BLACK XMAS (2006)
HH CHRISTMAS HORROR CENTRAL
As you gentle & loyal followers of HH are hip to, Boss Papa Bacchus has guided us into a deliriously macabre state of mind relative to the Christmas holidays for 2014, as you could certainly fucking tell from the outrageous take we have adopted for this week & next.
I will, of course, get back to the FRIDAY THE 13TH series post-holidays. I am reviewing one of my favorite holiday horror films, aka BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006). This is not to be confused with the classic film, BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974), that enjoyed a 75% Critic’s Approval, & was a pioneer in both horror & holiday horror; directed by Bob Clark, written by Roy Moore, & starring Olivia Hussey, Kier Dullea, Margot Kidder, & Andrea Martin.
BLACK XMAS (2006) is not really a remake of the original film, even though it does credit Roy Moore for its inspiration, & Bob Clark was an executive producer on it; one of 16 producers.
Glen Morgan (hey, he had me at “Glen”) was the writer/director on this film.
He has only directed 2 films, this one & WILLARD (2003). He is known in the Biz primarily as a Producer, & often works with pal James Wong; who also is one of the producers on this movie.
Morgan has been a writer/producer on 22 films, including FINAL DESTINATION (2000), FINAL DESTINATION 3 (2006), THE ONE (2001), & the first season of the TV series X-FILES (1993). He is married to actress Kristin Cloke, who was cast in BLACK XMAS.
Taglines: This holiday season the slay ride begins.
Terror is coming home for the holidays.
This Christmas, He’ll treat them like family.
The musical score was composed by Shirley Walker. This was the last movie score she wrote, since she died in 2006. She had written 55 movie scores, one of my favorites being for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE II (1996), a film I was happy to review for HH–that starred the father of Bacchus, Adrian Sparks, one of my closest friends, who still recalls my truncated career as an actor.
Other films for her included GHOULIES (1984), BORN TO RIDE (1991), ESCAPE FROM LA (1996), SPAWN (1998) FINAL DESTINATION (2000), & WILLARD (2003). (No alert to the media, but I hope you see within my reviews how producers & directors, when they can, like to use people they already know, & have worked with before; trust & loyalty the watch words here).
The cinematography was done by Robert McLachlan, who has lensed 55 films since 1985,
including ELLEN’S STORY (1992), FINAL DESTINATION (2000), HIGH NOON-TVM (2000), THE ONE (2001), WILLARD (2003), DRAGON BALL: EVOLUTION (2009), & several episodes of GAME OF THRONES, & RAY DONOVAN.
BLACK XMAS (2006) is 84 minutes in length, 94 minutes in the uncut DVD I viewed. It was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It had 35+ uses of the Fuck epithet, and “shit” was popular verbiage for the characters. The budget was a fat 9 million dollars. It earned 16.2 million domestically, & 25.4 million internationally. The body count was 18.
BLACK XMAS BABE GALLERY:
Wow, thanks for the holiday mammaries, ladies; with a dozen female characters in the movie, we are having almost an embarrassment of titilicious riches, and all in Christ’s world we can do is enjoy the shit out of it.
First up, including the image above the header
is the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead
who played Heather.
Michelle Trachtenberg played Melissa.
Next up we have the buxom Lacey Chabert,
who played Dana.
Katie Cassidy was our protagonist, Kelli.
Then we have the director’s wife,
Kristin Cloke playing Leigh.
In fairness, the nude shots were probably Fake.
Crystal Lowe played Lauren,
Lovely Leela Savasta played Clair.
Jessica Harmon played Megan.
Alycia Purrott played the candy striper.
Opening shot–a very large old Victorian family residence that has been converted to the Delta Alpha Kappa sorority house; heavily decorated for Christmas; snow (fake) falling heavily.
Cut to a young couple making out in a car; Kelli & Kyle. She will not fuck him in the car, reminding him that they will spend the holiday together starting the next day, that evening being Christmas Eve, she wants to spend some time with her Sorority sisters before most of them head off home.
