Black Christmas

 

star



Feminism is given a voice in a slasher movie without edge.

 
Black Christmas

National Lampoon's Blumhouse: Aleyse Shannon

 

It’s Christmas and time for another black mark against festive cinema. We’re talking black magic here, as conjured up in this New Zealand-made remake of the American-Canadian remake of the Canadian film of 1974. It’s baffling to comprehend why such a lacklustre property is so passionately recycled, perhaps only to capitalize on the film’s title – a bitter riposte to Bing Crosby’s cheerful musical classic. The last edition, which was shot in Vancouver, was a formulaic, shoddy affair that received such a critical mauling that one never dreamed of a resurrection.

 

Minor scream queen Imogen Poots (Chatroom, Fright Night, Green Room) plays all-American sorority sister Riley Stone, who has choreographed a dance routine exposing the chauvinism of the Delta Kappa Omicron fraternity. She then starts to receive unsettling text messages from the late Caleb Hawthorne, the misogynistic founder of the college she attends. Worse, two of her best friends have gone missing, while her knack for witnessing alarming activity behind open doors begins to thoroughly disconcert her. However, not all is bad, as she finds comfort in her new friendship with the sweet and shy Landon (Caleb Eberhardt), who shares her taste in terrible jokes. Nonetheless, she confides in her friends that, “something doesn’t feel right…”

 

The difference with this version of the familiar saga is that it’s a feminist take on the slasher pic. It’s directed by the American actress Sophia Takal, from a script she co-wrote with the film critic April Wolfe. Thus, misogyny is embodied by an evil force, a black ooze that can transform even the most liberal frat boy into a male chauvinist pig. It’s a shame, then, that Takal and Wolfe have provided us with such implausible women. While there’s plenty of feminist banter, these sisters seem deprived of peripheral vision whenever there’s a killer about, with masked figures constantly appearing out of nowhere. By using extreme close-ups in the murder scenes, Takal short-changes her audience, relying on the hackneyed jump scare for dramatic effect. Thus, this Black Christmas is more annoying than frightening and too often borders on the ludicrous. Still, one must give Riley her due, as, in one scene, without any lethal object at hand, she attacks her assailant with a plastic bag.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O'Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Madeleine Adams, Ben Black, Zoë Robins, Lucy Currey.

 

Dir Sophia Takal, Pro Jason Blum, Ben Cosgrove and Adam Hendricks, Screenplay Sophia Takal and April Wolfe, Ph Mark Schwartzbard, Pro Des Mark Robins, Ed Jeff Betancourt, Music Will Blair and Brooke Blair, Costumes Jaindra Watson.

 

Blumhouse Productions/Divide/Conquer-Universal Pictures.

92 mins. 2019. New Zealand/USA. Rel: 12 December 2019. Cert. 15.