Friday, 13 March 2009

Black Christmas (2006)

Conducted an interesting experiment tonight. Well, interesting if you are a freaky-deak for slasher films like I am. I watched the original Black Christmas from 1974 for the first time, and I watched the remake immediately afterwards. For purely scientific reasons, of course.

The original film is often lauded as a classic by fans of the genre. A pre-cursor to films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. And I can't believe it took me this long to finally sit down and watch it. Hell, we even had it for about 3 weeks siting by the television. Just waiting for us to watch it. Maybe it, the DVD, even watched us like the eyeball of a maniac peering at us through the crack between the door and the door frame. Wait, what?

Anyway, I really enjoyed the original film. It was fun seeing John Saxon, Andrea Martin, Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder doing it like it was a crazy episode of Love American Style. Man, I used to love that show. If you haven't seen it yet, well...I won't spoil it for you. But it was pretty unique for a slasher flick, even by today's standards. And, like I said before, it was highly influential for pretty much every slasher film made after it.

The remake, however, sucked huge smelly gorilla balls!

Not that it was the necessarily the fault of the film-makers. Okay, it was mostly their fault. What I meant to say was that the mere act of remaking a seminal film in a given genre is that, almost by default, the film has to bring something new to the table. Gus Van Sant did a shot-by-shot remake of Psycho and while it was technically decent, it bored us to tears. So that ain't gonna work here. And you have to stay true enough to the source material or you might as well make a totally new movie with an original plot. Yeah, right!

So what does the earnest film-maker decide to do? Generally speaking, for the slasher genre at least, they decide to give the audience a more detailed back story so that we know why the killer is fond of sticking sharp objects into random or not-so-random sorority girls/babysitters.

And that is a bad idea.

What made the original Black Christmas so effective was what we didn't know about the killer. We don't know his/her motivation. We don't know what childhood events shaped their psyche. We are given snippets of information that really don't make any sense, and we really couldn't be expected to piece it all together. There is a big bad man with a knife or a machete or an ice-pick and he wants to do things with it. We don't know why, and that makes it scary. Simple, right?

But the makers of this remake went for the back-story route and they told us everything about the killer. EVERYTHING! Hey, he was born yellow. Huh? Hey, his mom locked him in the attic when he was 5. Yeah. Oh, and she banged him when he was 12. Wait, what? And he had a sister/daughter from that humpty dance. Sure, why not. And blah, blah, blah fucking blah. Who cares? You were scarier when you were just a pair of hands and a voice on the other end of the phone line. Rob Zombie made the same freakin' mistake when he remade Halloween. I'm sorry...when he re-imagined Halloween. Whatever.

Another thing that infuriated me? They took one, semi-inventive death scene from the original movie and made it into the killer's modus operandi for the remake. Plastic bag over the head followed by stabby stabby in the head with something pointy. Yawn!

So if you are in the mood for a fun and/or scary slasher flick I would recommend that you stay far away from this hunk o' junk. But check out the original, if you haven't already. That one was loads of scary fun.


badgerdaddy said...

There's one shot in the original that took my breath away - when you see from the killer's POV and he walks to the trellis... then looks up at where he's going to climb to, looks back down and starts climbing. That shot, for the time that movie was made, is extraordinary. Quite brilliant, right up there with all the innovations in The Exorcist, and its' one of the reasons I really love that original movie.

I haven't seen the remake, as I'm worried that if I do I'll turn into a serial killer and wreak my vengeance on the cast and crew.

Poppy said...

Like I needed to know the back story. meh. I like using my imagination, that's what it's there for!

B.E. Earl said...

badger - the killer in the original was basically played by the camera man if you think about it. For all the POV shots, they created a camera that was worn as a harness on the camera man's back. Really cooly.

Poppy - Zactly!