Does 1974’s Black Christmas need another remake?


Every true horror fan has surely seen the 1974 classic horror movie Black Christmas, right? After all, it’s pretty much widely accepted as the film that ushered in the “slasher” sub-genre.

I have a very emotional connection with Black Christmas, I saw it for the first time in theaters at the tender age of 11 with my sister and my Uncle Ronnie. At the time, it was titled Silent Night, Evil Night, but it’s the film that first made me realize that I loved horror. Despite having seen many other horror movies at a young age, Black Christmas is the one that made the deepest impression.

The image that lived in my brain forever is that of Clare, Billy’s first victim in the sorority house. Her dead body sits in a rocking chair facing the attic window, her face still covered with the plastic bag that killed her, and the chair is rocking. It’s a chilling scene, and all these years later, it still affects me.

Obviously, Black Christmas affected many others as well, it’s still popular and almost everyone is at least familiar with the title. It was certainly popular enough to warrant a remake in 2006 (Black Xmas), and Blumhouse Productions recently announced that yet another remake will be released in December of this year.

The question is: Am I excited about the remake? As a Facebook relationship status would say, it’s complicated. I was very excited about the first remake, but while there were parts of it I appreciated, it was a disappointment overall. In the original version, we knew next to nothing about Billy, and that’s what made him so damned scary.

Black Christmas 1974 – Courtesy Film Funding Ltd of Canada

In one of the most terrifying scenes, we see his eye as he hides from one of the girls in the house. We hear his vicious, rage-filled phone calls, and we view the murders from his point of view. But, we never know why he has chosen to hide out in this particular place, or why he might want to kill these young women.

Black Xmas gave us Billy’s past in graphic detail, including his mother seducing him, and Billy making Christmas cookies from the flesh on her back. While “Agnes” is vaguely referred to in the original film, in the remake, she is his sister (and possibly his daughter as well).

While it’s entertaining, the main thing the back story does is to render Billy less frightening. To paraphrase Stephen King: When you don’t see the monster, you conjure up the worst thing possible. But, once you have seen it, it’s not as scary.

While Black Christmas featured little to no blood, despite its violent murders, the gore count was very high in the remake. In addition to the aforementioned grossest cookies ever, there were nasty incidents involving eyeballs, and the ending featured a death-by-Christmas-tree skewering.

Black Xmas – Courtesy Dimension Films

The larger problem I had with the remake was the adult Agnes, who was clearly played by a man (even though there was nothing at all in the story that acknowledged it). There was no reason for this character decision, it just detracted from the story and puzzled me.

All of which brings us to the upcoming second remake. The plotline sounds similar, except that, according to Blumhouse, “…the killer is about to discover that this generation’s young women aren’t willing to become hapless victims as they mount a fight to the finish.”

I’m not sure how to feel about this. I mean, as a woman in the current #metoo climate, I should be cheering at the thought of potential victims fighting back, right? But instead, I am sighing and hoping that the dark, brutal, no-happy-ending movie I love so much isn’t going to become a pseudo-comedy that wants to make people cheer instead of shriek.

Black Christmas – Courtesy Blumhouse Productions

This seems like a really fast turnaround time too; the movie is currently filming, but will be released in five months? That doesn’t indicate a high-quality production to me. It’s been announced that Imogen Poots (Green Room) and Cary Elwes (Saw) are starring in Black Christmas, so that’s good.

My final thoughts on all of this mostly involve the current influx of remakes. Now, there have been some fine remakes in the past. Dawn of the Dead  and Last House on the Left (ridiculous microwave-involved ending not included) come to mind, both were true enough to their source material, yet also added something new to the mix.

Black Christmas – Courtesy Film Funding Ltd of Canada

But, the majority of remakes are just not needed. The remake of Psycho was a prime example of what not to do; it was pretty much a scene-for-scene copy, so what was the point?

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Is there an actor alive who could improve on Anthony Perkins’ ground-breaking portrayal of Norman Bates? Nope.

Are you a fan of the original Black Christmas and/or its remake? What are your thoughts about the second remake? Let me know in the comments section.