Black Christmas (2019) a Failure?

This slasher film is the second remake of the 1974 cult classic of the same name, which was also remade in 2006, about a group of sorority girls who are stalked by a killer during Christmas break. Honestly, the basic premise I just described is more or less the only thing this film has in common with the original, aside from a small nod or two it’s just a remake in name only.

The 2006 film was also a loose remake, but it was a spin on the original’s plot and contains several nods to the original (similar camera shots, some of the characters names are the same etc.) that it warranted the term ‘remake’, or ‘reimagining’. Whereas this film has hardly any of it – that’s like saying Scream 2, Urban Legend or House On Sorority Row are also remakes just because they’re set on a college campus.

Instead of being a remake, what this film is really is a political message clearly in response to the #Metoo movement, where women are finally opening up about their sexual assaults after not being believed or being silenced by powerful men. A message I’m perfectly happy to back if it was handled properly. Unfortunately it wasn’t!

It was very badly written and does nothing but preach its message so hard to its audience, that it almost forgets it’s even a film. Throughout the film you constantly have to listen to the main girls talking about how there’s no equality and how men have more power over women and that they should be standing up against sexual predators and misogynists. In a slasher film of all genres, that almost always has female protagonists, so it’s audience are already paying to see a woman fight against a killer and potentially survive. So why preach something that the audience already want?

The protagonist Riley was previously raped by a fraternity boy and no one besides her friends believed her. If the film just focused on her fighting the killer and use it as an allegory to be brave and stand up against her rapist and ultimately inspire other female characters to do the same, then the film would’ve been stronger. In fact you can look at Halloween 2018 as an allegory for #Metoo with Laurie Strode’s struggle to get to her daughter and granddaughter to understand her trauma brought on by a male predator, then ultimately band together to take him down.

The difference between this film and Halloween 2018, is that in the latter, the message is subtext to the story that has genuine scares, an actual story and well-rounded characters. Here the scares are mostly minimal with neither gore nor suspense, death scenes are poorly built up and are pretty forgettable. The story makes no sense, you can tell who the killer is going to be from the start and it has one of the stupidest twists I’ve ever seen. Also the characters are one-dimensional for a film that’s supposed to have strong female characters; with the exception of Riley, they were not the least bit interesting and had no personality traits other than their preaching for justice.

Another reason it’s badly written is that the social message is completely unbalanced, debates are made about the subject but are too one-sided. While there are attempts to balance it out, like a character pointing out that not all men are powerful or bad and then trying to show not all women are good either. But those arguments just get tossed aside and it becomes just a battle of Women Vs. Men.

The original Black Christmas already had a bit of a feminist subtext, particularly a subplot involving the protagonist Jess wanting an abortion and her boyfriend Peter trying to pressure her into keeping the baby. But Jess refuses to give into Peter, even when he’s bordering on abusive, while uncomfortable to watch at times, it still lets the audience see both sides of the argument; despite being unlikeable, it’s understandable why Peter felt the way he did. Whether you agree with Jess’s decision or not, ultimately it’s her body and her choice – even then all of that was secondary to the story and the scares.

The 2006 Black Christmas tries to use sisterhood as a theme to contrast the killer’s motive of family. While it failed in that message as it still resulted in them splitting up and being killed off one-by-one, the girls at least still had personalities and the actresses had far more chemistry than the cast in this film.

The only compliments I can give this film is that Imogen Poots gives a strong performance as Riley and some of the Christmas imagery is pretty to look at. There are also some nice little nods to the original. That’s about it.

So as a remake, a slasher film, a social message, or even just a film in general – it fails in all categories.

Written by Jack Parish

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