kindertrauma random header image

Black Christmas (2019)

December 18th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

I was excited when I heard Blumhouse was going to remake BLACK CHRISTMAS considering the respectful way they were able to help the HALLOWEEN franchise up on its feet and send it in a well-received and fruitful direction. Then the trailer popped up online and my faith buckled a bit because it looked sorta drab and it couldn’t stop telling on itself. I refused to give up the ghost entirely though because I recalled how I judged the 2006 remake too harshly at first and then went on to learn to love its various charms and ignore its bizarre missteps. Well, it turns out the ill feelings the trailer left me with were sort of prophetic. After an enjoyably retro campus-slasher opening, it manages to be sufficiently entertaining for some time only to careen full force into a stupendously silly conclusion. I wish I could say its fearlessly off the wall wind-up rendered it goofy fun but since it spends much time gnawing serious issues early on, it feels more like self-sabotage.

This modern take got a lot of grief online for daring to be clear about its feminist viewpoint. As someone who grew up thinking the Bionic Woman was way cooler than the Six Million Dollar Man, I don’t really understand how female empowerment ruffles fan-boy feathers. I don’t believe BLACK CHRISTMAS does itself any harm by simply laying its ideas/ammo on the table, I just wish it was a surer shot when it came to taking down its adversaries. I very much enjoyed seeing professional contrarian Camille Paglia taken to task (she was a customer at my video store and truly the most atrocious individual I’ve ever encountered of any gender) but I felt some cringe when it came to the handling of the main character’s past rape. Riley (IMOGENE POOTS) is fortunate to have a championing support group but I have to question the thoughtlessness of her gal pals badgering her to preform a parody of “Up on the House Top” with jokey lyrics addressing date rape in front of her very rapist. One of her chums even tells her “you won” afterwards which I found even more bothersome (though that may have been the intention). Later when we find out what’s actually causing the rash of murders, it renders the culprits somewhat inculpable and I’m not sure how I felt about that either. I guess that I dug that it talked the talk but felt that it walked the walk rather clumsily (plus I feel like I’ve seen the rallying finale done way better in countless episodes of BUFFY.)

On the plus side, POOTS is impeccable. She somehow breathes pure life into uneven material and it’s easy to find yourself caring about her fate. There’s also more than a few moments that successfully conjure up the atmosphere of a classic eighties slasher and it’s clear director SOPHIA TAKAL and co-writer APRIL WOLFE have genuine affection for such films. It’s almost sad to think how much better the movie could have been if it just spoke its mind and drove straight ahead rather than making a u-turn into the supernatural zone. I suppose we’d still have to deal with its glaring seams. As nicely orchestrated as much is, there are large ragged chunks crammed with awkward voiceovers and an over reliance on flashbacks to clarify important plot-points. I don’t mind the PG- 13 rating (I’ll always be grateful for my G-rated teen experience with ‘82s ONE DARK NIGHT) but this film’s editing almost physically hurts as it strains to show just enough and has to snap away just when you’re getting a splinter of visual information.

Gripes aside, there’s no way around the fact that I have a serious soft spot for Christmas set horror films and BLACK CHRISTMAS (‘19) was at least kind enough to toss me plenty of snow, twinkling lights and even a crystal unicorn cameo. Could I grow to enjoy it like the last redo simply for being its own faulty, semi-original self (not sure how “original” a movie can claim to be when it involves that evil catch-all, black goo)? It’s possible, I guess (especially if an R-rated version materializes). I did dig a fair share of the ride and even when it’s tripping over its own feet, it’s at least thought provoking. As for now, I’ve got to call out its wobbly nature. I certainly didn’t hate it as much as the audience member who stood up at the end and declared that it was the “worst movie ever.” I thought that particular naysayer was a bit over the top but I do applaud her for voicing her opinion.

Tags: General Horror




14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 raphaeladidasNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Despite the poor reception, I was still debating seeing this in the theater. But now that the master has spoken, I’ll wait for the disc from Netflix (yes, I still get discs from Netflix).

    Black Christmas 2006 would be better liked if the 1974 version didn’t exist. It would always be unessential, but is still a perfectly fun watch.

  • 2 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    “This modern take got a lot of grief online for daring to be clear about its feminist viewpoint. As someone who grew up thinking the Bionic Woman was way cooler than the Six Million Dollar Man, I don’t really understand how female empowerment ruffles fan-boy feathers.”

    Because most people go to the movies to escape politics, the 24-hour news cycle, and the over-bearing social justice warriors who scream, berate and get in the face of everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    The last thing people need is to pay a fair chunk of change for what they thought would be a temporary, if entertaining, escape only to be preached at and propagandized by some moron SJW who thinks they’re cosmically enlightened and you’re just some troglodyte who needs to be re-educated with their message disguised as entertainment.