Cut to a lit window, & then inside one the rooms where Clair is watching a video of herself having sex with Kyle, a Vid gone viral.
Unhappy, pissed off, she then busies herself wrapping a present for her estranged sister, Leigh, struggling to write something meaningful on the card.
Suddenly Someone attacks her, pulling a plastic bag over her head, pulling her to the floor before stabbing her; her screams are muffled & not heard by others.
Roll the opening credits. Cut to the spacious living room, where a number of the female residents are drinking wine, talking,
& going through a stupid “secret Santa” opening of presents. The House Mother, Mrs. Mac, reminds them that someone pulled Billy’s name, who is the killer who used to live in the house; by getting him a present, this seems to appease the malevolent spirits–having been a sorority tradition for 15 years.
We are introduced to the girls, Megan, the spoiled Southerner–Lauren, the foul-mouthed babe with large tits who is drinking too much,–Kelli, the perky blonde, Dana, another buxom brunette seems to be a peace maker–Melissa, a quiet girl, & Eve, the awkward unattractive nerd that no one pals around with.
Mrs. Mac wants to begin the present opening, but the tradition is that Billy’s present must be opened first. Megan gets annoyed, saying it was all bull shit, & that she certainly was not going to buy a present for an insane killer.
Lauren, her roommate, gives her a ration of shit about it, so Megan says fuck y’all, & goes upstairs to pack so that she can leave early.
Eve gives a dorky gift to Kelli, says good-bye, & heads to her car.
Cut to Megan packing in her room.
Cut to the phone ringing downstairs. A husky man’s voice, stammers something about how now Clair is his family, & soon they will be next. The caller ID shows it to be Clair’s cell phone. This freaks the girls out, so they all rush upstairs to Clair’s room. She is indeed gone, but her car was still parked outside. Kelli states that things are getting fucking creepy. They go back downstairs.
Cut to a stranger, a middle-aged woman, standing in the living room. She introduces herself as Leigh, Clair’s sister, wondering where the hell she is. While she is being interrogated by Mrs. Mac, Cut back to Megan’s room, where she is still packing; but she begins to hear someone moving around in the attic. She goes out into the hall, walks to the attic ladder, & hears more noise. (this is the Girl, don’t go into the fucking attic scene).
She pays no attention to logic, or the audience’s concerns, & like a good character in any horror movie, she makes a poor decision, & climbs up into the attic. As she flips open the door, she sees a music box playing. Of course, this means she has
to crawl up into the attic, & she is fascinated with the stupid ballerina music box, & then sees that someone is sitting with their back to her in the rocking chair.
Megan turns the chair (yeah, pure Psycho moment), & sees that Clair is dead in the chair, with both her eyes cut out. Then Someone attacks her, puts a plastic bag over her head, & stabs her with a glass Christmas dagger.
Cut to the gals downstairs who now decide to come up en masse to check out Clair’s room. As they open a door, they find Kyle standing there; which causes several of them to scream. He calms them down.
Not finding Clair, most of the girls go back downstairs, but Kelli wants an explanation. Kyle claims he snuck in hoping to get some “special time” with Kelli; but she discovers the sex tape on the computer, & goes postal on Kyle, smacking him in the back all the way down the stairs.
Once there, Mrs. Mac & several others begin calling him an asshole & demanding he leave.
To his credit, he calls them stupid spoiled little bitches, & explains that he has lived in that town all his life, & that none of them fully understood that Billy & his family had actually lived in that house back in the day.
Cut to flashback, with the narration being done by Kyle. Little William Lenz was born with a severe jaundice secondary to a liver disease. His mother was, of course, a hateful person, who hated her decent war-hero husband, Frank, (there is a framed photo of him in a Marine uniform), & she hated her newborn yellow-skinned, yellow-eyed son.
By the time Billy is 5 years old, his dear mother has turned stone cold against him; only his caring father showed him some affection. The mother picked on him relentlessly.
