Film Review – Black Christmas

Black Christmas (M)

Directed by: Sofia Takal

Starring: Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes, Lily Donoghue

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

The classic, and often overlooked, original teen stalk and slash horror film Black Christmas (1974) gets a redux for a woke audience in the “Me Too” era after the disastrously messy 2006 remake.

It is just days until Christmas and the Hawthorne College campus population is thinning with most of the faculty and students leaving to be with their families for the holidays.

The timing seems perfect for a blood-thirsty stalker to start bumping off vulnerable sorority girls without anyone noticing their absence.

Except timid but intuitive and protective Riley (Imogen Poots) does notice; a couple of her BFF’s who were supposed to leave for vacation have not reached their destinations, and Riley becomes deeply suspicious and worried for their safety.

Is she being overly sensitive, or are the college frat boys playing a cruel prank as an act of revenge after Riley’s allegations that one of the jocks date raped her?

The authorities are no help with her newfound concern and are treating her with the same dismissive attitude they did when she made the rape allegations, so Riley and a handful of her remaining friends must band together and fight to survive.

Film Title: Black Christmas

This modern horror film makes no secret that it is for the “Me Too” era and Has Something To Say with a very potent Message.

At times the metaphors are forced (one character likens the sisterhood to ants – then later proceeds to spell out why) and the Me Too discourse overly obvious (“Did you just ‘not all men’ me?!”) – it certainly side-steps subtlety and could very well be dated much sooner than it should.

However, this “hot topic” is otherwise cleverly woven into the slasher setting, elevating familiar horror genre material and adding meat to the bones of a well-worn scenario.

This version looks at why it is always women in peril in these films, and in life, suggesting that toxic masculinity is consciously and deliberately passed down through generations of men who are trained to maintain dominance over women.

The set up also allows more depth for our “final girl” – Riley is not motivated by simply intuition or a gut feeling; she has experienced directly the violence men can do to women and has reason to be wary when her friends don’t answer their phone.

The twist, heavily suggested in the spoiler heavy trailer, is hokey, but an interesting metaphor for how toxic masculinity and the hunger for power is passed on through generations of men, and it also gives a deeper meaning to the title.

It is easy to nit-pick the occasional sledgehammer deliver of a Message via clunky dialogue, but Black Christmas’ biggest flaw is the lack of violence shown.

It is understood this was filmed to be a gory slasher, but edited down at the last minute to remove the blood and guts to reach a wider audience. However the impact of a film exploring the violence that men do to women is severely dulled when we don’t even see the physical impacts.

Not only that, the chills are drastically reduced – a shame when much effort has been made to create a suspenseful experience. there is just no pay-off.

For its faults and missteps, Black Christmas is thought provoking and takes a decent stab at tackling some really tough issues, and for the most part, does it in as realistic fashion as possible.

 

 

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