked in a sanitarium across town and is pining to escape. The sorority girls soon run for their lives. Surely you're not expecting The Departed--please the bigger the horror caricature the better. Michelle Trachtenberg as sorority sister Melissa is as adorably nymphish as we remember from TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The 21-year-old actress last seen in the Chad Lowe indie Beautiful Ohio does her first horror film and delivers several one-liners eligible for a Razzie Award. As disposable eye candy 20-something actresses Crystal Lowe and Jessica Harmon have been elevated from extra status for their seeming acting inability. Up-and-comer Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Bobby) sports her native North Carolina accent for presumed "Method" purposes playing the good-hearted Southern simpleton as though she's on Dawson's Creek. It's a good thing former Dawson's star Oliver Hudson is here as the jerky Kyle so unpredictable and malicious we don't know--or care frankly--if he's the killer or not. Why couldn't Katie Holmes have done this film instead of becoming Mrs. Tom Cruise? Glen Morgan seems to be a troubled man. Besides his work with Crispin Glover and an army of rats on Willard  Morgan has with Black Christmas successfully captured a homicidal mother reproducing with her 13-year-old. It’s sick more so even than the college cuties whose brains are splayed across the garbage bags used to suffocate them. Early death scenes have effective comic punctuation similar to the irreverent Final Destination 3 which incidentally Morgan co-wrote produced and assistant-directed. But Black Christmas unfortunately devolves into a dark and troubled mud puddle. Cohesion is scrapped for sleekness. The movie has a violent loud erratic pulse but cinematic fluency evaporates after about 45 minutes. Even horror afficianados will likely tire at the insipidity.

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