Black Christmas, Indeed!
It’s Christmas break time and the campus is shutting down slowly. A group of sorority sisters are lingering around to finish some tasks and spend a little extra time together. They are all seniors and this is their last run before the real world calls. They are a tough little group, sticking together and watching out for one another. Thing is, one of them goes missing (they presume she’s left for home already), and they’re all getting weird chat messages on their phones. Something is wrong and pretty soon, they’re getting stalked by mysterious men in robes wearing masks. Could this all tie into the fraternity that they have beef with? It seems so, as one of the women stumbles into a secret pledge ritual at the fraternity, a ritual that is fraught with occult themes. Before they know it, they are under assault, as multiple men in robes and masks descend on the sorority house, eager for their blood. The women must band together and fight back. Can they learn the secret to what is going on, or will they die as bloody sacrifices to a patriarchal power that is unrelenting and savage?
This was a tough one. First off, it’s a “remake” of a classic, and secondly, it got a terrible reception upon release. There was a lot of controversy over this one, and usually that can help a film sell some tickets, but in this case, it did not. Black Christmas was gone from the theaters pretty quickly. So, to some of the points: it is a remake in name only. This has nothing to do with the original film from the 70s. There’s a couple of winks to the old pic (I see you glass unicorn!) but that’s about it. I think they would have saved themselves some grief if they’d simply titled this something else. Next, it was derided for giving away too much plot in the trailers. I thought this same thing, until I saw the film. Actually, there’s a bit more going on here that reveals itself as it unfolds. Maybe they could have held back a few details, but that criticism is really lame. Finally, and this is the thorny issue, the overt feminism in the picture. Yeah, it’s no lie. This move beats you over the head with it and there’s no room for subtleties or innuendo. Nope. They take a fireplace poker of feminism and jam it right in your eyeballs. I will admit (and I am an old white guy so take these words with that in mind) that it was a bit much at times, and it sure felt a bit too preachy. Like, we get it, already. But then at a certain point, I started thinking about the actual real world, and how a lot of these issues actually exist and the backlash and reactions to them. I thought about how the real-world treats women, how men treat women, and the casual misogyny that goes on every single damn day. And I thought, maybe this movie does need to take a bat to our heads. Maybe this was the right choice in tone. Also, it gives women a lot to cheer for. It may be eye-roll worthy to some, but there’s something about the camaraderie here, when the women team up to take the bad guys out, that is thrilling. If they can do this in a Marvel superhero movie, then why not a film like this? With those thoughts in mind, I think the criticism of this being didactic and preachy are on the surface level correct, but on a real-world level I don’t think it’s preachy enough. These are genuine and deadly concerns, and if it hurts your feelings that they’re being laid out and expressed so baldly and so boldly, that’s on you. People’s lives are ruined every day over shit like this. So get over it. All of that said, let me get to actually looking at the movie. It plays like a standard Slasher, for the most part. In order to keep that PG-13 rating, the kills are bloodless (I’m not going to get into the PG-13 debate here) and a bit unsatisfying on a visceral level. However, about 50 minutes in, the film kicks into overdrive, and the suspense and terror and action are top-notch. What was a jog becomes a terrified sprint. A little over an hour in, the film takes another twist, and this sealed the deal for me. From there on, it’s all about settling the matters at hand.
Black Christmas is a fun, funny, breathtaking, terrifying and damning picture all in one. I really ended up enjoying it and I think most of you will, as well. You should give it a try if you haven’t seen it. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers or the critics. If the “politics” of it bothers you, try and listen to what it’s saying rather than holding it out at arms-length. In the end, it’s a tight little horror film with more than enough thrilling moments to keep your butt in the seat. I heartily recommend (although I do wish it was called something else).