One Christmas Eve, the verbal tirade grew so bad, the father told Billy to go to his room & stay there while he sorted things out. As Billy goes to his room, he hears the parents arguing loudly; then a third voice is heard. It seems that the Mom has been unfaithful, & her boyfriend had the stones to come over so that they could taunt Frank together.
Billy opens a broken section of plaster in the wall in his room, & scurries like a pack rat through the walls until he can peek into the living room where all the shouting is coming from. A fight breaks out, & the sound of a blunt instrument hitting someone’s head is heard. Billy sees his father crashing to the floor in a dead heap, a bloody claw hammer dropped alongside his head.
He hears them pulling his Dad’s body outside onto the porch. Then they pull it around to a latched swing section opening that allows them access to the crawl space under the house. Billy scurries some more, & finally
arrives at a peek hole where he spies his mother & her lover digging a hole for Frank’s body. But suddenly the mother sees Billy’s yellow eye in the peek hole.
Cut to seven years later. Billy has been kept a prisoner in the attic; has not been allowed to get out since that terrible night.
Cut to the mother fucking her new husband on the stairwell. She is giving him a peck of crap about being impotent, since he cannot seem to get her pregnant. The poor hen-pecked asshole goes limp on her bony ass, & she bursts into a furious rage.
She climbs up into the attic, where the 12 year old Billy is sitting in a rocking chair, listening to the histrionics. She stands in front of him.
She was only wearing a man’s shirt. We saw her naked earlier, & it was enough to make limp dicks of us all. She grabs his shoulder, & dives for his crotch, raping him; which she probably continued doing for weeks until she became pregnant.
Karin Konoval played the mother, & she really got into the character, all bony, never any make-up, potty-mouthed, chain-smoking alcoholic; a real part to remember from this film.
9 months later she gives birth to a little girl, which she named Agnes. That child too was jaundiced, but the mother treated her as a princess, spoiling her, giving her whatever she asked for as a child.
One Christmas Eve, when Agnes is 8, & Billy is 20, he attacks her, gouging out one of her eyes & eating it. Before gobbling it, he taunts his mother with it. The stepfather attempts to do something, but Billy dispatches him immediately. The mother goes into a mental breakdown, as does Agnes.
Billy, finally free of the attic, wraps the cord from some Christmas tree lights around his mother’s neck, choked her into unconsciousness, then dragged her into the kitchen. Agnes watched with her one extant eye as Billy took a rolling pin & struck Mama in the head with it about 15 times.
(we are treated to the sound of melons being beaten & bursting open). Then Billy methodically sliced some steaks off his mother’s butt & back, pulled out one of her cookie sheets, & fried up some motherfucker meat sticks.
When the cops came, he was just finishing some of the last bites of Mama bitch flank steak. Agnes survived, but was placed in a mental institution for many years after the incident. About 5 years before the present day, she escaped, & just disappeared.
Cut to the exterior of the Clark Sanitarium, the present, no narration.
An orderly wearing a Santa hat is coming down the hall, giving a Christmas Eve dinner to the ungrateful inmate patients; the ward being for the criminally insane. A pint of milk falls off his cart, jamming the door to the dangerous ward.
Suddenly there is some guy dressed as Santa behind the orderly. He is just an innocent slob looking for the children’s ward, but then he notices the name, William Edward Lenz on one of the cell doors.
An armed security guard sits outside at all times. The guard explains that Billy has been there for 15 years (the same number of years that Michael Myers spent before starting his killing sprees)–and that for every one of those years, on Christmas Eve, Billy had tried to escape. The phony Santa peeks into the cell & sees Billy sucking on a candy cane.
Santa is soon on his way. Suddenly, the shuttered slide opens & Billy sets out a small wrapped present for the guard. Apprehensive, but still curious, the guard opened it. I expected for him to find a fresh turd, but instead it was a piece of paper with the note; I’ll be home for Christmas scrawled on it.
