Black Christmas

Black Christmas ★★★½

Christmas would not be Christmas without a slasher movie. This year, Black Christmas, the 1974 horror classic about sorority girls being menaced on campus by a mysterious killer during winter break, has been given a new facelift for the #MeToo era.

Three years after she was sexually assaulted by a fraternity upperclassman and discredited by school authorities who did not believe her story, Riley, a reserved and withdrawn sorority senior played by Imogen Poots, leads her sisters in a plan to call out her graduated tormentor in public on the last night of the fall semester at Hawthorne College. Meanwhile, her friend, Kris, played by Aleyse Shannon, is organizing a petition against a professor, played by Cary Elwes, because of his non-diverse curriculum. When their classmates start disappearing, our resourceful protagonists are gravely threatened by a terrifyingly insidious campus conspiracy. These women, however, are not going quietly.

This 2019 incarnation of Black Christmas, which was helmed by female director Sophia Takal, tackles the issues of date rape, gaslighting, male supremacists, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy with the subtlety of a jackhammer, hence its decidedly less-than-glowing reception by most film critics. I am of the opinion, however, that horror movies are like pizza, because even the bad ones are pretty good. In this instance, there's some joy to be found in the mayhem once the surviving sorority sisters face off with the masked and robed fraternity villains by using an array of handy weapons. I also find a middle sequence, where Riley and Kris are stalked inside their house by a killer armed with a bow and arrow, to be genuinely suspenseful. None of this is particularly original, but it is all fast-paced and serviceably entertaining.

Imogen Poots, with her impressive performances in movies like 28 Weeks Later, Green Room, and Frank & Lola, is one of my favorite present-day stars. She hits all of the right notes in this skewed holiday feature as a lead whose all-too-realistic psychological battle scars are far more unnerving than the supernatural evils that await her during the story's conclusion.

Feminism in slasher cinema is nothing new. I have always disagreed with the notion that these films are misogynistic, because they inherently introduce us to women who find their inner steel while facing seemingly insurmountable odds in deadly situations. As such, many fans of the genre may not warm up to the audaciously heavy-handed theatrics in this latest outing. I myself applaud the final result and the final girls, however, because, with regard to the delivery of this film's messages, louder is better. The idea that this Black Christmas upgrade may resound with some new ears brings warmness to my Grinch heart.

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