Idol Chatter

Dimension Films is doing a little re-gifting this holiday season–and certain religious groups are responding with a loud “return to sender.”

Dimension, a division of the Weinstein Company, is releasing a remake of the 1974 horror classic “Black Christmas,” a tale of sorority girls being menaced over Christmas break, considered by most afficionados to be the originator of the “slasher” genre. But the movie and its Christmas Day release date are running afoul of groups such as Operation Just Say Merry Christmas (an organization dedicated to returning the sacred to the increasingly secular holiday season), which are being gore-Grinches about the remake.

“The use of religious music–‘Silent Night’–and the nativity set on the front porch in one scene are insensitive to Christians,” Jennifer Giroux, co-founder of Operation Just Say Merry Christmas, told Reuters after watching the trailer. “It’s not enough to ignore and omit Christmas, but now it has to be offended, insulted, and desecrated. Our most sacred holiday, actually a holy day, is being assaulted.”

“To have a movie that emphasizes murder and mayhem at Christmas, a time of celebration and joy around the world, seems to be ill founded,” echoes Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, “an organization dedicated to upholding religious freedom and traditional family values.”

Certainly, Staver and Giroux are both entitled to their opinions, and in fact, when I first saw an ad for the film, I thought it a bit tacky. But, Mr. Staver forgets that the Yuletide is not necessarily a time of joy and celebration for everyone, either because they are not affiliated with the Christian religion or because they are suffering from depression or anxiety actually made worse by the holidays.

Additionally, Giroux is neglecting another tradition: counter-programming. Just as Ms. Giroux’s website offers alternative cards and crèches for those who feel Christmas has become PC and devoid of Christianity, so too do the movie studios offer films for those sick of usual holiday treacle.

In fact, there is a long history of films featuring killer Kris Kringles. Let’s take a ride with the Ghost of Christmas Past all the way back to 1980’s “To All a Good Night,” then on to 1981’s “You Better Watch Out,” and land at 1984’s “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” which caused such a brouhaha with its ax-wielding Santa that it was pulled from theaters after two weeks and never made its Christmas Day nationwide release.

But then came a little film you may have heard of, known as “Scream,” released on December 20, 1996, a time of year traditionally reserved for Oscar contenders looking to get in under the wire. No Academy Award potential here, but the Wes Craven-directed film and its sequels proved to Hollywood that horror could rule the holidays, with the first two “Scream” films grossing more than $100 million each.

With the recent controversy, the “Black Christmas” ads now have a nifty new feature, an ominous voiceover stating: “The film they don’t want you to see…,” a tactic sure to draw in viewers who might not have cared otherwise and to give foundations such as Staver’s and Giroux’s more visibility. So in the end, everyone may get exactly the gift they asked for.

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