Christmas at Hawthorne College. But as the students head of for their winter break, the female students staying behind start getting picked off one by one.
Let’s get two things out of the way first. This might have the same setting, but this is not a straight remake of 1974’s Black Christmas. Also, if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, try and avoid if you can. It doesn’t give everything away, but I do think it reveals too much.
This film from Blumhouse is written by Sophia Takal and April Wolfe. It’s clear that while there are nods to the original, this is completely different. One of the most famous and iconic images in the original is the body of Claire, who we see with a plastic bag over her head. (her body features surprisingly often in the film for that matter), In this new film, we get a shot of a dress in a plastic bag…and just know it’s going to come into play, though how it did was well done.
The murder scenes in the film are mostly bloodless, more going on reactions than the spilling of blood. They are well staged, including one that definitely owes a debt to THAT scene from The Exorcist III. It’s one of my favourite horror moments of the year.
The reasons for the murders is certainly different. This is where the trailer I think reveals more than it should, as the reasoning for them is pretty good in a sense, especially in this day and age of the ‘#MeToo’ movement and the general treatment of women by men. It’s this aspect, which I think the film perhaps overdoes. To be clear, I agree with the point being made, but I think it could have been done in a more subtle manner. As a consequence, it will not surprise me if some men take badly to the film as a result, but if they do it will be their loss as the film is damn good.
The main character, Riley (Imogen Poots) is still recovering from being raped at a party a couple of years earlier. She has the support of her sorority sisters and in the end it is with their support, along with events in the film that she fully takes back control over her life. The other girls at the sorority are well written too. They have each other’s backs and are not afraid to call people (men usually) out. One of the best scenes in the film is one where the girls go to perform and a routine at a fraternity house, which shames the men and has the women there cheering. Even though the film has female students being killed (the original was the same), by the end you want to stand and cheer when they fight back.
The cast are great. Poots makes for a terrific lead. Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady and Madeleine Adams are the main supporting cast and they are great too. Cary Elwes has a role you just know has more to it. Because the film focuses, rightly, on the female characters, the male ones don’t get a look in and while the male actors aren’t bad, only Caleb Eberhardt as Landon, a student Riley connects with, really registering.
Co-writer, Sophia Takal, directs the film and she does it well. As I said, the murder scenes are well done, as is the final confrontation, or battle. But I think she does her best work in the scenes when the girls of the sorority are either hanging out together, or arguing at one point. She also brilliantly misdirects the audience at one point, that plays into the final act.
There are holes or flaws you could point a finger at and the message is as subtle as a sledgehammer. But that said, I enjoyed the film a lot. It doesn’t have the creepiness the original has, a couple of murder scenes aside and the tone is probably overall closer to the 2006 remake of Black Christmas, but it has enough there I think for a horror fan to enjoy.
This Black Christmas is, I think, the first Blumhouse horror to be released directed by a woman. It’s a terrific, fun film, one that has a strong feminist point of view that will go over very well with the female audience members. I really hope it does with the male ones too.
But do try and avoid the trailer
Rating: ***1/2 out of 5