Thursday, January 04, 2007

Caught in a Celluloid Jam

Rejecting an opportunity to see “Volver,” “The Queen,” “Dreamgirls,” “Babel,” “The Good Shepherd” or any other esteemed movie out now, I caught a screening of “Black Christmas” on Sunday afternoon. You know — to send off 2006 on the right note.

In all, the movie was fine, as far as darkly comic splatter films go. I’m a little disturbed at the likes of Lacey Chabert and Michelle Trachtenberg following in the footsteps of their TV series big sisters and starring in their own horror films, but this take on "Black Christmas" rightly went for over-the-top instead of re-creating the genuinely spooky and atmospheric feel of the original.

One scene stood out, however, especially in the canon of Sarah Michelle Gellar-related projects.

So Little Michelle Trachtenberg plays one of the sorority sisters whose Christmas break is effectively cut short by the arrival of a psychopath with a penchant for all thing yuletide. I can’t remember exactly what Trachtenberg’s character’s schtick was supposed to be. She may have well been the sardonic one. In any case, despite a speech from a sorority sister who extolled the virtues of sticking together and fending off the killer as a group, the former “Harriet the Spy” actress skips on upstairs on her own and quickly finds herself pursued by someone who wants to eat her eyeballs. (Seriously.)

She fights back — certainly better than most of the victims do and in a style reminiscent of how Buffy herself might have. Eventually, she tries in vain to lift an old, sticky window in order to allow her friends outside to hear that she has, in fact, made the worst decision of her life. The window doesn’t open, the friends don’t hear, and the killer ends up bashing the character’s head in with the pointy end of an ice skate blade.

Splat. No more Michelle Trachtenberg.

What strikes me about this scene is that in the last few moments before she dies, Trachtenberg’s character recalls other relevant work. For example, her last starring vehicle before “Black Christmas” was the teen romance-on-ice film, “Ice Princess,” in which Trachtenberg played a figure skater.

More so, one of the geekier personality traits of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character on “Buffy” was a secret affinity for ice skating.

It’s even more of a stretch, but I remember specifically noting a scene in “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in which the camera slides into the bedroom of Gellar’s doomed character. (You think it’s the killer, but the scene plays in broad daylight, so you can call the false jump scene a mile away. The actual death of Gellar's character happens near the film's end.) Even though "I Know What You Did Last Summer" is set in one of the Carolinas, a pair of ice skates plainly hangs on the wall — an odd touch by the set decorator. I only remember this because I recall asking myself what a girl living in a beach town in the South is doing with ice skates.

Finally, Gellar also starred in “Scream 2,” however briefly. In it, she plays a sorority girl who gets pursued in the Omega Beta Zeta Whatever sorority house by the killer, fights back with noticeably more vigor than most of the other girls in the series, then tries to get help by escaping through a window. Granted, this particular sorority girl gets stabbed, thrown through glass and tossed onto the pavement below, but the scenes nonetheless bear a few similarities.

I know I’ve probably invested way more thought into this one scene that anyone else will — possibly even more than the people who made it did. But I can’t help thinking that a filmmaker like Glen Morgan — who, after all, has enough knowledge of the slasher film canon to remake a mostly obscure title like “Black Christmas — did it intentionally.

1 comment:

  1. the queen was good, but i think i missed something, when i went in there everyone was wearing queen wigs, i think i missed the handout at the door

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