Black Christmas

To the tune of “Up on the Housetop”:

Up in the frat house, there’s one true fact
And that is, that I was attacked.
Ho ho ho, I didn’t know.
Ho ho ho, I didn’t know.
Because up in the frat house click click click.

You slipped me a roofie
And then your dick.

The second remake of the 1974 slasher-creating classic, 2019’s Black Christmas looks to provide a new perspective on the extremely saturated sub-genre. This is of course provided by having a female director, Sophia Takal and co-writer April Wolfe onboard. I have yet to see the 2006 remake of Black Christmas – boasting the likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert, and Katie Cassidy – but despite the original largely establishing the slasher sub-genre into horror, it was not by any means misogynist. In fact, it did not have any nudity nor did it have any overt male gaze at all. At its core, it was about a woman taking control of her own body against her boyfriend’s wishes. There was absolutely no reason to ever remake Black Christmas, and the whole marketed feminist twist did it no further favours. If anything, to give the film some semblance of beneficial doubt, I’m going to assume that the 2019 version is aiming at being a remake of the supposedly crude 2006 version, yet taking advantage of the original’s fame. 

Black Christmas is only 92 minutes long, but it takes 80 minutes to get interesting. Unfortunately, those remaining moments of actual entertainment are quickly drowned by its continued, forceful, and very one-sided message that nullifies any worthwhile payoff. And by interesting, I mean in regards to actually offering something new…which then resulted in just being overly predictable and boorish regardless. A horror film’s worse enemy is always the trailer marketing. I need not enter any critical disquisition on the pitfalls of trailers, so I’ll simply state how awful it is that they casually spoil films. I actually avoided most of the marketing for Black Christmas, and the plot is still offensively obvious and extremely jaded in its sexist message. The film quite literally says that all men are rapist dogs who are incapable of being model citizens. I’m not kidding, there is a ridiculous ringing noise plot device that only men hear, causing them to have immense migraines.

I guess the film also does take a very brief moment to showcase that women too can be capable of being just as bad, but to a far lesser extent. Black Christmas is not only sexist towards men, and paints an aggressively wrong message of women, but it further fuels the gender equality gap by perpetuating yet another one-sided toxic message. I hate to damper anyone’s excitement, but this is nothing more than toxic feminism in the guise of some type of women-in-horror empowerment. The most shocking element on my drive home was that this was actually directed and co-written by women. 

Toxic feminism is the central theme of this film whether it likes it or not. The generalized views shared against men are blatantly offensive here, and poorly wielding the righteous blade of feminism in the worst manner possible. There are films that manage to force their messages upon its audiences in an artistic manner, films that strengthen and support their targeted cause or movement with bold statements and decisions. Takal and Wolfe’s Black Christmas is not one of them. Bolstering a wide variety of very unsubtle pokes at contemporary mainly United States affairs, ranging from rape culture, fraternity hazing, police injustice, social status, gender inequality, to even a Kavanaugh “I like beer” reference. Most of you can probably name a film that force feeds its message down your throat, Black Christmas does exactly that. 

It’s undeniable from its extremely base level provocative cringey script, and unavoidable from a handful of its characters. None more so than Aleyse Shannon‘s, Kris. A character quickly introduced petitioning outside of her professor’s lecture hall, asking every student to sign for his immediate termination for yelling at her off-screen. At least that’s what I think the primary spark was, as she describes an altercation where she confronted and demanded him to change his classics syllabus because it lacked any female and person of colour inclusion. Yeah, that type of student. This same character who complains about being called a girl by her own best friend, correcting her to using the proper term, “woman“. Around halfway through this uneventful and astonishingly slow film, the same gir- woman, is offended when her best friend’s boyfriend tries to explain how not every guy in the world is some frat-bro prick trying to hit on every single girl in the world. Naturally, Kris takes it in the worst way possible, in none other than the classic mansplaining card. 

Had there been some sort of arbitrary mediator between the various extremes of this film’s perspective – not hyper masculine, nor social justice crusader – perhaps it would have been easier to digest and acknowledge these very annoying and unlikeable caricatures. But I truly despised every second of this film and came out feeling like it would only marginalise the feminist cause once again by another sad and inappropriate use of its namesake. I’ll close this section with Emma Watson‘s brilliant words: “Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with, it’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.”

I don’t like the term “elevated horror”, but it would be accurate to state that recent years have been good for the horror genre. Films like It Follows, The VVitch, The Babadook, Get Out, Hereditary, and many more have all not necessarily brought upon a resurgence to an always profitable genre, but have at least brought a more critical lens and, dare I say, “indie acclaim” to it. Suffice it to say, there is no shortage of horror these days, which means there are even less reasons for horror films to keep recycling the exact same tropes and clichés. You know, the killer in the bathroom mirror, the cat behind the door, tripping, the fumbling of keys, flipping the light switch off and on, obvious friendly characters being the killer, etc. 

The original Black Christmas arguably established the foundations of what would four years later be solidified as the slasher sub-genre, with Halloween. As stated I have yet to see the first mid-2000s remake, but I can wholeheartedly state that the 2019 female version has nothing innovative to showcase nor say that Bob Clark’s original film and even Margot Kidder’s supporting role didn’t already do better 45 years ago. I’d go as far to state that this remake should have been its own IP in general, as it really shares nothing of note to the original. It might have actually done itself more harm by piggybacking onto a beloved cult classic, and adding it’s own entirely bland twist. All the scares are telegraphed far ahead of the reveal, it lacks any creative kill (like the original), the musical score is non-existent, the cinematography relies mostly in the Christmas mood lighting, and all the acting is serviceable at best. One could forgive the acting, as aside from a wasted Imogen Poots and a phoned-in Cary Elwes, everyone is a newcomer. 

The script on the other hand, ranges from hilariously bad, to atrociously inept. I don’t think any male character has anything of notable value to say, at least not before being interrupted prior to actually reaching their point. Some examples of the script can be seen through these three lines “Christmas is a time to look sexy! Isn’t that Halloween? Well yes, but it’s really for every holiday.”; “You bitches are all the same. You act like you want it, but you’re all just a bunch of teases.”; “I don’t have social media. I’m afraid of all the privacy stuff. But I’d get it. For you. I’d DM you if you wanted me to.” For a film that states in its first act that you can’t write in a specific gender tone, this film sounded awfully like an angry woman yelling at all the men who have wronged her in the past. Not only was I actively keeping an eye on my watch, but, having not paid for this film, I strongly considered walking out twice. 

Black Christmas is a film I strongly advise you to avoid, and certainly not support with your hard earned money. You don’t need to pay to sit through 94 minutes of useless characters yelling about how every man is a frat-bro rapist alcoholic, and that the only good boy is an introverted subservient boy with no say. There are plenty of alternatives to watch and/or catch up on. For my money’s worth, I’d like to remind you to go experience Alma Har’el’s beautiful Honey Boy. Also go and give my partner, Henry, a visit to read up on Richard Jewel and Jumanji: The Next Level, two films I’d rather watch. You know what, I’d rather take my chances with Michael Bay‘s new Netflix film. At the end of the day, Black Christmas fails at every single level, joining the likes of Eli, The Silence, Polar, and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged as kindling to my dumpster fire. 

F

F Review

Hello, is it Lee you're looking for? View All →

Film Studies/History graduate, using my love and knowledge of the medium to pass as a critic. I’m typically known for longer write-ups, and my eclectic taste ranging from awards darlings, European filmé, indie spirits, cinematic universes, and most notably 80s cult films. Hope you’ve enjoyed your visit, and remember, watch whatever, whenever, with whomever.

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