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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) is an unfairly underrated holiday-horror schlockfest

(or: Why Glen Morgan's reviled remake is worth widespread critical reevaluation... but more specifically, the Unrated Cut)

By Jack Anderson KeanePublished 5 months ago ā€¢ 5 min read
Top Story - December 2023
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With horror films, how often do we not know how good we once had it until it's way too late, and we can only appreciate something's greater value upon reevaluation, and unflattering comparison to the lesser alternatives we have in the present?

Back in the mid-to-late 2000's, films like Glen Morgan's remake of Black Christmas looked like cheap, soulless, cynical, unnecessary, forgettable drivel, with no redeeming qualities to be expected of it, therefore nobody would recommend it.

Certainly I had never heard any defences of Black Christmas (2006) in the close to two full decades since it came and went from theatres onto home video. That is, until the year of our lord 2022, when suddenly I saw a video from Chris Stuckmann that declared the film doesn't deserve the hate that it gets... and soon after that, the floodgates open up, and I start seeing Letterboxd reviews regaling readers with reasons why the film doesn't actually suck at all... and thus, I got curious.

On Twitter, I have often seen these random threads appear on my timeline from people talking about an assortment of movies from the 2000's that were under-loved, and sometimes underwhelming, but which nonetheless had an edge over many mainstream films churned out by the Hollywood machine nowadays: these older movies looked good, and had a palpable care and craft visible to them that we don't see as often in today's post-Netflix, post-Marvel age, where most everything is digital, washed-out, flat, basic, insert-tab-A-into-slot-B filmmaking of the lowest common denominator. Whatever the case may be - whether perhaps because of the transition to digital cameras away from 35mm film being the previous standard, or perhaps because of some amorphously definable decline in time or money or general filmmaking skill or resources - as these threads have often pointed out, even the most milquetoast, unoriginal romantic dramas or comedies from just 15 to 20 years ago had more vibrant imagery, and interesting shot compositions, than many multi-hundred-million dollar blockbusters bother to have in the present. (The seemingly sudden upsurge in love that people have for split diopter shots now is wild to me.)

All this to say that Black Christmas (2006) is an immaculately directed slice of delightfully campy, outrageously gory and gruesome horror schlock, making an almost complete 180 degree turn from Bob Clark's original film's tone of desolate despair and gut-churning dread rooted in gritty reality, to a hyper-stylised Grand Guignol bloodbath of gloriously trashy abandon and excess, but which is still crafted with consummate skill, love, and joy for the genre.

Equivalently, this is like the change in tone and style between Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, or the change in tone and style between the original Town That Dreaded Sundown and its remake from the makers of American Horror Story (which itself is a good analogue for describing the way Black Christmas '06 looks and feels, but without AHS's worst qualities).

With Glen Morgan at the helm, you can absolutely tell that this film was the work of someone who worked on the Final Destination series. Outside of the obvious shared hallmarks of boasting a boisterous score from the late Shirley Walker, cinematography from Robert McLachlan, and even a cast member from that series in the form of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (a.k.a. everybody's forever-crush), the biggest calling card of Morgan's Final Destination bonafides bleeding over into Black Christmas is the way in which he is dedicated to an obsessive attention to detail.

Nearly every scene, and every set, is an opportunity for the omniscient camera to rove around and explore the surroundings closer than the characters ever will, Hitchcockian dramatic irony abounding relentlessly from the countless insert shots of extreme closeups of pertinent props and pieces of production design, the audience's focus drawn to poring over every little possible source of danger in every nook and cranny, and every possible link in a chain of causality that could possibly lead to a death that results from a cascade of snowballing accidents, or intentional pileups of maliciously placed causes of grievous bodily harm.

Basically, as soon as you see the opening scene's inclusion of an orderly's trolley rocking a milk carton onto the floor, which then jams open the door to the ward of the asylum the orderly works in, the door squeezing open the carton so the milk bursts out onto the floor... you can surely tell that this would definitely be the setup to one of Death's elaborate "accidents" in a Final Destination movie.

And then the rest of the film is peppered with moments just like that!

It's so much fun to witness so much effort being put into a gorefest B-movie for your entertainment, and because the filmmakers went so hard when they didn't have to, but they did it anyway, because they love what they do.

Black Christmas '06 is a blend of the dynamic camerawork and suspense of Hitchcock, the same plus the pulpy sordid bonkersness of De Palma, the vibrantly coloured giallo excesses of Argento, the proclivity for abundant eyeball trauma of Fulci, and the mordant blood-soaked wit of Raimi.

It's not perfect, of course, what with all the multiple endings and multiple cuts circulating around (the R-rated theatrical cut, the unrated cut, the European cut, etc) that are indicative of its troubled production thanks to the goddamn Weinstein brothers. And if the killer's backstory was to be gratuitously filled in so as to remove the original film's mystery of who they were, why they were the way they were, and even what their name truly was, I do wish they would've kept at least Billy's appearance more shrouded in shadow and menace, so that you couldn't ever quite see him properly. (Then again, if I can find it within myself to forgive Rob Zombie's Halloween II for not keeping Michael Myers' face always enshrouded in darkness, because I could see a point to it that I was willing to get behind, then I can forgive this film, too.)

But all in all, Black Christmas '06 was a pleasant surprise for me in the holiday season of 2022. So much so, that the following year, I tracked down a copy of the rarified 3-disc German Blu-ray release of the film, which - as of the time of writing - is still the only Blu-ray release of the Unrated Cut to have materialised anywhere in the world.

We can only hope that one of those film restoration companies/premium home video distributors of cult classics and obscure horror movies (i.e. Arrow Video, 101 Films, 88 Films, Powerhouse Indicator, Vinegar Syndrome, and the like) will eventually get the rights to reprint the film on a more widely available Blu-ray set, so that more people can see what they've been missing out on. Especially here in the UK, where the only theatrical and DVD release we ever got was of the butchered, truncated 80-something minute European Cut, which is objectively the worst version of the film.

All this to say:

We used to think they didn't make them like they used to, but now we can see that in this case, they did make them like they used to, and they did such a great job of it, that we now see this as the standard to which they don't make them anymore.

Oh, the irony.

And here I was, having wrongly thought for years that the original - and still best - Black Christmas (1974) had two bad remakes to its name, when as a matter of fact, it really only has one... and it's demonstrably not the 2006 version... oh god no, not by a long shot...

movie review
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About the Creator

Jack Anderson Keane

An idiot pretending not to be an idiot.

You can also find me on Twitter (for memes), Instagram (for the pictures), Letterboxd (for film reviews), Medium (for a Vocal alternative), Goodreads (for book reviews), and Spotify (for my music).

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  • Bobby Brown5 months ago

    also check this out https://vocal.media/stories/the-hunted-mansion juicy one

  • Vinitha Naik5 months ago

    I agree with everything you said. keep killing it. I post horror stories too and would love to get your insights on this one. https://vocal.media/horror/the-shadows-of-crestwood-unveiling-the-darkness thanks :)

  • Kendall Defoe 5 months ago

    Good article...but the original is better. šŸ«”

  • Alex5 months ago

    good

  • Danielle Mosley5 months ago

    Well done. Keep up the good work. Here's mine. https://vocal.media/authors/danielle-mosley-rrf0n40ghs

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