X-Files producer Glen Morgan's remake of boy-and-his-rat tale WILLARD (2003), this reworking of 1974's BLACK CHRISTMAS is coarse, bloody and unimaginative, even as it reproduces iconic moments from director Bob Clark and screenwriter Roy Moore's pioneering holiday shocker.
The film opens with a jolt: Pretty co-ed Clair Crosby (Leela Savasta) is in her room at Clement University's Delta Alpha Kappa sorority house writing a card to go with her present for older sister Leigh, when she's spooked by a noise form the closet. She investigates and all's clear... until someone pulls a plastic bag over her head, stabs her and hauls her body to the attic. Meanwhile downstairs, house mother Mrs. Mac (Andrea Martin, a sorority girl in the original) is fussing with the tree and trying to get the other sorority sisters, including level-headed Kelli (Katie Cassidy), hard-drinking Lauren (Crystal Lowe), cynical Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), sensible Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg, of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), smarter-then-she-seems Dana (Lacey Chabert, of Party of Five) and weird-girl Eve (Kathleen Kole), to show some Christmas spirit. Depressed Megan (Jessica Harmon), who used to date Kelli's kind-of creepy boyfriend, Kyle (Oliver Hudson), is sulking in her room, and a series of disturbing phone calls is making it hard for anyone to get into a holly jolly mood.
Meanwhile, at a gothic insane asylum not far away, psychotic Billy Lenz (Robert Mann) is plotting his escape. Christmas has special meaning for him: It's when, at age five, he saw his abusive harridan of a mother (Karin Konoval) and her lover murder his father. And it's when, after years of being locked in the attic to stew in his twisted thoughts, he murdered his and his stepfather, making Christmas "cookies" from their flesh and mutilating his sister, Agnes, who's also his daughter. Billy Lenz believes everyone should go home for Christmas, and the sorority house happens to be the house where he grew up.
What transpires next is by the slasher book: Girls go off by themselves and disappear, leaving the rest to wonder what's going on. Clair's older sister, Leigh (Kristen Cloke), shows up and refuses to leave until she finds out where Clair is. The scary phone calls continue, the girls are snowed in and the lights go out. Could there be a psychotic killer or two, given that the mayhem began while Lenz was still locked up hiding in the attic? Morgan borrows Christmas-specific nastiness from a wide range of fright flicks, but the result is less than the sum of its parts. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh