Combustible Celluloid
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With: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Simon Mead, Madeleine Adams, Ben Black
Written by: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe
Directed by: Sophia Takal
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror, thematic content involving sexual assault, language, sexual material and drinking
Running Time: 93
Date: 12/13/2019

Black Christmas (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Christmas Eves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Having little to do with either the 1974 classic or the very poor 2006 remake, this holiday horror reboot is a strong attempt at a feminist statement that often either goes haywire or not far enough.

In Black Christmas, it's near the end of fall semester at Calvin Hawthorne University, and several sorority sisters are preparing to spend some time celebrating. Riley (Imogen Poots) has no family to go home to. Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is an activist, currently trying to get a professor (Cary Elwes) fired for teaching Classics using too many works by white men. Marty (Lily Donoghue) and Jesse (Brittany O'Grady) are their best friends.

Together, they perform a musical skit during a holiday talent show, accusing fraternity boys of date rape. They hope to stir up a little controversy, but instead, they begin receiving threatening DMs from Calvin Hawthorne himself, and powerful masked figures show up at the sorority houses, and start to kill the women. Riley, however, knows what to do, and it involves walking right into enemy territory.

Black Christmas, like its predecessors, is set in a sorority house at Christmastime, and there are brutal killings, but that's all these movies have in common. (The earlier two were more traditional "slasher" films.) At first the new movie raises interesting discussions about how some classes are largely taught based on the writings of white men, without much diversity. Even the characters argue about it, with interesting takes.

Directed and co-written by Sophia Takal, the movie also spends a little time getting to know its characters, establishing their friendships and relationships in natural ways, and using the holiday atmosphere to interesting effect. But as a horror movie, Black Christmas is pretty bland; the killings are neither scary, nor do they have much emotional impact. As soon as their friends die, the other characters seem to simply forget about them.

Then, the final showdown contains an evil plot so ludicrous that it largely negates all the arguments the movie was ever trying to make. The original 1974 movie is still the best, smart, scary, atmospheric, and with strong characters and performances. This one gets points for trying, but it doesn't quite work.

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