Review: 'Black Christmas' remake awkwardly puts supernatural spin on source material

December 13, 2019

    Courtesy of Blumhouse 

Call it a remake of a remake. Bob Clark’s trashy B movie trifecta “Black Christmas” was a slasher flick that worked primarily on the audience because we didn’t know the identity of the killer. Of the time, it was also somewhat celebratory of female empowerment and turned it’s fair share of heads in 1974 because of those topics. Decades later - and following the grungy torture-porn 2006 remake - Sophia Takal’s 2019 version attempts to ditch the sexual politics of its predecessors’ and revitalize the film into an attack on the patriarchy in the #MeToo era. 

 

And honestly, it would have worked if not for a late third act supernatural twist that’s too bonkers for words, and even more preposterous for asking us to believe it. Manufactured right out of the Blumhouse cheap factory, “Black Christmas” follows a squad of sorority sisters at Hawthorne College. After we get the obligatory pre title card murder, we meet Riley (Imogen Poots) on the eve of an extended holiday vacation. She’s a survivor of rape who got her assiliant - obviously a local frat boy - expelled from school. Her friends (Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, and Brittany O’Grady) stage a harmless prank that highlights the injustices of women across all college campuses and ticks off a misogynist adviser (Carey Elwes) in the process. 

 

Then, like clockwork, Riley’s friends turn up missing and before the cookies are decorated, hooded figures with ice sicles and Katniss Everdeen crossbows attempt to assert their dominance (and kill count) leaving the sisters no choice but to stab and claw their way to survival. Takal takes an interesting approach with strong females kicking butt which gives “Black Christmas” a welcome freshness in the era of boring retreads and reboots. That is until the narrative shifts gears completely in the final 20 minutes and becomes an almost different movie entirely. 

 

It’s a simplistic approach of good vs evil but as large hordes of black masked and hooded men spread across campus, slaughtering girls to no avail, “Black Christmas” builds to a battle of the sexes showdown that feels misguided by revenge. I found it counterproductive that the message sent here is that women need to be violent towards their attackers in order to be heard and taken seriously. Give credit where it’s due, but “Black Christmas” only touches the surface of what it sets out to accomplish. 

 

Grade: C-

 

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