Back in 1974, a low-budget Canadian horror movie by the name of Black Christmas was released and was one of the first to define the slasher movie template that we’ve now become so heavily accustomed to. Black Christmas already got a remake back in 2006 and now we have another, coming this time from powerhouse movie studio Blumhouse and directed/co-written by Sophia Takal.
Black Christmas retains its campus setting as a group of sorority sisters, all seniors at Hawthorne University, prepare for the end of term and the Christmas holidays. While a group of girls are celebrating one night, one of their friends is being terrorised by a robed killer as she walks home alone down a quiet snowy street, adorned with Christmas decorations. It’s all pretty generic stuff so far, and in terms of horror and suspense, that’s all we get for about the next 30 minutes or so while the movie shifts down a few gears and tries to introduce us to some characters and some kind of plot.
Riley (Imogen Poots) is one of only a couple of characters who you’ll remember come the end of the movie. After passing out at a frat party a few years earlier, Riley was sexually assaulted, and she and her friends are now preparing to sing at another frat party which her accused rapist will also be attending. While looking around the house for a friend who seems to have gone missing, Riley opens the door on a hidden room where she observes a strange ceremony – pledges, wearing medieval robes and masks, are being daubed with some kind of black goo that’s oozing from the eyes of a bust depicting the University’s founder. She leaves them to it, and heads back to the party, not before rescuing her lost friend from the unwanted advances of another frat boy in his room.
Riley goes on to perform with her friends, a routine which turns out to be a carefully choreographed prank song – worded as a call out to the toxic masculinity and frat rape culture that Riley and so many other girls have experienced first hand. Needless to say, this doesn’t go down too well with the boys, even more so when a video of the routine goes viral the next day.
Meanwhile, another one of the sisters is currently in the process of gathering signatures for a petition, in an attempt to get their English professor (Cary Elwes) sacked for not including enough diversity in his curriculum. So, when some of the lesser known female characters begin disappearing, and our main cast begin receiving mysterious and threatening messages on their phones, there are certainly plenty of potential suspects to choose from. Eventually, the killer makes it into the sorority house where Riley and her friends are, and it’s up to them all to work together in order to outwit and defeat the killer.
I’m a big fan of the ‘final girl’ movie, where the seemingly indestructible female lead goes from downtrodden victim to badass warrior (see ‘You’re Next’, or this years hugely enjoyable ‘Ready Or Not’), remaining as sole survivor once the dust has settled and the movie comes to its satisfying conclusion. I was really hoping for Black Christmas to follow in that vein, and it’s clearly what the filmmakers were aiming for too. But, despite its well-intentioned premise, Black Christmas completely fails to deliver. Death scenes are rushed, not even particularly inventive, and because it is so drearily written and poorly directed, you barely know or even care who most of the victims are anyway. Following a slow and messy first half, the movie then takes a turn towards the supernatural, culminating in a frankly ridiculous final act and cementing this movie firmly in my worst 5 movies of 2019!