‘Black Christmas’ Is Laughably Bad and an Affront to the Slasher Genre

© 2019 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
© 2019 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

The original Black Christmas, released in 1974, is one of the earliest slasher films and has earned a cult following, as well as served as inspiration for other classics like John Carpenter’s Halloween. A loose remake came out in 2006 to negative reviews. Well, folks, it’s 2019 and Lordy, Lordy here we go again. A new remake, which hit theaters on Friday the 13th, is downright awful.

Set at Hawthorne College, the holiday break is just getting underway, and student Lindsey (Lucy Currey) is walking alone on campus before going to visit her parents. A trio of masked figures soon appear on the scene and chase Lindsey, eventually killing her. Cut to the next day and the rest of the student body, unaware that murder is on the agenda, is in celebration mode. Riley Stone (Imogen Poots), a student who is part of the MKE sorority, is still struggling after being raped by AKO fraternity president Brian Huntley (Ryan McIntyre). No one, aside from her close friends, believed her. Riley’s sorority sisters Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), Jesse (Brittney O’Grady), and Helena (Madeleine Adams) decide to participate in the AKO talent show with a dance choreographed by Riley, with Riley being drafted at the last minute to perform as well.

Kris, an activist, recently circulated a petition demanding that a bust of Hawthorne University’s founder and known misogynist Caleb Hawthorne be removed from the main building. This bid is successful, and her next petition targets Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) for refusing to teach books written by women, drawing his ire. While at the AKO fraternity, Riley eavesdrops on a bizarre ritual the AKO pledges are participating in and notes that black goo is leaking out of the Caleb Hawthorne bust. Soon after, the sorority sisters begin to receive threading messages from a Caleb Hawthorne account, and they eventually start to disappear one by one.

I’ve been looking forward to Black Christmas for months and couldn’t have been more disappointed. The 2006 version was so bad, and I thought this time it would be done right. Nope! Instead, they took a classic slasher plot and inserted supernatural components, doing the film a major disservice. The concept is so good: A bunch of sorority girls being picked off one by one at the hands of an unknown killer until one survives long enough to defeat the psycho. It’s fun, it’s compelling, it works. The first scene, with Lindsey getting murdered, was very well done and gave me high hopes, which were subsequently dashed as the film began to unfold.

Also, I felt like the actual aim of this movie was to preach to the audience about social issues. To make matters worse, they did it in a way that totally lacked in nuance. Is sexual assault on college campuses a societal problem? Yes. Is it necessary to shine a light on the matter to provoke a serious conversation and, hopefully, change? Absolutely. But co-opting a slasher film to serve as the vehicle of this cause is unfortunate.

When I go to a movie, I want something fantastic yet at least moderately believable. By the end, I found myself wishing they would all die. From the annoying sorority girls to the equally odious frat boys, there was no one even moderately likable enough to root for. That’s not to say there weren’t good things. The jump scare sequences were well-done, and I appreciated the lack of gore, leaving the manner of death to the imagination — something you don’t see as much in modern film. Poots also gave a notable and emotionally-infused performance, a bright light in an otherwise dismal production of bad acting.

Directed by Sophia Takal, written by Takal and April Wolfe, and produced on a $5 million budget, Black Christmas debuted at fourth place and has grossed $15.1 million thus far. It currently holds a forty percent Rotten Tomatoes rating — way too high as far as I’m concerned. I want to give Black Christmas zero stars, but in the spirit of Christmas, I’m giving it one. Save your money and watch the original instead.

 

 

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