Black Christmas – USA, 2019 – reviews

‘Slay, girls’

Black Christmas is a 2019 American slasher horror feature film directed by Sophia Takal (New Year, New You) from a screenplay co-written with April Wolfe. The Blumhouse Productions – Divide/ConquerUniversal Pictures production stars Imogen Poots, Brittany O’Grady, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Caleb Eberhardt and Cary Elwes.

This is a very loose remake (taking just the title and the sorority girls theme) of the 1974 Canadian film of the same name which was already been remade in 2006.

Plot:

Hawthorne College is quieting down for the holidays. One by one, sorority girls on campus are being killed by an unknown stalker. However, the killer is about to discover that this generation’s young women aren’t willing to become hapless victims as they mount a fight to the finish…

May contain spoilers! Reviews:

” …when it finally sheds its skin and reveals the momentum behind the horror, it hardly rises above something you’d see on The CW. Ultimately you have a genre flick that is all about women fighting back, but it’s been done better without such a heavy-handed approach.” Arrow in the Head

“It’s hard not to admire a film for jumping into a difficult conversation and using the iconography of a genre, one that all-too frequently indulges in sexism, to make a feminist statement. And by setting it in a location where those conversations are everyday occurrences it feels especially organic and absorbing, at least until everything gets weird.” Bloody Disgusting

Black Christmas does not fail because it promotes feminist themes or dumbs down its thrills to have PG-13 appeal. It disappoints because it doesn’t do these things well, and those agendas mix like oil and water to create a mediocre mainstream movie without the edge it deservedly demands to have.” Culture Crypt

“With nothing approaching suspense or dread, it devolves into a big battle between the frat boys and sorority sisters that sinks into a whole new level of ridiculousness. It’s a shame, because buried in here is an interesting way to revitalise a tired formula.” Empire

“It’s an unwieldy and messy thing, drearily directed and boringly written, taking its agenda seriously yet not providing a robust enough framework to surround it. It’s a film that urges us to believe women yet shows female characters not believing the legitimate concerns of their female friend.” The Guardian

“Some films wrap their messaging up in a pretty package, whereas Black Christmas is a gift lit on fire and thrown through your window. There’s a problem with your horror film when the best moment is a sick burn of a song insulting frat house d-bags, as epic as that may be.” Killer Horror Critic

“The characters are definitely sketched deeper than the 2006 version, where they all appeared to hate one another and just fire off bitchy remarks […] Unfortunately, there’s just no subtlety to any of it: Women good, men evil, and that’s pretty much it. The sole not-damned man is presented as a powerless nerd (albeit a likeable one).” Vegan Voorhees

Choice dialogue:

“I don’t know. Don’t really feel like dealing with my mom right now. It doesn’t surprise me at all that my dad left her.”

Release:

With some slasher fans dismayed by the MPAA’s award of a PG-13 for the second remake of Black Christmas, the Blumhouse movie’s co-writer April Wolfe tweeted to explain how the film ended up with that rating:

“Here’s the deal: We wrote it with an ‘R’ in mind. When they did the test screenings, was clear that this movie needed to be available to a younger female audience because the subject matter is timely. Also I want to indoctrinate girls into horror. Doesn’t make it any less vicious!”

Black Christmas was released by Universal on Friday the 13th of December 2019.

Box office:

The new Black Christmas movie performed poorly at the US box office taking just $4.4 million on a wide release at 2,625 over its opening weekend when it had been predicted to take at least $10 million. Worse still, the audiences that did see it gave the slasher a Cinemascore of D+. The movie went on to take $7,726,665 domestically and $6,400,000 internationally for a worldwide gross of $14,126,665.

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Background:

When interviewed by Entertainment Weekly about her slasher horror movie director Sophia Takal had the following to say:

“You know, this movie, even though it’s very, very loosely based on Black Christmas, I’d say the plot is extremely different. It’s more inspired by the feeling that Black Christmas made me feel watching it, this idea of misogyny always being out there and never totally eradicable. So that was the jumping-off point for how I came up with this plot. I’d compare it more to how Luca Guadagnino remade Suspiria than to a straight-ahead remake.

She explains:

The original Black Christmas feels so contemporary and modern for the time. Since then I feel like there have been so many movies about sorority sisters where the women have been portrayed as dumb, bimbo-y idiots. What I love was this was a group of women who, even though there was some conflict and strife — you know, Margot Kidder was a real spitfire [laughs] — they were all very much three-dimensional, strong female characters. I wanted to make something that reflected our time right now, drawing more from what the original evoked for me rather than great plot points. For me, it was about what does it feel like to be a woman in 2019?”

Furthermore:

“I feel like another part of why I kind of shifted the direction that this version took was because, in 2019, I didn’t just want to make a movie about a bunch of women getting slaughtered. It just gave me a pit in my stomach. This is not to say that a man might want to see that. I just think I felt very much a responsibility not to perpetuate this idea of disposable female characters, because of how it makes me feel when I watch that. I call this movie a fiercely feminist film…”

Cast:

  • Imogen PootsVivarium; Green Room; Fright Night (2011); 28 Weeks Later
  • Brittany O’Grady – The Messengers TV series
  • Aleyse Shannon – Charmed TV series
  • Lily Donoghue
  • Caleb Eberhardt
  • Cary Elwes

Image credits: Blumhouse Productions – Divide/ConquerUniversal Pictures

Related:

2019 films

Slasher films

Black Christmas – Canada, 1974 – now with ’10 Things You Didn’t Know About…’ video

Black Christmas – USA, 2006 – reviews

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