  • 3 raphaeladidasNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    You’ve changed my mind, bdwilcox. Now I AM going to see it at the theater.

  • 4 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Your money, not mine.

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    raphaeladidas,

    I hope I didn’t steer you wrong but I do think this one can wait for a rental (especially if an unrated version is released).

    I’ve really fallen in love with the 2006 version over the years. It’s such a fun/stupid good time and it looks great and I love the use of Christmas carols. I will always wish that Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the lead instead of Katie Cassidy though. I could really do without the yellow skin bit too.

    Bdwilcox,

    You would definitely not like this movie. It is rather heavy handed and some of it feels like you are reading a gender studies term paper. I just can’t pretend I get upset about that stuff (I reserve my fury for people who abuse animals). In fact I went in kind of hoping that the movie worked as a girl-power movie. I even brought my female friend who is going through a divorce thinking it might cheer her up but it turned out she thought it was pretty silly by the end too. To me, the movie’s feminist viewpoint was not the problem.

  • 6 kathryngraceNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    A part of me wants to go see this now because I love my Christmas season with a side of horror, but your review kind of confirmed my fears. The original Black Christmas is an absolute favorite, so maybe I’ll stick with rewatching that a few times.
    And Unk, I agree with you on the 2006 remake. I was really disappointed at first, but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate it as its own whacky self. The yellow skin bit is still icky though.

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    kathryngrace,

    I really can’t resist Christmas horror. I HAD to see this just because they’re hasn’t been one in the theaters for so long. I really don’t regret seeing it at all. I had fun with my friend and we enjoyed talking about it afterwards. It does deliver on the Christmas setting if that helps. it’s just kinda sloppy and rushed and I was left thinking of what could have been. I would have loved if they followed the recent HALLOWEEN template and did a direct sequel to the first and just had a new batch of sorority girls moving into Billy’s house and finding out he was still there (not very original I know, but I’m a simple man who loves slasher sequels).

    I will be watching the 2006 version this year just as I have seen doing every year for a while now (after I finally gave into its charms). It always goes great with whiskey and it’s like playing a favorite holiday mix tape for me. I can even quote most of it now and I basically cheer whenever Kristen Cloke shows up and starts grilling everyone! In fact, I hate to say it but the 2006 is now an easier go-to watch for me than the OG (which demands my full attention and respect). 2006 is just perfect for casual viewing and riffing on.

  • 8 kathryngraceNo Gravatar // Dec 18, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Honestly, I love your idea for a sequel (I’m something of a slasher sequel fan myself), especially because original Billy was legitimately terrifying. No other slasher villain has ever gotten under my skin and creeped me out quite like he did.

  • 9 robstercrawsNo Gravatar // Dec 19, 2019 at 10:02 am

    I had no idea who Camille Paglia was before reading this review. Now that I do, I think it would be fascinating to read about some of your video store encounters with her!
    Regarding this movie….I promised myself a few years ago that I would never watch another reboot or remake again. This one tempts me not!

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Dec 19, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    robstercraws,

    Ok Puglia’s the worst. Very high maintenance AND she thought she was so special and famous that she didn’t have to pay for anything. She would fight tooth and nail over a dollar late fee and then demand to see the manager etc. Also the cadence of her voice is maddening. She sounds like a fastidious insect merged with a malfunctioning robot and would put 1,000 words into one sentence that lasted 10 seconds. John is backing me up on this because she would go into the bookstore that he worked at and terrorize everyone who worked there too. I have to hand it to her though, she made a career out of conning Academia with the most obvious observations about Madonna. I actually hear the wicked witch theme from Wizard of Oz as I write this.

    I just realized the typo of “Puglia” but I not going to fix it. lol

  • 11 robstercrawsNo Gravatar // Dec 20, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Just looked Paglia up on YouTube. Yikes. Besides her overbearing demeanor and beyond-annoying voice, she seems like a “feminist” for incels, judging from the video comments. It takes all kinds. I suppose.

  • 12 robstercrawsNo Gravatar // Dec 20, 2019 at 9:07 am

    …..and I love the term “professional contrarian”. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • 13 piptNo Gravatar // Dec 20, 2019 at 9:44 am

    OK, I’m going to probably piss off a few folks here, but I have NEVER understood the love for the original Black Christmas. Margot Kidder was great in her scenery chewing role, but I have always found it to be a sloppy mess. Bob Clark has always held a place in my heart (Dead of Night & Murder by Decree) but Black Christmas just always baffled me? Am I alone?

  • 14 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Dec 20, 2019 at 11:28 am

    robstercraws,

    That voice! It could curdle milk! I swear flowers wilt when she enters a room!

    pipt,

    Love your honesty! I do LOVE Black Christmas (but to be honest I could do w/o some of the police procedural stuff- kinda drags everything down for me).

You must log in with your Kindertrauma account to post a comment: