Popping up on Netflix, Black Christmas brings back a few memories; was this Bob Clark’s influential and traditionally nasty 1974 shocker which paved the way for Halloween and umpteen serial-killers vs student movies, or was it the lousy 2006 remake? As it happens, it’s neither; this is a 2019 Blumhouse reboot with a female writer and director Sophia Takal, plus a revisionist Get Out take on the genre. As a horror film, it’s not too bad at all, even if the fresh attitude dissolves into idiocy before the closing credits.
The first hour, at least, shows genuine promise, with references to Camille Paglia via a lecture delivered by obvious baddie Cary Elwes, and a direct reference to the ongoing Brett Kavanagh/Supreme Court nomination scandal. Imogen Poots plays Riley Stone, who we meet after she’s survived an on-campus date-rape ordeal. Riley’s supportive sisters plan a MeToo prank on a masculine frat-house, preparing a cabaret song that exposes the rape-culture they despise. A video of their performance goes viral, and when a hooded figure starts murdering the girls for revenge, Riley is forced to fight back with physical weapons, only to find that their adversary is not a singular one…
And that’s when the 2019 Black Christmas comes off the rails; there’s literally dozens of killers, and a supernatural explanation that’s far too literal; the boys derive their super-powers from the college founder, quite literally feeding on a black goo that emanates from his recently removed statue. While referencing several hot topics at once, this leads to a ridiculous boys vs girls Battle Royale finale which just doesn’t feel like a Black Christmas film; it makes little sense that the inexperienced girls have a shot at defeating the super-charged, super-natural figures they’re up against.
Most slasher movies are deeply misogynist at heart; they feast on the vulnerability of women, and that’s presumably why this update was made at all, to redress the balance. Poots is a strong heroine, and her understandable, justified anxiety about men is well-conveyed in the film’s early scenes. And while Takal deserves credit for keeping the gore to a minimum, Black Christmas eventually degenerates into some well hokey action. Re-inventing the genre tropes proves too much of a switch; this film would be better seen outside of the franchise, since it really doesn’t reflect the themes of the preceding films at all.