Black Christmas (2019)

Rates: * * 1/2

Why did I watch it? I was hungover and felt like watching something trashy.

Cast, crew, etc

At snooty Hawthorne College, a kindof mini Harvard, the elite males of Delta Kappa Omicron rule the school, taking whatever they want and facing no consequences. Sensitive Riley, a victim of DKO’s toxic behaviour, struggles to keep herself upright in the wake of an alleged sexual assault. Her girl power friends want her to fight back, but she just wants to move on. And then: as the school closes for Christmas break, a masked killer starts picking her friends off, one by one.

This remake of the 1974 slasher cult favourite jettisons pretty much all of the original plot, and replaces it with a take on contemporary gender politics. It’s a move that a few genre movies have been making lately, but while it may seem like a good fit conceptually, horror films have always commented on social issues, this is another where the execution is lacklustre.

Riley, well played by Imogen Poots, is an appealing lead character, and believably portrays both her trauma, and her resistance to becoming a social justice warrior. But this just doesn’t connect with the horror elements of the movie, which are limp, unscary, and ultimately a bit silly; there is a big twist in the final reel that is plain goofy, and doesn’t make any sense either.

I have read that director Sophia Takal, a bit of an indy darling after her acclaimed film ‘Always Shine’, deliberately toned down the violence in the film so it would get a PG rating, and find a wider audience. And while you can understand that, this must have robbed the movie of a bit of its juice; none of the edgier scenes in this land at all.

To say nothing of the black goo.

BLACK GOO!

If a script ever has a scene involving a magical black goo, the director should go ‘Ummm, let’s re-write this bit?’

For all that, not a total catastrophe. The film is well shot, has fun dialogue, and the wider cast have clearly got some talent. It is just a shame it doesn’t get where it wants to go.

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