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Michelle Trachtenberg

Michelle Trachtenberg - "Black Christmas" Movie - Seattlepi.nwsource.com Review

Elizabeth Weitzman

Sunday 31 December 2006, by Webmaster

"Black Christmas" - Gag me with a cookie cutter

During its long, slow slide into jingle-bell hell, Glen Morgan’s routine remake of Bob Clark’s 1974 cult favorite "Black Christmas" turns every possible holiday icon into a weapon: snow globes, ornaments, icicles and, most appropriately, cookie cutters.

Where the first film was a seminal forerunner of early stalker classics like "Halloween," this version feels as stale as old gingerbread.

It didn’t have to be this way. Morgan and producer James Wong created some of the best "X-Files" episodes, and their "Final Destination" films offered a few witty jolts. Even "Black Christmas" begins promisingly, with characteristic Morgan/Wong cheekiness.

On a silent, snowy night, serial killer Billy Lenz (Robert Mann) is determined to escape the local insane asylum and head home for Christmas. Thanks to a carefully sharpened candy cane, he’s on his way out the door before the night guard can rethink his decision to enter a crazed lunatic’s cell with nothing more than a flashlight for protection.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer 1.5 stars

Black Christmas," with Lacey Chabert, Michelle Trachtenberg, Robert Mann. Written and directed by Glen Morgan, based on the 1974 screenplay by Roy Moore. 84 minutes. Rated R for nudity, sexuality, language, violence, gore. Several theaters.

As it happens, Billy’s former home is now a sorority house, in which a clutch of students (including Michelle Trachtenberg and Lacey Chabert) are celebrating the holiday with their den mother (Andrea Martin, one of the sisters in the original film).

And here’s where things go wrong. Billy breaks in, the girls are summarily murdered, and we start checking our watches and wondering why we didn’t stay home and rent the original.

Not only does Morgan - who also wrote the screenplay - drop both the visceral madness and the sexual charge of the first version, he can’t even hold on to his own, well-honed sense of caustic thrill. The characters are instantly forgettable, the scares grow increasingly generic and the setting is never exploited (though the actors are, so any viewers looking forward to the requisite shower scene will get their money’s worth).

Despite its considerable potential, this "Christmas" feels drained of life long before the killer gets his slash on. Even a decent gift is useless if you forget to include batteries.