You wish, Billy, you wish. The guard opened the slider, but he couldn’t see Billy anywhere in the cell. Panicked, he opened the cell door (this is the don’t go in the fucking cell scene). The lights are off inside the cell, so he uses his flashlight to look around (WTF: there would have been a light switch somewhere, shit).
He discovers that Billy had tunneled a hole low in the wall. As he bent over to check out the hole, we see that the blanket on the bed is hanging low on the front side, concealing something under the bed (come on, this is some pretty thin plot contrivances). Just when I thought the lameness could not be deepened, Billy crawled out from under the jail bunk, undetected, & attacked the guard, stabbing him in the juggler vein with the sucked-sharp candy cane (sure, sure, we can believe that shit, right?)
Cut to Billy walking out in the corridor, sneaking up behind the Santa guy; we see a blood spray on the wall.
Cut to Billy walking in the “clean” Santa suit, passing several guards & orderlies. Outside, now free, he tosses the heavy Santa sack in a dumpster; the first guard’s bloody arm & hand flops out. Billy, it seems is headed home.
Cut to Kyle refusing to leave until the mystery regarding Clair is cleared up, but the ladies run him off, for the moment. Suddenly Lauren gets very ill from drinking, & ralphs all over the coffee table. Melissa helps her up to her room, undresses her, & instructs her to take a shower;
which she does. A couple of pieces of the tile in the floor are loose, & we see a yellow eyeball doing a peeping Tom scene. We see Lauren showering nude but from the hole in the floor POV, so we only see the side of her left breast, with a peek of nipple, & from that angle her butt looks huge & distorted.
Melissa comes back to check on her, puts her to bed & instructs her to sleep it off.
Five minutes later the lights go off in the house, & they break out the flashlights
(but damn the electrician’s eyes, the rooms stay very well lit up with some mystery light source, & it seems ridiculous that they are all using flashlights; a common problem in many horror films, but one that always irritates the piss out of me; much like all those years on X-FILES where Scully & Muldar always were forced to search completely dark spaces with their tiny cop flashlights, never once finding a fucking light switch).
Dana steps outside on the porch to take a smoke, but it is so windy, rainy, & snowing she drops the cig into a butt hole in the porch; but wait a mo, she thinks she sees something in the hole; perhaps an eye ball. Angry, curious, she steps off the porch, & moves around to the side of it, where the latched open section is. (This is the don’t crawl under the fucking porch scene).
All she can make out with her trusty flashlight is old tires, other junk & shit under the house. The latch is unlocked so she flips it up & crawls under the porch. She had mentioned to Leigh earlier that the main breaker/fuse box was somewhere under the house; very convenient plotting, right?
Suddenly, Someone with long blond hair, wearing a Santa suit, grabs her legs. She screams, kicks, & fusses as she is pulled back into the dirt. Then she sees a gardening tool, picks it up, swings it around behind her & wounds the one assaulting her in the arm.
Unfortunately, the person pulls out the tool, & shoves it into the back of her head. She goes down like she was hit with a brick.
Cut to inside the house. The phone rings, & the caller ID says it is Dana, but the husky insane male voice says that Dana is now family, & they are next. They bundle up, & head outside to find out wassup.
Kelli & Leigh follow the footprints in the snow, finding the latch door locked, & blood spatter all over it. Melissa & Heather open Eve’s car door, & her decapitated head rolls out onto the snowy ground.
They all congregate inside, discussing that despite the severity of the storm, they should all get into Mrs. Mac’s station wagon, & head over to the police station. Kelli called 911, & was told there were numerous incidents related to the storm occupying the police, & it would take two hours for any cops to show up; regardless of the fact that Kelli told them people had been killed there. Mrs. Mac & Heather decide to take off, & drive for help. The others go upstairs where they can see them leave.
Cut to outside. Mrs. Mac struggles to get her driver’s door open, & has trouble getting the old heap to start. Heather is pounding on the window, looking over her shoulder. Mac gets the car started, lets Heather in, then hands her an ice scraper, which she does not recognize, coming from a home in the South. Mac cusses, & gets out & begins to chip away at the thick ice on the windshield.
