Holiday spirit

Clark using killer instinct again

2929 Entertainment will be dialing up murder on Christmas Day when the remake of the 1974 Canadian teen horror classic "Black Christmas" reaches the local multiplex.

The Dec. 25 stateside release by MGM of the dark holiday classic, written and produced by James Wong and Glen Morgan ("X-Files," "Final Destination") and starring Michelle Trachtenberg, will again be set in a sorority house terrorized over the Christmas break by a stranger who makes frightening obscene phone calls before murders mysteriously take place.

Bob Clark, a native of New Orleans who launched his film career in Canada, is widely credited with spawning the 1980s slasher flick phenomenon — in which muffled breathing noises heard on the phone portend bloody murder — by directing the original "Black Christmas."

Recalling the original movie that starred Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Andrea Martin, Clark says he raised the bar for teen horror films by filling his "Black Christmas" sorority house with sassy girls confronting a creepy Santa Claws.

"I was determined not to do 'Beach Blanket Bingo,'" he says, pointing to Kidder's character having a "smart mouth" and an edgy quality, Hussey's character being pregnant and independent, and the "sweet girl" rather than the "bad girl" getting picked off first.

Horror aficionados may see in John Carpenter's 1978 film "Halloween," Sean Cunningham's "Friday the 13th" (1980) and Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) echoes of Clark's pioneering use in "Christmas" of an unseen killer ruining an otherwise happy holiday celebration.

"The influence is the subjective camera, the unseen villain, the phone calls that have been copied a couple times. I'm quite proud of that," Clark says.

Toronto-based film producer Victor Solnicki ("Videodrome") optioned "Black Christmas" for a remake and initially anticipated a low-budget Canadian affair. Along the way, he brought on board fellow Canadian producers Steve Hoban and Noah Segal and pursued traditional Canadian government financing and tax credits to complete the movie's financing.

But the success of the 2003 remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" by Marcus Nispel and more recent teen slasher hits convinced Solnicki and Clark to go the studio route and pursue U.S. financing for their remake.

"As we were developing the project, 'Texas Chainsaw' went through the roof, the climate changed and there was U.S. interest," Solnicki recalls.

He adds that the overture from 2929 Entertainment was embraced because the mini studio run by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban impressed him with their expertise and deep pockets.

"They had a good business plan, were doing films in the $20 million-$25 million range, and were very good to get along with," Solnicki says.

With Clark and Solnicki sharing in the executive producing credits, the 2006 remake of "Black Christmas" became a Canada/U.S. co-production between Toronto's Copper Heart Entertainment and 2929 Prods.
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