Though it was only a mild success upon its release in 1974, the original BLACK CHRISTMAS (directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to direct A CHRISTMAS STORY in 1984) has become a cult favorite among horror buffs since the dawn of the home-video era. An early example of the "body count" genre, the film also predates WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) in its use of a killer making threatening phone calls that originate within his potential victims' own house. In this remake, writer/director Glen Morgan takes the basics of Roy Moore's screenplay for the original to create an elaborate and almost comically disturbing back story for Billy, the killer who previously remained a mystery. A handful of sorority girls remain at the house after the school shuts down for Christmas break. An ominous snowstorm blows in, isolating them. At the same time, a killer--who in this version escapes from a mental institution to return to his former family home--breaks into the attic and begins making terrifying phone calls to the girls (led by Kate Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Lacey Chabert) before killing them off one by one. SCTV veteran Andrea Martin, who portrayed a victim in the original, returns as Ms. Mac, the house mother.
Stylistically, Moore's remake avoids casting the film in the ironic post-SCREAM or streamlined, gore-free Japanese-horror-inspired fright films of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Instead he makes BLACK CHRISTMAS in the style of a wet and red '80s slasher film. The plentiful blood and guts will please fans of that era, as will tributes to the HALLOWEEN films. This, along with a soundtrack that eschews holiday standards in favor of modern pop music, plus a dim lighting scheme that relies heavily on colored Christmas bulbs, combine to create an atmosphere of holiday dread in this fun update of what has become a horror classic.
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