Black Christmas

Black Christmas ★★★½

Another powerful performance from Imogen Poots gives weight and credibility to what turns out to be a rather silly college slasher flick, albeit one that initially takes an original and intelligent approach to its played-out frat house vs sorority setting. She stars as a final year student who's tried to put her rape by a frat boy behind her, but he shows up again to party with his old friends, and at the same time someone's started to kill off hers. There's a nice whodunit element to the murders, with suspects including the rapist of course, a lecturer played by Cary Elwes, a sorority girl's boyfriend and the awkward nerdy guy who's got a crush on our heroine.

But running through this set-up are a series of modern, topical issues: not just sexual assault at universities (and the fact that most attackers get away with it), but ethnocentric curricula, memorials to slave owners, and other such controversies. Given that there turns out to be an anti-feminist motivation to the killings, it makes thematic sense to put so much politics in the earlier scenes, but it's also exciting and refreshing to make a slasher movie so relevant. For once, the downtime between the kill scenes aren't filled with stoner comedy, stupid pranks and basic titilation, and it's all the better for it.

Except those bits aren't really the downtime of this movie, because it's that satire that works best. Once it shifts focus into being a horror film, it's not as good. Despite an unexpected twist that takes the story out of the straightfoward slasher realm, the essential mechanics of potential victims creeping around a house, being picked off one-by-one, discovering the bodies of those who've already died, and eventually fighting back, are all a bit generic and not done with much flair. It certainly pushes at the limits of violence in PG-13 horror, though it's completely bloodless and the brutality is instead suggested by an array of satisfyingly bone-crunching sound effects.

Black Christmas isn't as stunning as its big brother and obvious inspiration, Get Out, but it's still worth getting in.

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