I love Black Christmas. I’ve been a fan and bleeding-heart purist of Bob Clark’s psychological masterpiece since I first saw it almost two decades ago. Naturally, I watched it over and over again for months.
When I heard about this new remake, or reboot, from Blumhouse, I was excited. All the better it was coming out in time for the holiday. Hollywood’s record with remakes is spotty. I was severely let down by the last one (Black Xmas, 2006), in fact, I’d rather say I was disgusted by its – and producer Harvey Weinstein’s – abuse of the source material.
I felt – hoped – Sophia Takal couldn’t do any worse. She didn’t disappoint and made a decent slasher movie that is both a tribute and something original enough. That doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer moments of chagrin prompting this reaction: “Um, seriously?”
Riley (Imogen Poots) is a student and sorority sister at Hawthorne College, a school started by a slave-owning Satanist. Cajoled into dancing in a routine at a frat house, she runs into the frat boy who attacked her – recalling her trauma from years ago.
Egged on by her radical feminist housemate Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Riley and the other girls humiliate the fraternity on stage through song. Soon after, she and her fellow coeds are harassed by ominous DMs from an unidentified party and targeted by a legion of hooded killers.
The trailer gives away a lot, providing adequate expectations, but not everything. A fair share of twists has to be known by seeing the film. There’s a supernatural element the other two didn’t have and a conspiracy that takes the focus off one killer in a house and raises us a backstory of an entire demonic institution. In the director’s mind, that institution is more broadly perceived as male domination. It works as something contained on the micro though its ambitions don’t stay there.
As advertised, Sophia Takal blends feminism into her content but is better at it than Elizabeth Banks and Charlie’s Angels. Not saying the rhetoric isn’t the same old sermonizing pap in both films.
Men here fit the profile of a feminist narrative. They are either predatory, toxic, conspiring, drunken, incompetent, or useless orbiters. And masculinity is portrayed as a spiritual sickness. You could get mad at this movie for that, but the same dynamic played out in Halloween last year, a movie everyone (almost) loved because Jamie Lee Curtis packed heat.
I might’ve felt insulted if I wasn’t so busy laughing at how unrealistic the dialogue gets during lectures on female nature and arguments about male behavior. To mansplain, what sounds good in a fanfic, a scene study for writing or acting courses, or a scenario for a sensitivity seminar shouldn’t be in your screenplay’s final draft.
By contrast, Takal made it sound like the sorority sisters have their stuff together when that’s not really so. The girls support each other – after they get done bickering about who’s at fault for what and realize they’ve got to band together and smash the patriarchy.
It could be worse, so much worse. Any Friday the 13th sequel is 10 times as bad. Worse, the holiday legacy of this franchise was already spat on once. I refer you again to Black Xmas which should be burned, buried, and forgotten and not exist at all.
Sophia Takal’s Black Christmas does what she sets out to, capturing how she felt watching the 1974 film from her perspective. She has far more reverence for it than Glen Morgan and Weinstein did. Her use of lines, ideas, and motifs from Clark’s trendsetting picture are surprising and enjoyable Easter Eggs as opposed to tropes grafted on to a Frankenstein patchwork made for a low common denominator consumer of torture porn.
You’ll cringe at its wokeness but you can appreciate its slasher attributes which owe as much to other cult classics, namely House on Sorority Row and The Brotherhood of Satan. Nothing will top the original and the Black Christmas name has been damaged since ’06 yet Takal manages to get it back on its feet, at least, sprinting down the stairs away from the killer in pursuit. Baby steps, people.
- The Black Christmas brand doesn’t suffer too badly.
- Imogen Poots who is good in anything.
- Doesn't overstay its welcome.
- Some scenes should’ve been struck or rethought.
- The usual male-bashing.
- Sudden ending.