Production has just gone underway for the second remake of the 1974 horror classic Black Christmas. The original, directed by Bob Clark, is a staple of Canadian horror cinema, eliciting provocative thrills alongside some truly accomplished character work, the latter of which is typically neglected in more modern horrors.
One such example of this is the first remake of Black Christmas from 2006. Written and directed by Glen Morgan, this iteration does away with any sort of creative tension, opting instead for cheap thrills and gratuitous gore. What’s worse, it becomes abundantly clear that Morgan put more effort into his highlight reel of kills than the actual characters who are getting killed. You know, the people we’re actually supposed to care about!
Sadly, that’s what these dime-a-dozen horror flicks fail to realise. If they can really make us care about the characters first, and then place them in perilous danger after, even to the point of gore, audiences will respond with a hell of a lot more emotional involvement.
The original Black Christmas is a prime example of this. Bob Clark took the time to let us get to know each member of the sorority house in some way or another, while still finding the time to introduce his mysterious killer. Then, by the time the body count began to rack up, each and every kill evokes a visceral response because related to their individual personalities and, to a degree, their backstories. Clark didn’t even need to resort to overt violence, allowing Reginald H. Morris’ surprisingly virtuosic cinematography to build a great deal of the tension. Ultimately, the original is not just a resounding achievement in Canadian cinema, but in the horror genre as a whole.
Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, who are producing the remake, have a strong track record in the horror genre that is relatively reassuring, with Paranormal Activity, Get Out and Halloween being but a small number of releases under the company’s name. Tapped to direct the remake is Sophia Takal, whose work on 2016’s Always Shine has proven that she capable not just at building palpable tension, but also at evoking a feminist edge perfectly suited for Black Christmas’ primarily female cast, which would no doubt make for some interesting, and essential, character work in the process.
With production having just begun in New Zealand, and Imogen Poots cast in the leading role, in addition to the recent casting of veteran Cary Elwes, it’s still not yet clear if 2019’s Black Christmas will be the remake the original deserves, and will remain that way until audiences and critics alike have their say. One thing is for sure though, Christmas might come early this year if Takal and Blumhouse can deliver on the promise of its source material.
Black Christmas is slated for a fitting release of Friday, December 13th.