By Glen Morgan
There are two words that spring to mind when I think about this version of Black Christmas: Fucking Insane. Every oblique angle shouts crazy, every few minute someone is murdered in the craziest fucking way possible, every new plot development makes someone either a suspect or a victim, blood and viscera shoot out of wounds like someone turned on a hose. People don't just bleed in this movie, they fucking explode. The lighting is absolutely nuts and the camera work matches it every step of the way. With Black Christmas, Glen Morgan has effectively out De Palma'd Brian De Palma. The swaths of red that litter the colour scheme, the jaundiced villain, the enormous slant on voyeurism, the presentational lighting, the is-it-stealing-or-homage quality that imbues every angle. Christ on a cricket, no wonder Morgan hasn't worked since. Weirder still, despite its sorority house setting and cast of not-quite stars, there's almost no nudity and none that couldn't be someone's body double. Now, here's where the problems start. I really liked Black Christmas but not without reservations. It has big problems, pacing chief among them; the thing moves at the speed of sound to no real ends. Characters arrive in time to make a hint of an impression before being killed and the girls who make the slightest impression last the longest. And I have to dock some points for the way Morgan so quickly dispatches Leela Savasta, a better and more courageous actress than two-thirds of the girls in the sorority. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, for instance, should have been the lead. She's the most memorable of the girls by far (Crystal Lowe a close second) and attacks her role, making it impossible for her to remain in the single-trait slot tat Morgan wrote for her. Katie Cassidy is the main character basically by default. She's by far the least interesting and charismatic of the girls. And I can't say I'm really on the side of a movie that carves up a bunch of well-meaning teenage girls (especially when the script makes such a huge fucking deal about the bonds of sisterhood), but style does count for something and this film drips with it. I knew Morgan trafficked in the unsettling after his redo of Willard, but this thing leaves that, and frankly everything covered here today, in the dust. It's not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach and it's not a good movie like the original was, but sweet jesus, it's deranged. I'm kind of amazed that there's no force in place to tell people about movies like this and Orphan, because they really need to be seen to be believed.
Hannibal's family is killed at the tail-end of WWII by some nazis played by ringers like Rhys Ifans and Kevin McKidd . He grows up with an awful big chip on his shoulder and outgrows the boarding school that has been set up on his family's estate. He escapes when he gets tired of the shitheads who run the place and the dipshits who go there and goes looking for his uncle. The older man is dead by now, but his mistress (the impossibly beautiful Gong Li, who, like everyone else in this movie, is better than this) takes him in and teaches him how to use a samurai sword in the film's dumbest scene. His killing technique refined, he tests it out on a collaborator who upsets his aunt one day in the marketplace. He escapes but not without arousing the suspicion of Inspector Popil (Dominic West, also way better than this. The way the man looks in his long coat is the second best thing about the film. The way Gong Li looks in a kimono remains the best, even if she looks tired and bored throughout) who can see that Lecter is probably guilty but that he's only killing evil men. It's the kind of conundrum that goes nowhere, because the movie then gets to its real business, Lecter hunting down and Saw-killing the nazis who ate his sister. And as with any prequel, there's no real tension because you know that Hannibal's going to be around for dozens and dozens of years after the events of this film. The only tension is whether he'll rescue his aunt from one of Ifans' traps, but even that ain't much. The movie's more like a grotesque painting than a proper horror film, anyway, pretty, but totally static.
Peter Webber was probably as good as this movie was going to do. But he's not a horror director and doesn't have the stomach for gut spilling. So in lieu of that, he makes the movie and all the characters and their houses as gorgeous as possible and mostly suceeds, but this wasn't supposed to be a sober costume crime drama, it was meant to be about Hannibal, but Webber's camera doesn't really like Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal. He's the only active character in a landscape of well-worn, beautifully passive faces and he doesn't gel with the rest of the film. It's a movie that wants to be about the poetry of murder like Hannibal, but doesn't have enough to say on the subject of murder. It's got the same structure as a Saw film or the later I Spit On Your Grave remake, and so should be a straight-up exploitation film but isn't. So it's all very pretty and perfunctory and boring and I hardly noticed it going by. Interestingly, this was the last film Dino De Laurentiis produced. Back in the day he was so miffed about Manhunter's success that he reportedly gave the rights to Silence of the Lambs up for free, which then went on to be one of the most successful films of all time, anyway you choose to look at it. Fitting that Dino died trying to correct his biggest financial mistake with an even bigger one.
The Hills Have Eyes 2
by Martin Weisz
by Dave Meyers
And that's all before we consider that Ryder has morphed into a generic boogeyman. He's everywhere and nowhere and he's unkillable and has unlimited ammo. In the dumbest scene in the movie, Ryder appears in a Thunderbird to take down a squadron of cop cars while Nine Inch Nail's "Closer" also comes out of nowhere to score the scene. Man, fuck this movie. By the time we've gone through the most memorable scenes from the first movie, rendered useless because of the high school play level acting from its two charisma-free leads, we get to the conclusion. By this time Sophia Bush is by herself and Ryder has killed all the cops in the van taking him to prison in an impossibly dumb way. So she takes the sheriff's gun to go kill Ryder. But, best part, Ryder fucking takes it from her, and then kills the sheriff. So not only does she fail to kill him when it meant her boyfriend's life, she can't even do it when she has nothing to lose. So she finally gets ahold of another gun, which happens to be a shotgun that would knock her right on her ass if she fired that thing in reality and kills him. So her victory is hollow and the movie it closes has the dubious honor of being one of the worst films ever made. Nice work, everybody. Lunch?
April Fool's Day
by Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores
by Nelson McCormick
My Bloody Valentine
by Patrick Lussier
In fact the one saving grace was, like Prom Night, its relationship dynamic. I really enjoyed Kerr Smith as the sheriff being shaken up by wife Jaime King's former relationship with Jensen Ackles. Now Ackles isn't worth shit, but King and Smith are terrific and they're the only reason to watch this piece of shit. When Lussier starts casting doubt about Smith's innocence, it only works because of how firm a grip he has on the character. There's a moment about halfway through when he wants King to rat on Ackles but she won't do it. His anger there is terrifying and understandable at once, and it's probably the best moment in the movie. I wanted a film just about their marriage. Alas, I got a movie about 3D tits and poorly executed jaw removal. Sigh.
by Stewart Hendler
The one thing you'll hear complaints about, I'm guessing is that there isn't nearly enough sex to make this a grindhouse classic. And the murders could be a little more frequent, but this movie plays the game and well. You don't like any of these girls because most of them go pretty far out of their way to earn the crazy ass fate they wind up with. Seriously the way these women meet their maker is pretty off the wall. In order to let them know that they are being killed because of what happened to Megan, the killer has crafted some kind of crazy fucking knife that's shaped like a tire iron, but consists of several kinds of knife. Between the horrid murders, coed showers, all the sex that's hinted at and Leah Pipes as the consciousless leader of the sorority, you're looking at one hell of a sleaze-fest. It's the kind of film that never looks over its shoulder and I appreciate its efficiency. It's ten kinds of dumb but I had a fucking blast howling at the screen with a room full of like-minded individuals.