Black Christmas (1974) AND (2006)

black christmasFriday the 13th is always a fun time of the year for me. I always make an effort to set aside special time for a mini, horror movie marathon. This year, since Friday the 13th fell on December, I watched Black Christmas – both the original version and the remake- back to back, for the first time ever. These two movies are definitely on the tip-top of my favorite holiday horror movie list. It’s hard to review Black Christmas without comparing both movies, so it is only natural to write a dual review on both films together.

I think a lot of people may disagree, but I think the remake is a better film. But, wait! Don’t get pissed and stop reading now. I barely have anything bad to say about the original version. If this were a review solely on that, it would be a good review. But I need to talk about both films and why I think the remake is the winner- only by a small margin, though. I promise.

black-xmas-michelle-trachtenbergTonight, I actually started with the 2006 movie. I usually watch this one every holiday season. It’s the Christmas tale of a sorority house filled with beautiful girls who are being terrorized by obscene phone calls that escalates into a full blown murder massacre. It’s hard to go wrong with a premise like that. Both films follow this foundation for the overall plot, but the new version takes this original story and brings it to new life by creating an elaborate back story for Billy- the psycho living in the attic of the sorority house.

black christmas 2006 gifThis back story is actually my favorite part of the film. It is so foul and nasty that it is hard to look away. Young Billy, who has a liver disease, is treated horribly and locked in the attic by his revolting and mentally disturbed, alcoholic mother. Billy witnesses his mother killing his father so she can be with her new lover. When she realizes her new lover is impotent, she has incestuous sex with her son, Billy, resulting in the bearing of their daughter, Agnes. One Christmas, Billy escapes from the attic and gouges our Agnes’ eye and eats it. The mother and lover panic at the treatment of their little princess Agnes and try to fight back. But Billy kills the lover by stabbing an ornament through his eye and bludgeoning his mother with a rolling pin. He then makes Christmas-shaped “skin” cookies and is taken to a mental institution. Many years later he escapes the institution and returns to his home, now being run as a sorority house.  These scenes are so wonderfully uncomfortable and filthy.

tumblr_meo7k6l7kO1qj7u8ao3_250In the original movie, we have no idea who Billy and Agnes are. The sorority girls receive continually threatening phone calls- beginning with moaning and sexually suggestive, dirty remarks escalating into what sounds like multiple voices wailing about Billy and Agnes. The shocker in the first film is discovering that the calls are coming from inside the house! – a classic urban legend story line. But who are Billy and Agnes? No insight is given at all on these characters. This is the biggest problem I have with the original film. The new movie takes the old version (which is now heralded as one of the first slasher films to inspire classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th) and fleshes out the slow-paced script and gives a resolution to questions unanswered in the first film.

margot kidder black christmasI will admit that the characters in the original are much more developed than the latter version. Margot Kidder (who is also recognized in her role in The Amityville Horror a couple years later) plays Barb- a firecracker of a character who is brash and bold. There is a lot of humor in this and it is such a memorable role. Another hilarious character is that of the drunken sorority house mom. Main character, Jess, discovers she is pregnant and tells her boyfriend, Peter, that she wants an abortion. Peter seriously disagrees which gives him good motive as a main suspect. Peter is actually wrongly accused of being the killer at the end of the film, until the final scene revealing Billy in the attic to the audience. The sorority girls in the new version are very ill-advised and under-developed compared to the original.

There are a few good kills in the original, but it is nothing compared to the gruesome death scenes in the remake. There are so many disturbing scenes of plucking, eating, and stabbing eyeballs with some instances of cannibalism and decapitation thrown in as well. Billy has a serious, sick fetish for eyeballs. I’m not sure of the significance for that, but I like it.

Black ChristmasAll along in the remake, we believe that Billy is working alone. But, in fact, Agnes is along for the murderous ride. This creates for a very good Friday the 13th tie-in. In the Friday the 13th movie, Jason’s mother is unveiled as the killer. Not Jason.  Same for Black Christmas, we are lead to believe it is a different killer all along. The original is absolutely great and a cult classic, but the remake is true, blood-splattering slasher at its finest.

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Black Christmas (1974) on IMDb

Black Christmas (2006) on IMDb

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