Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Campus Christmas Slay Belles: Black Christmas (2019)

Black Christmas (2019)
Rating: **
Starring: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue

To be brutally honest? Considering the love/hate diversity within horror fans when it comes to Black Christmas (1974)'s first remake back at 2006 in which the film was re-envisioned as a gory splatter flick filled with cannibalism, incestuous rape and maniacal inbreeding, I'm quite surprised we are even getting this 2019 reboot. More concerning is the fact that whoever did the marketing for Black Christmas (2019) thought it was a great idea to reveal who or what is behind the killings in its trailer and tries to pull a last minute red herring on us by dishing out a dumb twist hinting something otherworldly. Yeah, uh, no. The amount of spoilers the trailer spilled overcomes any lame attempt to keep the rest of the movie's twists as fresh as a fucking daisy, so is there even anything worth seeing from this reboot I'm sure nobody really asked for?

I dunno. There's a random marble bust crying black goo for some reason. Does that count for anything?

Our movie begins around Hawthorne College's Christmas holiday break, where we see Riley, a student at the College's MKE sorority, still struggling around the matters that she's raped by AKO fraternity's president Brian Huntley and rightfully so seeing no one (save her closest friends) believes her, thus the case ending up more or less dismissed. In the midst of this, her friend Kris is also finding herself at the receiving end of the AKO frat's sourness as she petitioned to move the university's founder Caleb Hawthorne's bust away from the main building following the fact he was a notorious misogynist, as well as requesting a professor named Gelson to be fired due to his refusal to teach books that weren't penned by white men.

Undoubtedly, all of these spectacles irked someone bad enough to start a killing spree against sorority girls as the gals start to disappear one by one, snuffed out by a cloaked figure who seems to have mastered teleportation well enough to re-enact that jump scare-murder from Exorcist III: Legion (1990) with a length of fairy lights. As sorority sisters proceed to thin out, it'll be soon up to Riley and Kris to uncover and stop an unusual evil that's out for blood.

This being a PG-13 production, I wouldn't be surprised if Black Christmas (2019) took inspiration from the girl drama-centered horror reboots back at the early 2000s like When A Stranger Calls (2006) and Prom Night (2008) with its lacks of onscreen bloodshed and more focus on bittersweet teen talk. In here, though, it amplified gender politics and theatrics to the point that the movie's pretty much a feminism powerhouse that tries (Read: Tries) to paint its female characters more developed than your regular campus victim screamer both as an individual and as a group.

Now, blending feminism with slashers isn't exactly new as films such as The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) practically started out as a feminist satire of the bodycount sub-genre and the I Spit on Your Grave franchise roots for tortured women to empower themselves into either defending their lives or getting even against antagonistic men through an exploitative and gory manner. What Black Christmas (2019) contributes as a horror movie is an attempt to reach out to new age feminism, to be the woke movement fused with vengeful violence. This could have been a thought-provoking swing for what's basically a tamer variety of dead teen flicks, given that the scripting and characterization had more work put into it after all of that drama of female friends facing oppressive male egos. Instead, aside from a couple of girls getting slightly fleshed-up backstories, the rest of the casts are still relative trope fillers who fall into your usual slasher cliches, with the male characters interestingly getting the exaggerated end by being either useless dead weights or misogynistic white maniacs filled with toxic masculity, frightened that women nowadays are "stepping out of the line." (Save for one guy. He black and tried to be helpful adorkably)

Frankly, the "girl power" subtext is so far from subtle that I find it hard to take Black Christmas (2019)'s message all that seriously, but I could still commend it for putting some effort to it and despite the near absence of the gooey red and chunky latex flesh, the film still find ways to be a watchable B-flick. It looks good with its atmospheric winter shots, some of the kills were set-up nicely (Again, the Exorcist III tribute) and the crazed climax still holds up for me despite the trailer spoiling it, doubling down the fun absurdity with a surprise black magic lore, a brawl-out between final girls and an army of supposedly empowered killers, as well as the always welcome blazing inferno finale. The story does end with some plot holes and unanswered questions (Like how that black goo came to be and whether it can make a dancing toaster if we recite a different incantation to it), but seeing how lacking it is on many departments, I doubt we'll lose any sleep for it so it's still all good.

Far from being a new certified cult classic, nor does it come near deserving to be called a "remake" of a 70s proto-slasher classic (No, really, why bother calling it Black Christmas? It's hardly... Black Christmas!), Black Christmas (2019) can be forgettable with its lack of genuine surprises but it is, nonetheless, "here" and certainly could have done way worse.

1 female stabbed in the chest with an icicle
1 female strangled with fairy lights
1 female found stabbed on the face with a glass shard
1 male shot on the face with an arrow
1 male stabbed on the throat with a set of keys
1 female hacked on the gut with a hatchet, bled to death
1 male stabbed to death
1 male stabbed with a glass unicorn
1 male knifed on the back
1 male smothered with a plastic bag
1 female had her neck broken
1 male shot with an arrow
15 males caught inside a building fire
Total: 27

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