Suddenly the car lurches, then Mac sees a yellow eyeball in the small scraped spot, followed by a burst of blood that covers the whole inside of the windshield. She backs up in shock & disbelief, bumps into the garage, dislodging an ice-cycle from the gutter, which plummets down, hitting her in the eye, exiting out the back of her skull (sure, I can buy that lame BS, right?).
OK, the killing spree gears are engaged now; look the fuck out, folks. Kelli & Leigh can see the car running, but no sign of Mac or Heather, so they go outside to investigate. Simultaneously, Melissa heads upstairs to check on Lauren, & she is attacked by Someone with long blond hair in a Santa suit, a plastic bag is pulled over her head, & as she is kicking slats out of the banister, she is stabbed in the back of the head.
Cut to Lauren sleeping in her room. Someone has their hands under her covers, stroking her body; half asleep, Lauren is kind of enjoying it, until she doesn’t. Awakening, Someone attacks her; fade to black.
Cut to Leigh & Kelli back in the house, panicked, seeing a dark shadow on the porch. Picking up a fireplace poker, Leigh swings open the front door. It is Kyle, protesting that he is not the killer, that there are two bodies out in the yard; no shit, the girl’s expressions say. The three of them go upstairs & find Lauren dead in her bed with her eyes cut out.
They hear something moving in the attic, & decide to investigate (this where we get the don’t go in the fucking attic, part II, scene).
Kyle, being the man, goes up the ladder first. Suddenly, the girls from below see he is being attacked as his body is dragged up into the attic.
The girls climb up to assist him, of course. As they arrive in the attic, they are just in time to see Kyle being stabbed in the head. Kelli recognizes that the killer is a woman, & realizes this was Agnes Lenz. Then they realize that she has erected a Christmas tree up there decorated with dead girl’s severed heads.
The tough idiotic girls close in on Agnes warily. Suddenly, Billy Lenz showed up & the Lenz siblings turn the tables on Kelli & Leigh. While tussling, some candles dropped to the floor, & a small fire began. Kelli found some paint thinner, soaked Billy with it, & dumped the rest on the now roaring flames; allowing the girls to escape, running out the door they hear Agnes & Billy screaming.
Cut to the obligatory Hospital epilogue scene. Cut to Leigh walking along a busy hallway, into Kelli’s room. Kelli is cut up worse than Leigh, so is being held overnight there. Leigh tells her that she had called her parents, who would be there in a few hours. Then Leigh, weeping, opens the present that Clair had given her. It was a nice watch, with the words Family Forever engraved on the back of the case.
Kelli is taken out of the room to get more X-rays. While waiting, staring at the now precious watch, a ceiling section opens up, & Agnes drops silently down to the floor; the she attacks Leigh, who is choked, slammed into the wall, & then has her neck broken.
Kelli returns later, gets into bed, & looks worried; where, after all, is Leigh? The nurse struggles with the door knob, fussing that needed to be fixed ASAP. Kelli feels something under her pillow, & finds the new watch, but it is covered with blood.
Freaked she jumps up, & can’t open the door (this is you’re trapped in a room because the fucking door is locked scene). Kelli hits the emergency call button several times.
Cut to the nurse’s station where carolers are distracting the staff, & no one notices the emergency light blinking madly.
Cut back to Room 301: Kelli sees the ceiling section moving. She also sees that she has a defibrillator in the room. She rushes over to it, flips on the switch, & watches it power up. Right then Agnes attacks her, but little blond cutie Kelli is ready for her, whirling around, knocking Agnes to the floor, & shoving the two fully charged paddles onto her face; frying her brain & probably blinding her one good eye.
Suddenly Billy appears, dropping down out of the ceiling. Kelli managed to finally get the door open, & ran out, with Billy hot on her heels.
She is screaming, he is growling, sporting fresh burn scars on him, but no one seems to take notice.
