January 1, 2007
By James "Bo" Gorcesky
Less Is More - or, More or Less, I thought Black Christmas was an African-American title for a porno
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What a great way to spend the Christmas break than to see a small group of young sorority girls getting hacked to pieces. It was nice to hear that there was still a point in ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com
My girlfriend and I got to see this film, I was initially a little hesitant about it – but then when I found it was a slasher film involving young girls getting hacked up and it is actually a remake of a classic horror film from 1974 under the same name – I knew we had to check it out. What I come to find out was, Less Is More is the number one element the film makers should have used from the original version of this film.
When I got to see this film and then do a little research on the original – I now understand why Hollywood wanted to remake this movie. First off, it is a great little scary movie to squeeze in during the Christmas Holiday season. Second, certain horror fans consider the original Black Christmas one of the earliest slasher films. It is all too easy to say it was all about John Carpenter's Halloween, but this film actually pre-dates it by four years. Third, young girls Kristen Cloke , Mary Elizabeth Winstead , Michelle Trachtenberg and Katie Cassidy in Weinstein Company's Black Christmasdie in unique ways that involve an overall Christmas theme. Eventually after comparing the two films – I truly began to see how much I felt let down about the new remake.
If you have been reading a lot of my other movie reviews, it has become quite noticeable about how skeptical I am about checking out remakes – only to love them afterwards. I have been quite pleased with the remakes for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and The Omen (and who knows what The Hitcher will bring) but BLACK CHRISTMAS' REMAKE WAS A LET DOWN.
Well, please allow me to retort. The film is primarily darkly lit and it is a bit of a mystery initially to find out who is killing innocent sorority girls at a house and why. Through the killings we are interspersed with flashbacks on the origin of the film's main serial killer Billy Zane.
The Legend of Billy: Billy had a rare liver disease that turned him yellow, when he was about eight or so, his mother and her boyfriend killed Billy's dad by placing a bag over his head and bashing him with a crow bar. Billy snooped around various little crawlspaces and nooks and crannies of the house to discover his mother and the boyfriend were burying daddy dearest under the steps. (If you have ever seen Stand By Me, you'll recall the scene of Verne digging up his money underneath the steps). Mommy and the Boyfriend see Billy, and chase him around the house until he crawls up to the attic where Mom locks him up. Mom frequently re-iterates at this point in the movie she hates Billy because she hates the father. She proves this hatred and disgust by keeping Billy locked up in the attic for the next fifteen years or so.
Fast forward a few years later, Mommy and Boyfriend are screwing one another on the steps. Boyfriend can't rise to the occasion so Mom looks around the house for any other dick she can get her hands on. She wanders up to the attic and seduces and screws her young teenage son. Nine months later, Mommy gives birth to Agnes – Tommy's sister/daughter. Mommy looks up to the attic and says "She's in my family now." Which to me, is seeing, "I have a true family right now, the old one is dead and gone to me, although I just fucked my son to create this thing – unknowns to my current boyfriend. But we will continue to keep the family secret locked up in the attic."
Everything seems nice and peaceful up to eight years after that. The next Christmas scene, Mommy gets Billy a telescope to spy on the next door neighbors and see what else is out there in the world. He doesn't take too kind to it, and decides to sneak downstairs to spend time with his true family. Then add in a major hint to some foreshadowing when Mommy pinches little Agnes' cheeks and says, "you're my little cookie and I could GOBBLE you all up."
Instead, Billy attacks Agnes by putting a bag over her head, ripping out one of her eyes and eating it. Then the Boyfriend comes to the rescue, but Billy ends up ramming a pointed Christmas ornament through his head and pushing his eye ball through the back of his head. Then Billy attacks his mother, beats her to death with a rolling pin, presses cookie cutters against her flesh and bakes some Christmas shaped chunks of flesh and dips them in milk until the police arrive. Billy is incarcerated in a mental institution for years, attempting to break out every Christmas for "the night he came home." Agnes was hospitalized, schlepped to orphanages to years and would eventually end up in a mental institution herself until she escapes and ends up back in her house which starts the picture off at its current time.
