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Black Xmas (Glen Morgan, 2006)

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Posted 4th May 2009 at 11:53 AM by cloud

The 1974 Black Christmas was a hugely important film for horror cinema, with its bleak forboding atmosphere, unseen assassin, grisly kills and knockout of an ending it set a high standard for other slasher films to follow. I first saw the original on Christmas Eve 2000 and it made a huge impact on me after waiting years before then to finally see it. The video was seemingly unavailable whenever I searched for it and I was curious to see a film with such a bizarre title as that. Of course when I did see it I wasn't disappointed and while it's only scary on its first viewing it still holds up to repeat viewings simply because of how well it was made.

Fast forward 32 years from when the original was made we got a remake (much to the dismay of a lot of the original's fans) that wisely chose to go down a different path altogether and personally I was quite happy with that. In my opinion the remake of When A Stranger Calls blew away the original because it was the first 15 minutes extended to a full 90 minutes and with a few new twists and turns it made for a really tense experience. But much like with Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween, it was never going to be a wise idea to try and copy the original Black Xmas' style too much, both that and Halloween are considered to be classics for a very good reason after all.

The synopsis is simple, like the original it takes place in a big house which was previously owned by a slightly dysfunctional family who had more than a few axes to grind. The son finally snapped and killed off his parents while seriously injuring his sister/daughter and decided to eat up the evidence. After being locked up in a local asylum for years he manages to escape on Xmas Eve and heads back to his previous residence to terrorise and kill the present tenants.

Unlike the original the character development is kept to a bare minimum, there is absolutely no subtlety whatsoever, the pacing is lightning fast, it has a brisk 75 minute runtime and it's full of splatter and quirks. The house for example is full of secret passages and when someone is killed there's barely a struggle, merely just a quick catch and a lot of splatter. The director - who previously helmed the excellent 2003 Willard remake - used every bit of trickery displayed on his previous film and it suited this film brilliantly with its dreamlike visual qualities. But while I'm praising its strengths I will say that it wasn't without its faults as it missed many chances to provide a good scare and it came apart slightly at the end when the twist was revealed. It was very overdone and to be honest looked too much like a fairytale and for that it loses points. It also didn't help that they couldn't decide how to end the film, a big part of the original's appeal is that ending and here they filmed something similar that to its credit worked very well. But, there are three other endings (all on the DVD) that don't work so well and really the hospital sequences were piss poor. It's a pity because the last 10 minutes really did spoil what was otherwise a very entertaining picture.

It's not a film to be taken all too seriously and its oddball approach already has commanded a love or hate response, but I enjoyed this one a lot and can heartily recommend it. Give it a go and may all of your Christmases be black.

3.5/5.

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  1. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    I liked this quite a bit on first viewing.
    We'll see how well it holds up when I'm going through my christmas slashers later this year right in time for Santa's arrival.

    I wonder what happened with the announced "Silent Night, Deadly Night" remake though.

    Yes, this wasn't exactely embraced by the traditionalists, but apart from the devoted "remake hater" fraction, there's reasonable fun to be had for everybody else with this "Black X-mas".
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    Posted 4th May 2009 at 12:45 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
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