It went on forever, and it was only 90 minutes long!
Many slasher movies since the 1970s, such as Halloween, owe a gigantic debt to 1973’s Black Christmas, as it was one of the first films of its kind. Directed by Bob Clark, who would later ironically direct A Christmas Story ten years later, the film is about a sorority house that is plagued by a stalker who constantly calls the house. One by one, the killer murders each member of the house, all while one survivor tries to decipher who the suspect is. Almost any way you look at it, Black Christmas is an iconic horror film. It was remade in 2006, but critics did not take too kindly to the increased amount of gore, and not many people saw it. This year, it is getting another remake from Blumhouse Productions, who successfully revived the Halloween franchise last year. Have they replicated their success with another holiday-themed horror film? The short answer, they haven’t. The long answer….well…
The campus of Hawthorne College is quieting down as the students get ready for winter break. However, the female members of a sorority house are being stalked and killed one by one by an unknown assailant. One member of the house, Riley, who is still recovering from a traumatic act of sexual assault, must confront the male-dominated college to find the killer before he gets the entire household.
This film is abysmal. Almost every line of dialogue spoken in the film is either about sexual assault, male-dominated society, and trauma, without any sense of realism. There is nothing wrong with having social commentary in a horror film, because it helps a film reflect the time during which it was made, but this film hammers in the agenda to an agonizing degree, and forgets what it set out to do in the first place.
Sexual assault is an uncomfortable subject, and should be handled with sensitivity when included in a film. The filmmakers have the female characters explaining their experiences of assault multiple times, all while the boys make cringey double-entendre puns to get a reaction. If all of this seems too callous, the film also provides moments of levity, including a female-sung rendition of “Up on the Housetop” with the lyrics rewritten to talk about sexual molestation. There is also a male security guard squirting mayonnaise on a sandwich, a extended sequence explaining what a DM is, and a boy responding to a question about his drinking by saying “I like beer.” Seriously?!?!
One question some audience members may have during this film is “Isn’t this supposed to be a horror movie?” There is no clear answer to that question, because the film barely features any elements of horror elements, and opts for jump scares over the dark and moody holiday atmosphere that the first film offered. The visuals that this film offers are dreary and uninteresting, and many of the sequences are over-edited, even those that are not intense. The audio has issues too, notably in one dialogue scene where the music is too loud. Given how bad the dialogue in this is, maybe not hearing it was a good thing.
There is only one shot in the film that has any effectiveness. It is a death scene involving a cat and a string of Christmas lights. It is filmed as a wide shot and feels atmospheric–like something Bob Clark would have directed. Aside from that scene, the basic sorority house setting, and the title, the film has almost nothing to do with the first Black Christmas. So why not just change the title?
What made the original Black Christmas unique, aside from its atmosphere, was that it never revealed whom the killer was, and the film cleverly played with expectations as to who the killer could be. With this film, it is guaranteed that audiences will figure out the killer within the first ten minutes, because the film doesn’t bother trying to hide anything. It is also impossible to relate to any of the protagonists, because the acting is not convincing and the dialogue sounds exceptionally unnatural. In fact, during what is supposed to be a moment of suspense, the only the male character who isn’t a sexual predator, says, “Why don’t you eat a fart!” Ugh.
There are so many problems with this film, but what becomes clear towards the end is that not even the filmmakers know what tone this movie should have. First it is about a college littered with cases of sexual assault, then it is a horror movie about stalkers, and when it is revealed (finally) who is behind all of the killings, it suddenly turns into a James Bond adventure mixed with Marvel’s The Avengers. Audiences who go to this film expecting a horror movie are not only going to feel uncomfortable and confused, but also cheated. In other words, the audience to film relationship is not consensual.
From beginning to end, this latest remake of Black Christmas is a catastrophe. It fails at being a horror movie, because many of the scares are not effective and it lacks suspense. It fails at providing social commentary because it overstates its agenda and handles a difficult subject in an insensitive manner. Finally, it fails at being entertaining because it has no clear target audience. On one final note, one of the characters mentions that releasing controversial content to the public will only upset them. Oh, the irony.
May you all have a warm and wonderful holiday season! As for this film, it can eat a fart!