Black Christmas: Original vs. Remake

Having seen the Black Christmas remake several times, I had to review this one. In my experience, many young people have no idea these movies exist, and it has been lost in the slasher cannon. I also realize many longtime horror fans cherish Black Christmas, as it predates most slasher movies and is often credited as one of the first. For those who don’t know, the story is based on actual events and pays homage to the babysitter/man upstairs urban legend. You will hear, “the call is coming from inside the house,” which is pretty cool.

I have some mixed feelings about both movies. Essentially, the plot and characters are the same, and as you assume, it takes place during Christmas break. When you watch both, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s supposed to be so-and-so,” without much effort.

The remake is not well received, but that’s unfair. Black Christmas 2006 adjusted the original in a way audiences could appreciate and understand. For that reason alone, I feel it’s a near-perfect remake. It respects and enhances the original. If they kept the movie as is, modern audiences would have still hated it because the expected standard of good film-making has decreased dramatically over the last 40 years.

The Original Black Christmas

Black Christmas 1974
Photo: crypticrock.com

One of my favorite things about Black Christmas 1974 is the camera work. The movie is extremely well shot, and you see throwbacks to greats like Hitchcock. The audience also experiences the killer’s POV, as you walk through the house or hide in a closest as the killer. You may recognize this style in the original Halloween.

The character development is some of the best I’ve ever seen. One of the first differences I noticed was the original only uses a few main girls in the house, whereas the remake uses several – think three verses seven. Using fewer characters adds a more personal feel, and you get to know them in-depth. I did not love any one character, and at times, I felt like I was watching the Real World. Yes, you want the audience to care about the characters, especially when they are in danger, but the personal stories get a little tiring and slow down the action too much.

However, the characters are done extremely well and have distinctive stories and roles. The house-mother who keeps bottles of liquor around the house and the drunk sorority girl (Margot Kidder) who cusses a lot and discusses watching turtles and zebras mate add a fun element. There is a final girl (Olivia Hussey), but she is not quite the cutthroat fighter-type we have all come to love. Remember, this movie was released before there was such a thing as a final girl. The first half of the movie also has some very funny lines, props and scenes, and counters the drama well.

It does lack some things though. The killer has no real identity, which is a little frustrating because it feels random for no good reason. It completely lacks a back story, and many times when the killer calls, what he says is inaudible. The things you do hear don’t add anything special, and much of the profanity seems unnecessary. The original also takes you on a roller coaster with twists and turns, but it doesn’t wrap it all up well.

The Remake of Black Christmas

Black Christmas 2007
Photo: superiorpics.com

Black Christmas 2006 did something unique: it gave a much-needed back story. Having watched these out of order, I did not realize how much back story they added, but it works. The back story makes the killer more dynamic and interesting, and you can understand his motivation. I may receive some backlash for this, but if I had watched these for the first time in order, I would have been really confused as to “why?” after the original. You have to watch both to get a full well-rounded story.

The remake also completes the story. Spoiler: the final girl wins. The original ends like so many modern horror movies, leaving itself open to a sequel. The remake does not do this. There is a very clear plot arc, and it fills in the holes from the original.

New Black Christmas does go dark fast. The unnecessary shock factor ranks No. 1 as my least favorite thing about modern horror because filmmakers feel that if they slack off on a good story or, in this case, character development, they can add a killer making Christmas cookies out of his mother’s skin, and it works just as well. Wrong. Sure, I expected the remake to have more blood and gore, but some aspects make it seem like they were trying too hard. We don’t need to see him eat eyeballs or his mother because it adds nothing to the movie.

The verdict: Which is a better-made movie? The original. Which do I enjoy more? The remake.

We look forward to hearing from you if you’ve seen these, and if you haven’t, you should add them to your Halloween watchlist. Although, I watch them at Christmas time too!

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