Black Christmas

Black Christmas ★★★

Black Christmas in name only. Barely has any similarities to the 1974 slasher other than the most basic of premises, which is good, because simply remaking an early, barebones slasher would have been pretty uninteresting in 2019. Instead, this uses the slasher genre to address contemporary college issues like fraternities and campus rape culture, and while the film isn’t great - and probably leans too heavily into the genre tropes it ostensibly wanted to avoid by not making a direct remake - it’s at least a horror movie trying to attempt something different. There seems to be an article every week about a college covering up a rape case or a fraternity doing some garbage, so a film about a sorority in which one of the girls was previously sexually assaulted by an alumni - coincidentally returning this very week - who are then targeted by a frat which oozes toxic masculinity (literally, as you’ll find out) is a pretty timely idea. There’s not much mystery here as to who’s doing the stalking. Takal doesn’t want us spending brain power on a barely held together whodunit and instead wants us questioning the value of institutions that breed men into misogynists and fail to properly protect and defend women. Thus the intrigue of the film doesn’t actually come from the more horrific slasher aspects, but instead the quieter in-between scenes where the women discuss fourth-wave feminism and how to take back the power from abusers. So an audience begging for bloody kills and terrifying scares are going to be disappointed, but as a horror film where, for once, you actually hate the attackers and are rooting for the victims to survive, it works. It all culminates in a finale which fans of the simple original probably won’t like and doesn’t exactly make much sense, but works symbolically. It would be a better film if, as mentioned, Takal and co. weren’t so inclined to shunt all the interesting ideas into an ill-fitting slasher suit, and there’s a few scenes that feel poorly edited, including the finale where it’s quite tricky to actually tell what’s going on. And although there are some dumb moments, this is no dumber than the original film where, if I recall correctly, the police are called to the sorority house to search for the killer and inexplicably don’t check the attic. Guess where he’s hiding?

(SPOILERS: A note on the final shot. Riley, while looking at the burning frat house, initially has a look of relief on her face, but as the shot holds it turns into something a little harder to read, so I’m theorising that it’s maybe the realisation that once this incident becomes newsworthy, it will probably be read not as “women take down attackers”, but instead “women kill men” by men already harbouring misogynistic viscera, thus creating more men who hate women and unfortunately continuing the toxic uroboric cycle the women are trying to help break.)

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