They are on the third floor. Billy catches up to her by the stairwell. But Kelli is enraged, & she charges him, knocking him over the stair railing, & he falls the three floors, landing impaled on the top of a Christmas tree, killing him. (Fuck me, I don’t care if it is the giant fir from the White House lawn, a man falling three stories would have broken the boughs, crushed the Christmas star, & the damn tree probably would have broken his fall–but no, in this movie, the tinsel star pierced his dark heart, finally slaying the evil).
Camera pans over the rail to show Billy impaled three floors below, & lingers on Kelli looking down on the end of her nightmare.
Roll the end credits.
ROTTEN TOMATOES rated the film at 14% Critic’s Approval, with 86% negative reviews, & 38% Audience Approval.
Jim Ridley of THE VILLAGE VOICE wrote: “Black Christmas lacks the timing & visual wit to make its splattery EC Comics gags scary or funny.”
Michael Rechtshaffen of THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER wrote: “As Yuletide counter-programming goes, this one is one smelly lump of coal.”
Peter Howell of THE TORONTO STAR wrote: “Creativity is a stranger to this sick excuse for entertainment, which pounds a ridiculous back story into a butchered rehash that includes incest, cannibalism, eyeball gouging & impossibly dumb plot contrivances.” He, Pete Dog, you say all that like it’s a bad thing, dude.
J.R. Jones of THE CHICAGO READER wrote: “Differing a lot from the 1974 film, it also exchanges the taunt police subplot that gave the earlier film its steady pace for a lot of pointless back story about the mother-fixated stalker.”
Anton Bitel of FILM4 wrote: “This BC re-imagining showcases with encyclopedic relish just about every slasher convention & variation that has evolved over the last 30 or so years since the original BLACK CHRISTMAS screened.”
Nick Schager of SLANT MAGAZINE wrote: “Glen Morgan’s update of Bob Clark’s 1974 slasher flick BC is an exemplar of how to screw up a modern horror remake.”
Lacey Chabert, of the superb rack, injured her leg of the first day of shooting; all the girls did their own stunts. The shoot last 29 days.
Andrea Martin, who starred in BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974), said that the offer to play the house mother in this film “just came out of the blue, after 32 years; I love it.” Morgan offered the part first to Margot Kidder, who also was in the original film. This was Crystal Lowe’s first starring role, so since she had a nude scene to do, I think she must be a real trouper.
A nice aside to the six degrees of Bob Clark, in one scene, the sharp-eyed viewer can see the famous “Leg Lamp” from A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983), also directed by Bob Clark. Also the mental hospital in the movie was called the Clark Sanitarium. The Special Features showed that Bob Clark was on the set a lot, as producer & advisor. The leg-lamp prop used in A CHRISTMAS STORY was actually owned by Glen Morgan.
Camilla Belle & Amber Tamblyn were both considered for the role of Heather– showing that the producers were determined to make a Babe-Heavy film. They certainly succeeded aping the modus used on the FINAL DESTINATION shoots that Morgan produced with almost all the same crew. The insane sister, Agnes, was played by crew member, Dean Friss, who already had the long blond hair. Agnes was supposed to be kind of masculine according to the script. Of course, since we did not identify her as a character until late in the film, we were supposed to believe Billy was doing all the killing, & in reality, he did not get in on the mayhem until the last reel. Morgan, rightfully felt that most slasher movies allow their killer to be too many places at once, or too quickly; something I have moaned about over several reviews, & for this one we had two killers so the logic was finer tuned.
The IMDb rated the film at 4.5 stars out of 10. I think that unlike a lot of the other horror films that quickly spawned a lot of sequels, this one waited over 30 years before it became a reboot/redeux, & for the most part, I think they did an excellent job with it. Morgan admits to being a bit squeamish about too much gore or nudity, but the effects, & the sexy cast kept my interest. I rate this movie at 8 stars out of the 10 HH stars. It is certainly better thought out & executed than most slasher films; not quite up to the Rob Zombie bar of excellence, but close to it.