The Horror Honeys: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like... Bloodshed!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like... Bloodshed!

The Revenge Honey Perspective on the Original

This Christmas Isn't Like the Ones You Used to Know

Some people watch It's a Wonderful Life during the holiday season. Still others ring in this festive time of year with Rudolph or Frosty. But me? I relish in the pine green and blood red of Canadian horror film, Black Christmas (1974.) If you've never seen this classic, you're missing out: not just on the best holiday horror film of all time, but also on easily one of the hands down most terrifying movies ever made. Bob Clark's Black Christmas isn't just a successful Christmas horror film, but it's a film of firsts: the first "call is coming from inside the house" movie and also widely regarded by many horror historians to be the first "slasher" film, inspiring future movies like John Carpenter's Halloween. For all of these reasons, and many more, Black Christmas is the best and only horror film that I watch on the actual day.

The Terrifying Plot: During Christmas break, the remaining sisters at a sorority house begin receiving increasingly horrific and obscene phone calls from an unknown perpetrator. One by one, the sorority sisters begin to disappear, as the phone calls become progressively more erratic and violent. With the help of the police lieutenant, one girl tries to discover the identity of the caller before it's too late.

Prettiest final girl EVER!
The Cast: The cast of Black Christmas is an absolute treasure trove of horror, science fiction, and general classic film royalty. Olivia Hussey stars as "the final girl," Jess, and besides being one of the most beautiful women in the history of forever, she is also the filmic Juliet by which I compare all others (sorrynotsorry Claire Danes.) In Black Christmas, Hussey isn't just a magnificent leading lady: she's one of my favorite final girls of all time. The film also stars Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (Superman), and Andrea Martin (one of my favorite Broadway stars and a cast member on the hilarious SCTV). Lest I forget, John Saxon (Daddy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street) and my personal 70's dreamboat, Art Hindle (The Brood.) This movie is an embarrassment of talented riches.

Break me off a piece of that furry bastard!
If This Movie Doesn't Make Your Skin Crawl, It's On Too Tight: This isn't just one of the best tag lines for a horror movie in history: it's the absolute truth. The obscene phone calls in Black Christmas are voiced by three different people (actor Nick Mancuso, director Clark, and an unnamed actress) and the effect is totally unsettling. It's not even the foul language that makes the calls so horrifying (though it IS awful), but it's those voices and the knowledge that they are presumably supposed to be coming from a single caller. So. Much. SCARY!

I also admire the straight up balls that it took for director Bob Clark to conclude Black Christmas the way he does (despite the studio's objections). There is nothing more frightening than the unknown. and this holiday horror film leaves the viewers with so many unanswered questions that if you're not completely freaked out by this movie, you're a frigging replicant.

Call us when the eggnog is ready! Or... not.
Also, kudos to Margot Kidder for both playing a convincing college drunk and having one of the most realistic on-screen asthma attacks I've ever seen. Good on ya, crazy lady!

Bonus Points: Three words... Death. By. Unicorn. Thank you.

If I haven't made it clear, Black Christmas is the best movie. Ever. If you haven't already seen this Christmas classic, put down the eggnog and your copy of Miracle on 34th Street and see what a REAL holiday film looks like.

Revenge Honey Rating: All of the awful phone calls. Plus the rest. And some from last year. 

Sci-Fi Honey 2.0 Katie's Take on the Remake

We all have those beloved horror films that are near and dear to our hearts – you know, the ones we rage about online when we find out they’re being remade.  This was the case when I heard they were remaking Bob Clark’s 1974 perennial holiday horror classic, Black Christmas.  The original is suspenseful, eerie, and endowed with a wicked sense of humor; the 2006 remake, sometimes annoyingly referred to as Black XMas, is more obtuse and gratuitous, and in many ways wholly unnecessary.  The original film was such a trailblazer in setting the tone for the slasher sub-genre for decades to follow, and it holds up to this day.  The remake had a lot to live up to, and succeeds for me on only a couple different levels.  Here are some stray observations from revisiting the Black Christmas remake for this Horror Honey Holiday month:

What I liked…

X-Files Shoutout – the writer/director of this remake, Glen Morgan, was a producer on The X-Files, and wrote some of the series’ best episodes.  The baddie of this remake, Billy, is even given a jaundiced makeover – closely resembling one of The X-Files most memorable villains, Eugene Victor Tooms.

