HOLLYWOOD─I used to always think “Halloween” was the start of the horror genre before we know it, but as an undergraduate studying cinema I learned of a 1974 flick that predated “Halloween,” one that gave John Carpenter a few tips about using the camera as a tool to create suspense. I’m referring to “Black Christmas.” When I first saw the movie it sent chills down my spine; it was just unnerving. Fast-forward to 2006 and we get our first remake which was a total bust. Fast-forward to 2019 and we have our second remake.
I think a bit of history has been made here because we’ve never had two remakes of a horror classic to this date that I can recall. The question you all might be asking is rather it triumphs over its predecessor and the classic. The answer to that question is no. First of all I give this second outing kudos for bringing a slightly original tale to fruition compared to the 2006 remake. It feels fresh, but the movie is totally limited in scope by its PG-13 rating.
This is not me saying that a movie has to be rated-R to be a strong and successful horror flick, but when you take the PG-13 route, you’re limited in scope in terms of what you can show and what you can do with the script. I will single-handedly commend the flick for tackling a tale that echoes the #MeToo movement, while pushing a pro-female agenda.
I will admit upon seeing the first trailer for the movie I thought this might be something neat and intense, but that intensity is hampered by a movie that attempts to be much smarter than what its audience might expect, which is unfortunate. So what am I saying to you is that when you tout something like a horror movie, that is what the audience expects: I want to see horror, I want to see suspense, and to some avenue blood is expected in this genre of film.
This latest outing of “Black Christmas” is limited when it comes to horror; it feels more dramatic than suspenseful and that could be a cup of tea many people would indulge in, but for fans of the original they will be scratching their heads with this one.
I would argue the best thing about this flick is our heroine Riley (Imogen Poots) who shines as the hero in the making. Riley is the survivor of a sexual assault that transpired a year ago at Pierce College. Riley’s assault was at the result of a member of a popular fraternity who was never charged with the crime committed. She is on edge, she is weary of plenty of people, and I feel like writer Sophia Takel, doesn’t utilize that trauma to its full potential as one would expect.
How so? The movie immediately falls into the troupe of the typical horror flick. A student goes missing, people report to the police about the disappearance, but nothing happens, a mysterious individual stalks and murders several students one by one, until a select few unite realizing if they don’t do battle they’ll be next. “Black Christmas” has a theme that pushes female empowerment, while addressing issues of patriarchy and dominance, but loses a few points with a subplot about fraternity elitism and cultism that is so unbelievable I have no idea how this agenda was pushed through in the writer’s room.
There are a few fun arcs in supporting players Cary Elwes Alyese Shannon and Lily Donoghue, but beyond that you get not much more from this thriller. Oh, the fact that it addresses the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and how so many universities and fraternities attempt to cover it up is a major benefit, but the movie never takes that idea and turns it into something thrilling. I hate to say this, but “Black Christmas” should have been called “Dull Christmas” because you’ll be left wanting so much more after watching this lackluster thrill-fest.