With that interesting back story, my mind began to wander throughout the various murdering of the female victims in the film. The remainder of the plot, in true Slasher fashion, is one victim after the other is picked off in interesting ways. The murders take place within this sorority house, which was the former Zane estate, and Billy is apparently upset that there are other people besides his family in his house on Christmas. When he sees them there, my interpretation is that he sees outsiders and wants to make them part of "his family." Since he was treated so badly as a child, he ends up mutilating his victims to resonate the pain he felt by being an outsider. The only form of love that he knows is pain, and I think in the case of Billy Zane, he thinks that pain is synonymous with love.
The girls are murdered, they're trapped, and they're picked off – for the most part SO MANY VICTIMS IN THIS FILM LOSE THEIR EYEBALLS! Let me try and take a tally of the following victims that had eyeball related injuries/fatalities: 1)Boyfriend has a Christmas ornament shoved through his head and an eyeball gets shoved through the back 2) Agnes has her eyeball ripped out and eaten by Billy 3)the first sorority girl gets her eyeball ripped out 4)the second girl gets it taken out – in fact many of the victims Crystal Lowe , Andrea Martin , Lacy Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michelle Trachtenberg in Weinstein Company's Black Christmasinvolve having their eyeballs injured – even Andrea Martin, who played Phyllis in the first film, now returns as Ms. Mac, ends up getting an icicle jammed through her head that falls off of the roof. Towards the end of the film, there is a Christmas tree that is covered with dangling eyeballs as little ornaments. Whatever victims that didn't have their eyes taken out initially, showcase their oral cavities at the end of the film as all of the corpses are gathered around as a "my family," moment and all of them are missing their eyes.
I tried to think about this little visual reoccurring eyeball theme that happens in the film, the best thing that I could account for and why it had happened over and over again could be the point that you only see Billy's little beady yellow eye poking out through the cracks of the house – within the holes in the walls and the cracks and the crawls spaces. Perhaps Billy takes the eyes of the victims as some weird connection, I can see you – but you can't see me. They say eyes are the mirrors to the soul – what if they are soul less? But to truly get into the mind of these killers, you have to take a rather lengthy suspension into disbelief.
The film is riddled with plot holes and leaving things unexplained. Putting waaaay too many things out in the open, whereas the original shrouded most of the film in secrecy and worriment of the unknown (in fact, you don't even see the killer in the original.) For example, there is some random little sub plot about Kyle and his girlfriend involving him recording his sexual exploits. WHICH style="mso-spacerun: yes" a you with house. You really don't know why Agnes kills with Billy, who she herself had her eyeball ripped out by Billy. In fact, why would all of a sudden would they want to come back to the house for some reason. Finally my big thing is what and why are they eating people – especially their eyeballs. I mean, I'm a huge fan of horror and gore – but just saying that someone is "psychotic" and why they're going to eat flesh, is a pretty big freaking leap.
The film is only Glen Morgan's second feature that he has directed aside from Willard. That direction inexperience can be seen in the performance on a lot of the actresses who are all scream and less expression. The editing tends to flip flop as well, I think the film could have been much smoother if you showed me the entire story of Billy and Agnes' origin and then go into the murders of the sorority house. Finally the major thing that I felt that became a down point is that this is a remake of a culty horror film, but it's essential elements of terror and plot points within the slasher genre have become so clichéd over the years. The whole scary thing with a mysterious harassing voice over the phone was overkilled in the film Scream, which also subsequently killed the entire Slasher genre whereas no one could take a Slasher film seriously film afterwards. Also the big revealing factor of the typical message, "we traced the phone – and it's coming from WITHIN THE HOUSE" has been done countless times whether in parody or a satirical look at the genre – who the Hell should care about anything in this film when the terror has been imitated and mocked by everyone in the industry thus far including such films as Club Dredd and The Scary Movie franchise.
Overall, if you're looking for some fun cheap gore that you can laugh at – go for checking out this movie. There is a gratuitous nude scene in the shower and another one when you see Mommy dearest banging her boyfriend on the steps. As far as the original goes, I am very curious as to see how the original was done and I would more than likely recommend that over this one. This way, we can all know and understand – why the original deserved a remake – even though it was a shitty one.