Imogen Poots as Riley
Directed by Sophia Takal & co-written by Takal and April Wolfe
Sophia Takal’s take on Black Christmas, based on the 1974 Bob Clark slasher, is probably the most “woke” film I have ever seen. This isn’t necessarily bad, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Black Christmas follows a sorority house full of girls as they prepare for Christmas. Some of the girls are going home, but several are not: Riley (Imogen Poots), Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), and Jess (Brittany O’Grady). Riley is still traumatized after a frat house rape several years ago. Kris is a hardcore activist who had their college take down the bust of the university namesake because he was a misogynist and racist, and is currently attempting to get a professor fired for vague misogynistic tendencies. She encourages Riley to stop sitting on the sidelines and take her life back. So she does.
During a Christmas talent show at the frat house where Riley was attacked, a girl gets sick, Riley takes her place, and changes the words of their song to reflect what happened to her. While this accusatory song doesn’t set off the string of murders that comes, it certainly accelerates the rate of butchery. The movie proceeds as you would expect: a cloaked, masked killer stalking and killing the young women; a supernatural “twist” that you can see from the opening scenes of the film; and a fiery finale.
This is a horror film made for women. Women are still victims (like in most horror movies) and women are also the heroes (again, like in most horror movies). The difference seems to be the #metoo message and the fact that the women aren’t naked (or nearly naked). I appreciate the message about campus rape, because that is an issue that never receives enough positive attention. There are lots of little “Easter eggs” that probably won’t make sense to men, such as what a Diva cup is, or that several women hold their keys between their fingers like claws. Every woman I know is taught to hold their keys like that, so it was nice to see that not just one woman did this. It also showed that these women were proactive; they weren’t just sitting around waiting to be slaughtered.
The biggest drawback to Black Christmas seems to be what everyone on the internet was complaining about prior to having seen the movie: the PG-13 rating. Because of the rating, there were no murders on screen. Not a single one. I understand why the filmmakers did this, and it goes back to the idea of being a “woke” film. But that does not make it a good choice for a horror film. Yes, there are a few exceptions (such as Texas Chain Saw Massacre), but this is a remake of a slasher film. When I go see a slasher movie, I expect to see some bloody, brutal murders. It would have been very easy to make a “woke,” feminist film in any other genre — even as a thriller or a different kind of horror movie. But to remake an infamous slasher film without a single visible death… that is just not what I signed up for. I hate to say this, but I kind of agree with the reactionary jerks on the internet. This film was lacking the blood and guts that I was expecting.
I have another issue with this film, and it is difficult to articulate without giving away the whole story (even though they literally told you who the killers are in the trailer). Basically, the men in this film are all villains (with one exception, maybe two). They are not even given a chance at redemption. While the main characters seem to be beyond redemption, there are a few who may not be. But they are not given the option; they are punished with the rest of the villains. I fear that this careless “blame everyone with a penis” attitude will cause men to overlook the pertinent issues of the film.
Black Christmas will probably be most popular with females who are looking for “soft” horror. I think a lot of men will be put off by the clearly feminist bent, and even female horror fans (like myself) will likely not be able to get past the actual horror missing from this horror movie.
Black Christmas Opens Friday, December 13!