How do you do a Sorority slasher film in the era of #metoo? Do you wisely decide against it, reasoning that the whole genre is inherently problematic due to its history of eroticised violence against women? Do you use it as a challenge to re-invent the genre, carefully threading the needle through smart scripting and deft execution? Do you barge through with all the finesse of a drunk on a snowplough, stapling on some half-arsed message about female empowerment, while removing any blood so the film can get a teen-friendly rating?
It’s pretty easy to guess which direction this Blumhouse remake of the 1974 cult classic decided to go, and the results are every bit as awful as imagined.
Hawthorne College is winding down for the holidays. In amongst this festive cheer, a killer stalks the women of the prestigious campus, terrorising them with direct messages supposedly from the college founder (a figure of historical controversy) before brutally slaughtering them. Disbelieved by campus authorities, it falls on Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) and her collection of sorority sisters, to stop the killer.
It’s almost inconceivable that a film could go this wrong on almost every level of its creation. From the woefully muddleheaded script, to the colour corrected to an inch of its life look, to the opioid-induced read through of lines that’s meant to pass for acting – Black Christmas constantly disappoints.
The annoying thing here is there is a germ of a good idea. In deciding to tackle the issue of rape culture in university and the patriarchal structures that allows it to occur, Black Christmas could have been a clever and transgressive piece of cinema. However the decision early on seems to have been to tackle it in a front on approach, as well as in the most obvious and ham-fisted way possible. Hence all the characters come across as two dimensional cut-outs. At best they’re forgettable, at worst, actively annoying. This sensitive subject matter certainly deserves better handling, and the only thing this film does in tackling it in such an exploitative way is add fuel to the “get woke go broke” argument.
Then there’s the whole bloodlessness of the endeavour, which further robs it of impact. Politics aside, a horror film should at least provide some scares and starts. Although this is certainly achievable without blood and gore, Black Christmas is incapable of creating the tension necessary to carry through. Despite a few tight cuts and camera pans to cover some of this, it comes across as either dull, or in the worst examples, inadvertently comedic as horrendous wounds fail to have any blood.
Black Christmas is an absolute fail from Blumhouse. In all honesty, I would rather be stuck wearing an elf cap, working retail on the last shopping day before Christmas, while Mariah Carey slowly drains my will to live, than to ever come near this lump of Christmas coal again.