Director Glen Morgan (Willard) did this movie with the intent of expanding on the ambiguous ideas of the original while giving it an identifiable villain. Once I read that, I instantly wanted to hate this movie. I’m of the John Carpenter school that believes that the more you explain the monster, the less interesting it is. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film.
Working along with producer James Wong (they also created the TV series Space: Above and Beyond, as well as the movies Final Destination (in Japan, this film is included as part of this film series) and the Jet Li vehicle The One), this film was made for Dimension Films and MGM. Wong and Morgan clashed with the Weinstein brothers over the script and the end of the movie, which led to numerous rewrites and reshoots. Oh that Harvey Weinstein — I feel that no one will really miss him in Hollywood until they figure out that he can make them money again.
A bright point that made me think twice about Black Christmas (or Black X-Mas) was that Morgan asked for input from Bob Clark, the original creator, as well as having him sign on as a co-producer. The film features Billy, the killer only hinted at in the original, and his daughter/sister (oh no, not another incest movie), Agnes. However, in Steffen Hantke’s book American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium, Morgan said that the inclusion of a second killer came from Dimension and that “a ten million dollar movie of Black Christmas didn’t need anyone’s help, and they should have left us alone. But they had to have the two killers, and then they were after kids from The O.C. We compromised a lot.” In another interview, he stated that he wasn’t happy with the film, claiming that it was schizophrenic “because Bob Weinstein came in and urinated on it. Really, there was a time where torture porn was the hot thing. You know I became friends with Bob Clark. You can throw that movie into one of your first questions. I loved that movie, and also Christmas Story and I learned a lot from Bob, and had his blessing that we were trying to make a version that he didn’t get to deal with the background of the killers, and stuff like that. When Bob Weinstein came in and saw that, he was like, “We need to drag Michele Trachtenberg down the hall by her eyes.” And I was like, “Oh, Lord,” and I talked to my agent and lawyer, and Kristen about it. It was humiliating, it was horrible. I stayed to try and protect the cast and crew, friends of mine, and ended up taking it on the chin”.
Let’s get to the movie, hmm?
We meet Billy early — he was born with severe Sin City-esque jaundice and liver disease to a mother who never loved him. Beyond abusing him, she also kills his father and buries him in the crawlspace with the help of her boyfriend. It turns out that that guy is impotent, so she rapes her 12-year-old son (again, can we please stop getting incest movies by surprise) and gives birth to Agnes.
Eight years later, on Christmas Day 1991, Billy escapes from his attic prison and kills his mother, her lover and stabs Agnes in the eye. He then makes cookies out of his mother’s skin and is sent to a mental asylum that he escapes from fifteen years later.
Billy wants to go home, but his home now belongs to the Delta Alpha Kappa sorority. Within minutes, Clair (not Clare) is killed and when Megan goes to investigate, she is killed as well (including her eyes being ripped out and eaten while she is dragged by her eyesockets). Meanwhile, the rest of the sisters, Kelli (Katie Cassidy, Taken, the 2010 revision of A Nightmare on Elm Street), Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg, Dawn from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Dana (TV’s Party of Five), Lauren and house mother Mrs. Mac (Andrea Martin, who was in the original film) are trying to have a Secret Santa party when an obscene phone caller threatens to kill all of them.
Clair’s half-sister Leigh (Kristen Cloke, Final Destination) comes looking for her, just as Eve, the weird sorority sister, gives Heather a glass unicorn for her present. Meanwhile, Kelli’s boyfriend Kyle (Goldie Hawn’s son Oliver Hudson) shows up. As they search for Megan, a video shows up on her laptop of her having sex with Kyle. Kelli kicks him out and then the lights suddenly go out.
Dana goes outside to fix the fusebox, but is murdered. The rest of the girls get a phone call of her screaming and another threat that they will all be killed. As they search for her, they only find blood. And oh yeah, Eve decapitated and frozen head inside her car.
Heather and Mrs. Mac try to get away despite the bad weather (the police said it would be up to 2 hours for them to arrive). Heather is killed inside the car as it warms up and an icicle impales Mrs. Mac right through the eye. Meanwhile, Melissa is killed with a pair of flying roller skates and Lauren, who was recovering from drinking too much, is found in bed with her eyes removed.
Whew! This film is a whirlwind of gore and eye destruction as if Fulci himself rose from the dead to do ocular harm. As Bill from Groovy Doom reminded me, Fulci once told an interviewer that the eyes “are the first thing you have to destroy, because they have seen too many bad things.”
Kyle comes back and swears that he is not the killer, which everyone tends to believe once he is pulled into the attic and killed. Turns out Agnes is the real killer and she’s brought Billy with her. A fight ensues, Agnes falls into the empty space between the walls and the house is set ablaze as Kelli and Leigh escape.
If you ever find yourself in a horror movie, always ask to see the killer’s body, then shoot that body in the head as many times as you can. Then set it on fire.
Of course, Billy and Agnes come back, with Leigh being killed and Kelli using a defibrillator to take out Agnes. Billy drops out of the ceiling and chases Kelli, but he falls off a railing and is impaled on a Christmas tree.
This movie is pretty much wall to wall gore, in marked contrast to the original. Yet I found myself really involved in its pacing, in the cinematography and even the lighting. It’s not a slapdash affair.
After the critical and financial failure of this film, Bob Clark began work on a sequel to the original with Olivia Hussey and John Saxon reprising their roles of Jess and Lt. Ken Fuller. Jess would have been the new house mother in this version, but Clark died before it could get made.
There’s a ton cut and changed in the final film. Like Lauren Hannon’s original death scene, which involved Agnes sneaking into her room and gouging her eyes out with the glass unicorn in an homage to the original film. And there were three alternate endings shot for the film. The first ending had Leigh and Kelli open Clair’s present when Kelli gets a phone call from either Billy or Agnes. The second ending, which was used in the UK, had Leigh coming to examine Agnes’ body and being killed by her, then Kelli electrocuting her Agnes. Finally, the third ending had a mortician find that Billy’s body is missing.
Despite the pain that it took to make the film, I really think it’s worth watching. It shouldn’t take over for the original, but it’s worth your time this holiday season.