Black Christmas

Black Christmas ★★★½

I’ll be honest, I’m in the choir the movie preaches to, so I don’t mind the subtlety of a sledgehammer politics that shapes most of the dialogue. Sure, it doesn’t make good art (there’s a difference between having a genuine conversation and pontificating), but at the same time, I don’t mind if I’ve heard the BuzzFeed arguments before, in fact, I don’t think they’re repeated often enough. 

Obviously the problem isn’t that we should leave politics out of it (even the original is political, what with the abortion subplot). Only it shouldn’t be this heavy-handed, I get it, but there are a couple of well-written scenes that are believable to the extent that it’s frustrating and worth discussing, such as when Riley tries to make a missing person report with the security guard or the difficult conversation Riley has with Kris about whether they should go the police or not. 

As a straight white man, I find myself struggling with the fact that nearly every time a woman accuses a man of something, it’s her credibility that is questioned. Hers, not the perpetrator’s. I’ve seen it happen to other women and it bothers me that this is very much something that still happens everyday. Over fifty women had to come out against Cosby before we started believing them. If it’d been 49, Hannibal Buress joked, Cosby would still have been free. So I imagine it’s cathartic for some when Takal and Wolfe get it right where it matters most. After all, there aren’t many movies like Black Christmas (2019), heavy-handedness be damned.  

Sure, it’s a political agenda first, a horror movie second, but I was surprised to find the gap between close enough to find it enjoyable as a movie. In other words it still works as a horror movie, though more like an enjoyable second-tier slasher. It’s oddly structured in that the final chase scene sort of happens earlier than expected, a welcome change of pace, and the kills are a bit more creative than expected (sharpened icicles are so convenient in winter!). While it may not be anywhere near the greatness that is the original, critic Simon Abrams points out that it’s still true to the spirit of the original in that it continues to explore the fear of men theme. There are enough horror tropes for Takal and Wolfe to play with without repeating the original’s. 

The out of left field supernatural ending is a bit underdeveloped, a valid point some people have taken with the movie, but I’d say it’s still within slasher logic, which is often completely absurd. We’ve heard a more ridiculous explanation why people are being killed than theirs. Only the difference is theirs is potentially more “offensive“ (especially if you’re a man). 

Not now, and probably not as big as the first remake, but I think it’ll eventually find its own audience.

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