Black Christmas

Black Christmas ★★★½

I've come to dig Yuletide horror flicks over the past few years and Bob Clark's masterfully unnerving and seedy "Black Christmas" is the titan of this sub-genre. It's one of the best slasher films ever made. In fact, it challenges Carpenter's original "Halloween" as the best of the sub-genre. It might even be better than "Halloween", but it's not quite as fun...and fun counts for something.

So making a Yuletide slasher that shares the title of that earlier classic isn't perhaps the wisest move. It invites comparisons to Bob Clark's masterpiece, which can only reflect poorly upon the more recent film. Both movies share the concept of sorority girls being killed by an unknown assailant (or assailants). Both share the Christmas at college setting. But that's mostly where the similarities end. This newer film diverges from the original in some very interesting ways.

"Black Christmas" is a timely movie. It takes the basic bones of the Bob Clark film, the grandaddy of the slasher genre arguably, and puts a "Me Too" spin on them. My main complaint is that the movie is a bit too obvious about this spin and kind of belabors the point. But the movie is definitely thought-provoking in the ways it goes about addressing the patriarchy and the way women's bodies are exploited. It's a surprisingly grim and intense film for one with a PG-13 rating (which the director apparently insisted upon because she wanted her themes to reach teenage girls and those entering their teens, and I think that's actually a pretty great idea...especially since her themes are not subtle and will therefore perhaps register most strongly with younger women). It's not very subtle about its themes and subject but, you know what, fuck subtlety. I say that a lot. I'm a dense man and sometimes I appreciate being bludgeoned with a theme if it's an important one...and respecting women is a damned important theme. "Black Christmas" is actually refreshing in how angry it is about how shitty men are. I really appreciated that because, well, men are pretty fucking shitty a lot of times and they need that shit rubbed in their faces. I can't be the only man who is pretty dense, and dense men like myself need to be taken by the shoulders and shaken sometimes. Also, women who think they deserve to be treated shabbily because of their gender also need to be taken by the shoulders and shaken. Just because things have always been a certain way doesn't mean that this needs to keep being the status quo. It's high time we all evolve and start behaving in a more enlightened fashion.

Sorry, rant over. I'm sure some people will roll their eyes at this movie or complain that it's for "Social Justice Warriors" or whatever shitty people like to say when something challenges their stone-age viewpoints on things. Some of them will probably couch those complaints in the film's lack of subtlety. Whatever. There are plenty of movies, unfortunately, where women are treated like objects and killed in grisly ways as punishment for daring to challenge social norms or because they had sex out of wedlock or something. Those shitty people can watch any of those thousand films instead and just leave this one alone. But maybe, just maybe, this movie will get someone to re-evaluate their own behavior and attitudes and think about how those things have affected the women in their own lives.

But it probably won't, because assholes rarely stop being assholes. If this pandemic/Trump administration has taught us anything, it has taught us that in bold, capital letters.

The biggest problem with "Black Christmas" is that I wish the characters had registered as strongly and gotten under my skin as deeply as those in the original "Black Christmas". I already don't remember any of these women as vividly as I remember the Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey characters in that film. It's not nearly as skin-crawlingly chilling as that earlier film either though, neither are most films so, y'know, take that with a grain of salt. Also, the supernatural elements don't work as well as some of the other elements. But overall this is a damned solid film with a lot on its mind, and I respect that.

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