The latest from director Glen Morgan (the "Final Destination" series, and "X-Files" eps) is "Black Christmas", a remake of the 1974 film of the same title. Those who have seen the original will likely not be pleased with the remake, which is pretty much the same as most horror flicks these days, although a bit more festive, given the season (the film was released last Christmas theatrically as a bit of counter-programming to the more sweet-natured films of the season.)
The picture revolves around a sorority house, where a series of sorority girls (Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Katie Cassidy and Crystal Lowe) are hanging around, not exactly getting into the Christmas spirit. There's also the house mother (Andrea Martin, a carryover from the original), a boyfriend and the older sister of one of the girls. Meanwhile, little do the girls know that crazed killer Billy (Robert Mann) has just escaped and wants to return to the childhood home where, as we're told in flashbacks, Billy had a relationship with his mother that resulted in a sister, Agnes (Dean Friss), and Billy becoming a cannibal.
So, back to the tale: Billy comes home to find that the house is now the sorority and he plans to wipe out the inhabitants while hiding out in the attic. Discussing the film's plot is pretty pointless, as the picture doesn't wait long to get into its attempts at scares. The picture could certainly be called relentless regarding the (very graphic) horror scenes, but it becomes too much - there's no tension or build-up, as the picture barely spends any time before moving on to the next horror moment.
Adding to the problem is the fact that the characters seem very poorly developed (there's too many of them, especially given the quick running time), and really wouldn't even qualify as one-dimensional. All of them are bitchy, bland and it's a matter of time until nearly all of them get chased down. The reasonably talented cast of newish starlets is given just about nothing to do but run and do dumb things that don't help their situation here, and it's a waste of talent. Visually, the film looks rough and low-budget, aside from a couple of reasonably stylish shots. While horror fans will likely be pleased that this doesn't go PG-13 in terms of the graphic nature of the film, the picture is otherwise mostly disappointing and forgettable.
The unrated presentation offers another 9 minutes added on, which I'm guessing means more graphic footage.
VIDEO: "Black Christmas" is presented by Genius Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is reasonably good, with only a few minor concerns. Sharpness and detail were respectable, as while the picture never appeared crystal clear, it at offered consistently decent definition. The picture did show a few issues, though: some slight artifacting was seen in a few scenes, as was some light edge enhancement. No print flaws or other concerns were spotted.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation doesn't boast all that much in the way of surround activity, generally spreading out the audio across the front speakers. Audio quality was fine, with bassy sound effects and crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: "What Have You Done?" making-of featurete, "My All Your Christmasses Be Black" featurette, deleted scenes and 3 alternate endings.
Final Thoughts: "Black Christmas" does break the PG-13 trend of recent horror by going for a hard R (and unrated here), but the picture is otherwise dismaying, as the characters are paper-thin, the movie doesn't build tension, the editing's a bit of a mess (rumors of last-minute reshoots) and the movie - despite the rating - is just forgettable. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras.
The Film D+