You're literally just interchangeable hair.
More Christmas Carnage – the original Black Christmas film, admittedly, didn’t have a whole lot to do with Christmas.  The holiday was little more than a plot contrivance to get all the sorority sisters trapped in a snowbound house, with uncertainty about which sister actually made it home for Christmas and which was dragged up to the attic for some murdering.  The remake goes all-out with the Christmas theme, having some of the girls die in Christmassy ways (ice skate, candy cane, icicle), as well as a killer who dons a Santa suit, and Christmas cookies made from human flesh.  If it’s holiday horror you want, this film has it in spades. 

Ummm... what?
What I didn’t like…

Overdoing the Ocular Assault – Seriously, what’s with all the eye-gouging/maiming in this film?  I counted at least half a dozen instances of eyes getting stabbed, poked, ripped out, and even eaten.  There’s no real “symbolic” reason for this to occur, it just does, repeatedly.  I’m not squeamish when it comes to eyes, I just like a bit of variety in how my slashers accomplish their slashing.

Giving the Killer a Sympathetic Backstory – this is my main pet peeve with reboots/remakes in general.  The 1970s had a couple of slasher flicks, Black Christmas and Halloween among them, that featured killers who killed for seemingly no reason –they’re just batshit crazy.  Fast forward a few decades, and each film has a remake (I’m looking at you, Rob Zombie), which goes into great detail about how said killers conjured up their murderous rage.  Broken/violent/incestuous homes always lead little children to grow up to become homicidal psychopaths, apparently – and the casualty of this storytelling technique is the fear of the unknown and unexplainable is completely gone.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: 1 Gouged Eyeball out of 5
Who HASN'T accidentally eaten an eyeball on Christmas Eve, amiright?
Supernatural Honey Kim's Remake Feels

The problem with remaking a beloved classic film is that people will inevitably compare it to the original. Black Christmas (1974) remains a staple for horror fans who need a little gore in their the Christmas season. As an early slasher, it set the stage for Halloween and Friday the 13th. Bob Clark, who would later go on to direct another classic, A Christmas Story, helmed the original, which was full of fantastic performances by Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Andrea Martin. Black Christmas (2006) was directed by Glen Morgan. No stranger to remakes, his directorial debut was the 2003 film Willard, based on the 1971 film of the same name. He should have learned his lesson there. The problem is not that Morgan remade a beloved classic; the problem is that he made a shitty movie.

Meet young Billy (Cainan Wiebe). Billy had a lousy childhood. He was born with a liver condition that caused severe jaundice, though the actor looks like they used highlighter to achieve this effect. Because of his unfortunate resemblance to a banana, Billy’s Mom (Karin Konoval) doesn’t love him. She also says mean things. While doing her best Joan Crawford impression, his mother glibly declares “Santa Claus is dead.” If that’s not bad enough, she decides to off Billy’s dad. Poor, poor Billy. Fast forward a few years and mom’s new boyfriend can’t get it up, so she rapes Billy. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby girl, Agnes. Little Agnes is everything Billy never was.

...And a hipster head on a locally sourced X-mas tree!
Fast forward a bit more and Agnes (Christina Crivici) is now eight. After spending years locked in the attic, Billy decides he’s had enough. He breaks out, kills his mother and her lover, and gouges out his sister’s eyes. His spree culminates with using her flesh to make Christmas cookies. Like one does, of course. Billy is sent away to maximum security crazy town, while Agnes is sent to an orphanage. 

