Black Christmas (2006)
Constance Lenz (Karin Konoval) always wanted a child, but Billy’s birth wasn’t the joyous phenomenon she was hoping for. Born with a rare liver disease and bright yellow skin, Billy is subjected to years of cruelty and harsh taunts from his mother, and Constance won’t give up on her dream of having the perfect child. Constance murders Billy’s father with help from her boyfriend, and when Agnes is born, Constance locks Billy in the attic.
Billy eventually escapes from the attic on Christmas Day in 1991. Billy attacks and wounds Agnes, kills Constance and her boyfriend, and Billy is sent to an insane asylum.
Fifteen years later, Billy escapes from the asylum with plans to return to his house for Christmas. Billy’s childhood home is now a sorority house for Delta Alpha Kappa, and the sisters are trying to put aside their differences to enjoy the holidays. Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Clair (Leela Savasta) is murdered upstairs, and Megan (Jessica Harmon) is quietly killed by the same attacker. The house mother, Mrs. MacHenry (Andrea Martin) tries to play peacemaker between the sisters, but Kelli (Katie Cassidy), Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg), Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dana (Lacey Chabert), and Lauren (Crystal Lowe) receive a series of angry phone calls from a stranger. Meanwhile, Clair’s sister, Leigh (Kristen Cloke) arrives to take Leigh home for the holidays, and she won’t leave without Clair.
The sisters can’t figure out what’s going, and everything takes a bizarre turn, when the power goes out. Kelli’s boyfriend, Kyle (Oliver Hudson) shows up, sneaking through Megan’s open window, and his nasty attitude makes him a prime suspect. Trapped with no means of transportation, and stuck with the dilemma of waiting two hours for the police to show up, the sisters finally realize they’re not alone in the house, and they’ll have to defend themselves against the murderous duo of Billy (Robert Mann) and Agnes (Dean Friss).
Lauren mirroring Barb’s personality early on is one of the more noticeable similarities to the original. Lauren is an alcoholic, she doesn’t hold anything back, and she taunts Billy on the phone, when Heather urges her to tread carefully with a maniac. But you can also see someone, who’s holding a lot in, and she’s hiding behind her excessive drinking. After her first appearance, it’s obvious Kelli will make to the end as the final girl. She’s innocent, a nice person, and next to MacHenry, she really is the only one in the group, who’s making a real effort to squash the petty BS. Kelli is a likeable character, but the rest of the group? They’re basically made up of spoiled, whiny brats, and Winstead plays a pretentious snob. Andrea Martin returning as the house mother, and playing a character similar to the original Mrs. MacHenry really works as a nod to the original. She’s not an alcoholic hiding liquor bottles around the house, but you can tell she’s frustrated with the babysitter role.
Black Christmas ’06 features a good amount of homages and winks to the original. Billy using the glass unicorn to murder Lauren, Lauren is basically a clone of Barb, Claire’s corpse with the plastic bag around her head in the rocking chair, the house mother has the same last name, and Billy is the killer again. But the remake also features a good amount of noticeable changes. For starters, this film is LOADED with a lot of nasty gore and blood. Billy and Agnes have this weird thing, where they like to eat eyeballs, and it’s just as nasty as it sounds, complete with squishy sound effects. When Billy murders Constance, he carves Christmas flesh cookies out of her back. He cooks them, dips hunks of his mother’s flesh in milk, and then he eats them. And it’s hard to forget about Agnes using corpses, a head, and other body parts to decorate her tree in the attic.
They also make a strong effort to dig deeper into Billy’s story. Karin Konoval does of a good job of playing a hateful, bitter, and selfish mother, and the story takes a dark turn, when it’s revealed how Agnes was conceived. She couldn’t have children with her boyfriend, so she raped Billy, when he was child. I always think back to the scene towards the end, when Kelli tells Agnes her family is gone, and how the sisters will never be her family, and Agnes responds with “No….my daddy’s here.” Billy and Agnes are sadistic murderers, because they had rough childhoods, they only have each other, and they‘ve only known violence, torture, and murder their whole lives. In a sick and twisted way, Agnes wanting a family is also understandable, because she never had a real family. And Billy isn’t covered by shadows here. Agnes has a more grotesque appearance, while Billy basically looks like a normal guy with bright yellow skin.
Comparing both films, the remake takes a big turn. More gore, cannibalism, nudity, sex scenes, blood, eyeless corpses, an incest storyline, and Agnes and Billy are working together. It’s a more Christmasy horror film, with the snow, the look and feel of the movie, the decorations, Billy uses his mouth to make a shiv out of a candy cane, and Billy is impaled on a Christmas tree to end the movie. They also put a twist on the Secret Santa exchange, with this tradition, where a sister is selected to leave a present under the tree for Billy every year. Black Christmas ’06 is a sleazy film with more explicit violence, and the movie actually works as a prequel and a remake. The original had some social commentary, but the sisters arguing about the real meaning of Christmas and poking fun at those, who enjoy celebrating the holiday is as far as the remake goes. I also could’ve done without the sub-plot about Kyle making a sex tape with Megan (posted on the internet by one of Kyle’s bitter ex-friends). It’s an unnecessary sub-plot that doesn’t add anything to the story, and the sex tape was made before Kyle met Kelli.
They attempt to throw you off with the identity of the killer, using Kyle and Eve (the nerdy outcast in the sorority house) as possible suspects, but if you’ve seen the original, you already know Billy is one of the killers, and it’s obvious Agnes is involved. Hell, it’s easy to see Billy and Agnes are the killers after Billy escapes without watching the original, so the attempted swerves are just a waste of time.
Black Christmas is a beloved cult classic, so naturally fans of the original are going to rebel against a remake. There’s an interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead on the special features for the DVD, and she talks about how it’s damn near impossible to please fans with a remake for any genre. They’ll take to the internet, and complain about everything, nitpcking every little detail. Basically, Black Christmas ’74 is a bottle of fine wine, and Black Christmas ’06 is a can of Coors Light, and that‘s the consensus for this one.
Bottom line, they weren’t trying to make a sophisticated film here, and the remake features some truly nasty and brutal deaths ( Agnes using ice skates to murder Melissa, the icicle falling through MacHenry’s head, Billy’s death, etc.). The bickering between the sisters, Leigh, and MacHenry can be annoying, but occasionally, the squabbles and insults are good for a few cheap laughs. And Black Christmas delivers some good black humor with the Christmas tie-ins and certain murder weapons. I also appreciate the effort to explore Billy’s origins, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t buy into the “lazy remake” label for this one.
The original is still the superior film, but the remake is an entertaining Christmas horror film, and it’s an enjoyable guilty pleasure. I haven’t seen the theatrical cut for this in years, but apparently there’s a difference between both cuts with some noticeable changes. The remake, receiving a wide theatrical release on December 25th, also had a little bit of controversy with religious groups, but it’s nothing compared to what happened with the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. The DVD has three alternate endings (Kelli survives as the final girl in all three), but the theatrical ending is the best ending, with the ending, where Kelli receives a phone call from Kyle’s phone as a close second.