BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) Review–A Horror-Filled Middle Finger Call for the Declaration of Sentiments
Starring: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue
Written by: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe
Directed by: Sophia Takal
Bob Clark’s 1974 horror film Black Christmas isn’t going anywhere. The slasher classic and its lasting impact is fine and preserved, so now that we have that out of the way and your preciousness towards that entry (rightfully so, it’s worth any recognition it’s received) is addressed, we can talk all things 2019. Upon the release of the trailer for Blumhouse’s new remake of the Clark-helmed gem, the internet went into a frenzy, declaring how much of a travesty the Sophia Takal-directed redux would be and like many other films attempting to do its own thing, Black Christmas (2019) was met with hatred before the film even had a chance to make its debut. Would the film be a subtle, subtext-driven story of female empowerment or would it be one that would take that subtlety and set it on fire? The answer to that question is quite easy: BLACK CHRISTMAS is a horror-filled middle finger call for The Declaration of Sentiments and Dread Central readers, this writer is here for it.
Now that the Takal & April Wolfe-penned film is in theaters and ready for consumption, it’s obvious why the film would be met with such venom: it is without a doubt one of the boldest, hit you with a ton of bricks message to toxic masculinity and the patriarchy and it’s a refreshing message. Taking what Clark did with his original film and instead choosing to be a remake more in line with what Luca Guadagnino did with his SUSPIRIA remake, Black Christmas is faithful to the essence of what made the 1974 film work but opts for a more socially conscious approach with its plot driven to very unexpected but welcomed places. Gone are the days of fraternity girls being picked off one by one in a TEN LITTLE INDIANS approach, instead the film gives us a group of women who refuse to be told what they can and cannot do, where their place should be and shun the notion that in the end, they’ll need a male hero to save the day like so many other slasher films. The cast of characters in BLACK CHRISTMAS are confident, witty and downright resourceful, paving the way for so many young women experiencing a film that hypes up their abilities and power, instead of putting them in boxes.
Much like Wes Craven’s Scream, Takal’s Black Christnmas comes to horror fans at time where young people, women especially, NEED to see themselves in a film like this. Through performances by Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon and Nathalie Morris, young women and women in general aren’t given final girls this time around, but instead girls who refuse to hide and wait for the cavalry, no, they become the cavalry themselves, heading straight to battle with a group of hooded killers that may or may not be connected to a rival fraternity led by an accused rapist of Poots’ Riley. The entire first half of the film plays out as a look at a culture in which a survivor of abuse isn’t even listened to, let alone believed and when our film’s group of protagonists decide to call the misogyny out, they’re then met with a violent push back with an agenda: to let the women know that men will not stand for anything outside of history’s warped sense of “traditional values.”
This could and will most likely be looked at by the masses as a film that declares that “all men are evil,” but what Takal and Wolfe do so well with the script is shine a light on the fact that no, not all men are evil, but as soon as a woman stands up for herself, the first thing shouted from the rooftops by toxic individuals is how THEY are the ones being picked on and how they’re “one of the good guys,” when in reality, one of Black Christmas’s many strong statements proudly declares that it isn’t not a man’s job to save the woman, but just to be there to give support.
When the horror hits in the film, it hits hard and though its PG-13 rating might seem odd or watered down to some, the violence never feels restrained and you forget what the film is rated by the halfway point. The violence is in your face and rightfully so, each death is a statement from the film’s antagonists and the impact of the death scenes play a big part into our band of heroes deciding to not stand aside and let themselves be pick off. The tension is razor sharp and the humor played here and there adds a fun vibe to an otherwise very thought-provoking film, making BLACK CHRISTMAS a real treat for standard horror fans or even viewers looking for a deep message within it. Takal gives her audience mood and ambience that makes it incredibly easy to allow the film to get under your skin and the dialogue is smart, full of wit and without any lack or weight. Poots and Shannon are standouts and Cary Elwes as a professor mad as hell at being accused of being a misogynist makes the film’s many red herrings fun to piece together.
Black Christmas is sure to piss some off, one man watching the film behind me shouted “STUPID” as soon as the rabble rousing ending went down (the film has one of the most chaotically brilliant end fights in years), but films like this one are important. In a time where people tweet about missing when films didn’t have agendas, Black Christmas is needed, because the only real agenda put forth in the film is one of not allowing yourself to be put into an expected boss, holding people accountable and never allowing yourself to be a victim. If anything, Black Christmas should be celebrated, because we’re not only given an important film here, but one that I can see my daughters and many others finding something they can get on board with and horror fans, that’s why I love this genre.
Black Christmas should be celebrated, because we’re not only given an important film here, but one that I can see my daughters and many others finding something they can get on board with.