Oh Andrea... You're better than this. YOU HAVE A TONY!
Fifteen years later, Billy’s childhood home is now owned by a sorority. The sorority sisters remaining at the house over Christmas engage in a gift exchange. Unbeknownst to them, a grown-up Billy (Robert Mann) quietly escapes from his mental hospital by jamming a candy cane into a guard’s throat, which I call shenanigans on. Listen, I’m not saying someone jabbing a sharpened candy cane into my throat would feel good, I’m just not convinced it would have killed me. Billy then takes out a visiting Santa and steals his outfit, while walking out with the actual Santa stuffed in the gift bag. Oh, did I mention that while he made his escape past multiple people, there was an arm sticking out of the gift bag? THERE WAS AN ARM STICKING OUT OF THE GIFT BAG. What is wrong with those security guards that NO ONE noticed? I digress.

Back at the sorority house, the girls, who mostly look like they left college behind several years ago, sit around being bitchy and clever about the Christmas holiday. Horror dialogue of the last 20 years has taken certain delight in becoming increasingly more glib and clever. This can work and result in some truly fun films or…it can result in Black Christmas, which is one of the worst examples of slashers trying to be witty.

See Yao's Ball Sack Photo Above

But back to the sorority house filled with “college students.” Girls start disappearing. Leigh (Kristen Cloke), the older sister of one of the girls arrives to find her sister. Bodies start piling up. Is it Billy? Is it his sister/daughter Agnes? Or could it be the weird creepy sorority sister Red Herring (not her actual name, the plot point is dropped so quickly it isn’t worth noting)?

Ding dong merrily on high, X-mas eyeballs are ringing!
It’s not just that Black Christmas (2006) is bad; it’s that it’s really, really bad. It’s bad in the way that someone who doesn’t have much exposure to horror thinks a horror film should go. Blood? Check! Eye gouges? Check, check, check! I’m not kidding, there are so many eye things in this movie. Stabbing through the eye, eyes gouged out, eyes eaten. Did they have a surplus they needed to get rid of? Mandatory eye quota? Drunk sorority sister, check! Slutty sorority sister, check! Cannibalism! Incest! Sex tapes! Horny Santa who will obviously die! Heavy-handed exposition! Morgan seemed to think if he took a little bit from every horror film he ever saw and added some water, instant horror film! I’m impressed there weren’t any sparkly vampires.

You do.
The most disappointing part is that Morgan had a good cast. Andrea Martin is not only a veteran actor, she was in the original version of the film. Michelle Trachtenberg is also no stranger to genre material. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has more than a handful of horror credits to her name, does fantastic work as Heather, one of the sorority sisters. These women did the best they could with a wretched script. It’s almost a shame to think what they could have done with even a mediocre one.

Feel your pain, girl.
Perhaps if more time had been spent on designing a cleaner story, there could have been hope of salvaging this film. The gore is not ridiculous enough to be funny, but too ridiculous to be scary. The dialogue wants to be witty but simply tries too hard, and falls flat. The story is convoluted and messy. Too much backstory, too much time spent with characters who don’t matter, and too much wasted time. The story was more bloated than the corpses the killer stuffs into the attic. It suffered, as many modern remakes do, by trying too hard to give motives to the killers. Part of what worked so well in the original was the fact that we knew almost nothing about the killer. The idea that someone could start stalking and killing your friends while you have no idea who they are or why they’re doing it is terrifying. The more we saw of Billy, the less scary and interesting he became.

Yeah, alright. Whatever makes you merry and bright.
There is no contest between this original and remake. In need of a Christmas horror fix? Stick with the original, and watch Black Christmas (1974). Say yes to sugar cookies, and no to flesh cookies…unless you’re Hannibal Lector, in which case you can have your flesh cookies, but still watch the original Black Christmas.

Supernatural Honey Rating: 2 glass unicorns out of 5