So, here we have another version of Black Christmas, a much-maligned remake of one of my favorites. And while the film is flawed – and often deeply so – I don’t feel it deserved a lot of the flack it saw a couple of years back. There are things to like here if you look closely enough.
First and foremost – despite what the trailer and initial chatter would suggest, there is plenty of shared DNA with the original film, at least up until an ill-advised twist. The cinematography, for example, gives the movie a similar look to the 1974 classic. That is to say, it looks gorgeous.
The dialogue, too, is crackling and oftentimes sprinkled with good doses of humor. A male character throwing down an infamous line from alleged assaulter Brett Kavanaugh’s –
I like beer – for example, goes well with the movie’s feminist themes.
The bummer is that the theme is where the movie often falls flat. Not the theme of feminism itself, of course – the original incorporated an abortion B-story which was well ahead of its time – but how banal and superficial it feels in this film. When you work with very real-life issues like assault, you’re walking a fine line. Black Christmas largely treats it as a motif for a generic horror story, and through the ending, the predictable one-liners are flying. That’s about the extent of the satire seen throughout the film: generic lines and vague allusions to male toxicity.
It’s hard to blame the creative forces for much of that. Black Christmas was shot through an unreasonably tight schedule, and director Sophia Takal was forced to film single takes during certain scenes. Additionally, the actors sometimes had to ad-lib their dialogue. You know there’s an issue when the best example of the theme is a thirty-second version of a song by the imitable Riki Lindhome:
Now, that is satire done right, even though the lyrics – and the movie – is neutered by a PG-13 rating.
I really don’t understand what the producers were thinking. Black Christmas could have been a perfect representation of the #metoo movement had the framework – proper schedules and an R rating – been laid.
Still, do watch the movie. You can sense the themes bubbling under the surface, and when the dialogue hits, it hits well. The cinematography is fantastic. Flawed as Black Christmas is, there still are impressive things at play.
And don’t cry for director Takal who did great work on One of Us Is Lying. I very much await more from her in the future.
Letterboxd summary: During Christmas break, the women at Hawthorne College start being preyed upon by an unknown stalker. Riley, a girl dealing with her own trauma, decides to take matters into her own hands before her and her friends are murdered too.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|