It is the night before Christmas, and the college students in this sorority house are settling in for the evening, as most of them have not gone home for the holidays and are staying overnight there. Upstairs in her room, Clair (Leela Savasta) is writing her cards and wrapping her presents, but when she gets to her sister's gift, she pauses deep in thought. That thought is never completed, as someone puts a plastic bag over her head and kills her, unbeknownst to the girls downstairs - could this have anything to do with the history of the building, and the rumour that it once housed a raving madman?
Well, what do you think? This was the remake of the original semi-classic horror from Canada, courtesy of Glen Morgan and James Wong, the brains behind some solid X Files episodes and the Final Destination franchise who had also previously contributed to the new millennium's remake fever with their version of Willard. That film had been an improvement over the first attempt, but with this there were few who preferred what they came up with to what Bob Clark had dreamt up way back in 1974, and the reviews were not kind - neither was the general audience reaction. However, there were those who found merit here.
Those people were those who appreciated the film's acknowledgement that Clark had approached his version both with an idea of how to chill the viewer, but also tried to make them laugh as well, so in Morgan's script there were more than a few sick jokes to buoy the atmosphere. The characters have a conversation about the pagan roots of Yuletide in a very sarcastic fashion, and label Santa Claus as a creepy voyeur who spends the whole year spying on those he wishes to hold to his high standards, a wink to those in the audience who have noticed that in the sorority house there is someone spying on the girls through a selection of holes in walls, floors and ceilings.
But who could it be? There's a move towards keeping us guessing about who the killer is, only to reveal the identity as that someone we knew all along, what with the notorious maniac Billy (Robert Mann) just escaped from the asylum and heading back home, which is where our heroines are now staying as the weather closes in. But Billy couldn't have murdered the first few victims we see, so that means there's someone else on the loose and indulging in a spate of eye gouging, and we find out who that is through a bunch of flashbacks of the unlovely history of Billy's family, a collection of incestuous, bloodthirsty freaks who he did his best to get rid of fifteen years ago.
The cast is mostly made up of attractive starlets as you'd expect, with Katie Cassidy heading the girls as she sees everyone dropping like flies around her - er, if you got flies in winter. Morgan's strongest suit is his bad taste, displaying a thorough disrespect towards the festivities that assists in making this more enjoyable for those seeking edgier thrills for Christmas, yet he falters when he goes for anything more original, and this winds up as much the same as most slasher remakes well before the end, with personality on the part of the potential victims levelling out until they're all pretty much the same. Still, there are a few nice touches, such as casting Andrea Martin from the first version in the role of the house mother, and the updating of the sinister phone calls to the age of the mobile, a device that has proved a headache for many horror movie makers since they became popular. Take note that the European cut was more extreme than the North American, so fans may wish to track down the former. Music by Shirley Walker.