‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, one creature was stirring, and boy, what a louse! Replacing St. Nick with St. Gouge, “Black Christmas” sics an escaped lunatic on a houseful of snowbound sorority girls. Remaking Bob Clark’s brutally efficient 1974 original, writer-director Glen Morgan opts for gory Grand Guignol, never missing the chance to fill the screen with season-appropriate red.
In the “Final Destination” series, Morgan transformed the everyday stuff of teenagers’ lives into an elaborate machinery of death. Here, he pulls the same trick with Christmas lights and ice skates, not to mention finding a new, and entirely disgusting, use for cookie cutters.
As in the original, the sorority sisters are menaced by a series of threatening phone calls, picked off one at a time by a killer who uses their attic as a home base. (The remake also shares with the 1974 version the presence of Andrea Martin, now promoted to house mother, and the incongruous “aboots” of a few Canadian cast members.)
But where the original’s killer was unseen, indicated by the presence of a roving camera and a few shadowed close-ups, Morgan gives his psycho a fully fleshed-out back story, flashing back to his traumatic childhood 30 years previous.
That’s more than can be said for most of his victims, who barely have time to register before they’re wrapped in plastic and hauled through a trap door in the ceiling. That last thing you should be thinking when the ever-dwindling pool of survivors start shouting their vanished sisters’ names is, “Wait, which one was Megan?”
Ever the masters at profiting from controversy, Bob and Harvey Weinstein have drawn the ire of Catholic groups by releasing “Black Christmas” on Christmas Day.
But cultural conservatives have nothing to worry about: There’s nary a manger scene in sight, and one girl even goes so far as to point out how the holiday has strayed from its Christian roots.
Besides, like an ugly tie or a pair of slipper socks, “Black Christmas” is destined to be forgotten the instant it’s unwrapped, gathering dust until the season rolls around again.
“Black Christmas.” MPAA rating: R for strong horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and language. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. In general release.