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Michelle Trachtenberg

Michelle Trachtenberg - "Black Christmas" Movie - Digitalspy.co.uk Review

Ben Rawson-Jones

Saturday 16 December 2006, by Webmaster

Director: Glen Morgan
Screenwriter: Glen Morgan
Starring: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert, Andrea Martin and Robert Mann.
Running time: 84 mins
Certificate: 15

Turkeys aren’t the only poor creatures having their flesh carved up over the festive season, as new horror movie Black Christmas revolves around the slaughter of a group of sorority girls on campus. There are plenty of twists along the way, but the greatest shock the audience will receive is just how woeful this production is.

A remake of a 1974 film of the same title, the action follows the attempts of an escaped maniac called Billy, abused as a child, to pick off the new inhabitants of the house he and his cruel mother used to live in. Billy has a fetish for gouging out his victims’ eyeballs, which provides a perfect excuse to up the gore factor. This mirrors the way in which the film itself tortures the eyes of any attentive viewer, along with their brains, ears, and the poor buttock cheeks that manage to endure the full 84 minutes of this mess.

The great ’stalk and slash’ films in the genre like Halloween and Scream all contain well-defined central characters that the audience can at least feel some kind of involvement with. Black Christmas instead serves up a host of characters without any remotely interesting characteristics to reel the viewer in. They’re merely bland plot functions with immaculately groomed hair. Even the presence of Buffy’s little sister Michelle Trachtenberg playing against type in the ensemble cast adds nothing. Her character Melissa’s sole characteristic is that she swears a lot. Cheers.

Oddly enough, the best performance comes from the house itself, with its insulation cavities, nooks and crannies generating a sinister environment at times. An icicle also reveals its comparatively Oscar-worthy screen performance during a brief cameo, falling from the underside of a roof to impale the poor housemother of the girls.

The writing is particularly poor within the movie’s establishing first half hour - crucial sink or swim territory for any movie. With several of the female students sharing a roughly equal amount of screen time, you’d be hard pushed to name a single characteristic for each of them halfway into the movie. They’re simply not defined or portrayed with any clarity at all. That’s not to say that films should spoon-feed the viewer easily digestible nuggets of character information by any means. They should just have something of remote interest to attract our attention.

A heroine does finally emerge within the last portion of the film, effectively through default as all the rest of the dullard uni girls have been dispatched by Billy. We don’t want her to hang around for too long either, in case she prolongs the end credits.

Attempts to make the bloodthirsty baddie into a three dimensional human being - propelled into his wicked ways by nurture rather than nature - seem out of place in such a vacuous film. Incorporating a non-linear narrative where we jump from the present predicament of the girls back to Billy’s harrowing childhood and adolescence does at least prompt the viewer to revise their stance towards the killer. As details of his vicious mother’s cruelty towards him emerge, we see that he’s not pure evil, but instead a highly traumatised victim who has been driven to insanity. This at least holds a degree of ambiguity that provokes a few thoughts and stops the brain from entirely rotting during the film’s duration.

If there’s a ’Horror Film Direction By Numbers’ manual in existence, you can bet it sits prominently on the bookshelf of Glen Morgan. Every time the script demands some tension, out come the usual tricks with distorted camera angles and tight framing of whatever nondescript character is in impending danger. It’s nothing we haven’t seen countless times before.

Strangely, Morgan was responsible for several corking early episodes of The X Files. In fact, the movements of Billy hark back to the Eugene Tooms character that Mulder and Scully confronted, with his ability to squeeze his body into impossibly tight spaces.

If you want a Christmassy horror film that delivers the goods then go and rent Gremlins. A waste of celluloid, the dire Black Christmas deserves to have its reels dumped deep within some land fill site and to never surface again.