The new-but-unimproved "Black Christmas" opened Monday Dec. 25 without press previews, dropped into megaplexes like a lump of coal into a naughty child's stocking. It likely will vanish quicker than Frosty the Snowman during a heat wave, bringing little joy to the world.

It’s debatable whether the original 1974 “Black Christmas” is, as its most rabid fans claim, the mother of all slasher movies. But there can be no argument regarding the scant merits of its slapdash, soporifically routine remake, suitable only for the least discriminating of gore hounds. The new-but-unimproved “Black Christmas” opened Dec. 25 without press previews, dropped into megaplexes like a lump of coal into a naughty child’s stocking. It likely will vanish quicker than Frosty the Snowman during a heat wave, bringing little joy to the world.

Even by the notoriously low standards of sadistic slasher pics, this remake is a thoroughly nasty piece of work, relying heavily on such gruesome spectacles as the baking (and consuming) of Christmas cookies made from chunks of human flesh and the vividly detailed ripping of eyes from the bloody sockets of dead or dying victims. (The latter stunt might be marginally more shocking if it hadn’t been done to death so recently in Gregory Dark’s “See No Evil.”)

Take away the grisly mayhem, however, and all you have left is a lazily plotted and conspicuously suspense-free “thriller” about the methodical slaughter of sorority sisters throughout a dark and snowy night during Christmas break.

Inspired by Roy Moore’s scenario for helmer Bob Clark’s cult-fave ’74 original, writer-director Glen Morgan (co-creator of the “Final Destination” franchise) has cobbled together a plot that has something to do with a psycho killer who uses a lethal candy cane to escape from an insane asylum, and another homicidal loony who has blood ties to the fugitive bogeyman.

Lurid flashbacks involving incest, child abuse, manslaughter and the aforementioned cookies provide just enough expository detail to explain why Christmas break isn’t very merry for the unfortunate young ladies huddled together inside the Alpha Kappa sorority house.

The original “Black Christmas” established many slasher-movie conventions, including the menacing phone caller. But that isn’t the only reason why so much of the remake is familiar. Despite some game efforts by members of the ensemble cast — including Andrea Martin, a vet of the original, here cast as the sorority house mother — the characters are too generic to generate a rooting interest, and the plot is too predictable for Morgan to muster suspense.

Overall, the pic plays like a textbook example of what critic Roger Ebert has derisively described as “a dead teenager movie,” one that exists solely for auds to savor the snuffing of screaming victims. It’s a little late in the day — and way too long after the “Scream” and “Scary Movie” pics — to attempt this sort of thing without a healthy measure of tongue-in-cheekiness. Oddly enough, however, “Black Christmas” is deadly serious — and deathly dull, even with all the spilling of blood, crushing of skulls and impaling of coeds. The only hint of humor comes when Morgan tries to be clever by underscoring violent deaths with Christmas standards and selections form Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

Not very funny, unfortunately.

Tech values are adequate.

Black Christmas

Production

An MGM release of a Dimension Films and 2929 Prods. presentation of a 2929 Prods. production in association with Adelstein-Parouse Prods., Hard Eight Pictures and Copper Heart Entertainment. Produced by Marty Adelstein, Dawn Parouse, Victor Solnicki, Steve Hoban, James Wong, Glen Morgan. Executive producers, Scott Nemes, Noah Segal, Bob Clark, Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Marc Butan. Co-producers, Satsuki Mitchell, Ogden Gavanski. Directed, written by Glen Morgan, based on the screenplay by Roy Moore.

Crew

Camera (color), Robert McLachlan; editor, Chris Willingham; music, Shirley Walker; music supervisor, Dave Jordan, JoJo Villanueva; production designer, Mark Freeborn; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Patrick Ramsay; casting, John Papsidera, Wendy O'Brien, Dawn Shindle, Coreen Mays. Reviewed at Edwards Grand Palace 24, Houston, Dec. 25, 2006. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Kelli - Katie Cassidy Heather - Mary Elizabeth Winstead Dana - Lacey Chabert Melissa - Michelle Trachtenberg Kyle - Oliver Hudson Mrs. Mac - Andrea Martin Lauren - Crystal Lowe Leigh - Kristen Cloke Megan - Jessica Harmon Clair - Leela Savasta Eve - Kathleen Kole Billy's Mother - Karin Konoval Stepfather - Howard Siegel Billy's Father - Peter Wilds Young Billy - Cainan Wiebe Billy - Robert Mann Young Agnes - Christina Crivici Agnes - Dean Friss

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