The remake of "Black Christmas" has got to be among the most consistently underappreciated slasher movies ever made, maybe among the most consistently underaappreciated of all movies. Managing to hit both the bases of being both 'disturbing and tremendously creepy' and 'fun and sexy with dashes of humor', "Black Christmas" takes horror slasher backwards in that it's non-supernatural, with a potent but not apparantly-indestructible villain. It's a route not a lot of its recent peers have taken, with most of the pack trying (and sometimes even succeeding) to follow the path of series like "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Friday The 13th", which have utilized virtually unstoppable, inhuman, central figures, and often a large dose of additional otherworldly elements, in being great. (Well, not Every chapter was great, but an awful lot of them were...)
With a simple premise that starts to twist and branch out some in the second half, the movie features a group of sorority sisters and their chaperone stormstayed in their campus dormhouse during the Christmas holidays. The same building that was once the site of a massacre where Billy Lentz killed his abusive mother and stepfather, and maimed his defenceless little sister. Billy is, at the film's beginning, now locked up in a psych ward, but it probably would have been harder to make this into a great horror movie had he Stayed securely locked up in a place of mental healing...
Fans will know a lot of what comes next. Actually, a lot of it would have been harder to predict had there not been spoilers as to the movie's third act all over the place before it even got released. For those who fortunately haven't heard, I won't spoil the twists by revealing them here, but focus on some general observations. First off, even if you've seen a thousand horror movies, this one can be jarring. The violence is swift and gruesome, and often hits characters you really want to make it out unscathed. All the horror violence, all the creepy going-ons, and all the disturbing thematic elements (including the origins of Billy and his sister), taking place amidst the gently twinkling Christmas lights, the classic holiday songs on the radio, and a generally pleasant setting, makes for a really twisted and freaky feel to things. I liked the cast of characters they put together for this (the female contingent, incidentally, being played by perhaps the best-looking ensemble of actresses ever to appear in a single movie, including mega-hottie Mary Elizabeth Winstead from "Final Destination 3" and "The Ring Two"). I liked the angle with the woman who came looking for her estranged younger sister and a scheduled Christmas reunion, and the bond that developed between her and the girl at the dorm who's never had siblings. I liked, loved actually, almost the whole thing...except for some glaring details that stand out and keep "Black Christmas" from getting the five-star rating that I really want to give it.
First of all, there's a major problem with the snow. In several shots it doesn't even look real, which juts out like a sore thumb when compared to the overall high production values you're seeing it against. And the storm is supposed to be this big whopper that's snowed everything in, that's knocking down big trees across the roads so vehicles can't get around, etc. Yet when you see outside the windows a couple of times, and even in a couple of the outdoor scenes, all you've got is a nice hearty downfall of snow, but not the blizzard of the century. These lapses should have hurt the movie more than they did (would it really have been that hard to add in a nice, howling wind to the outdoor scenes?) but overall it's so good it earns a few moments where you have to suspend disbelief. Also, during the flashback scenes, although they were very freaky, a case could be made that portions of the earlier flashbacks came off slightly campy. It doesn't feel right to be spending so much time, though, on the few flaws when as a complete package you've got one of the finest movies of 2006. This is ten times as good as its reputation makes it out to be, and among the best recent picks for horror fans. Four-and-a-half stars with regret that it couldn't be more; and highly recommended. Fans of this may also want to check out "Valentine", "Cutting Class", and "Cry_Wolf".