Review by Sean Boelman
Black Christmas, from Blumhouse and director Sophia Takal (the New Year, New You episode of Hulu’s Into the Dark), is a new reimagining of the 1974 cult classic holiday horror film. To call it a remake would be a disservice to both the original and the new vision, as this is an almost completely different, but still very good thriller.
The movie follows a group of sorority sisters who are stalked by a masked killer during their Christmas break as they soon begin to suspect that there may be something more sinister afoot. Whereas the original Black Christmas was a relatively straightforward slasher, Takal and co-writer April Wolfe have taken the basic concept of sorority girls being hunted at Christmastime and turned it into a biting commentary on toxic masculinity.
This film is undeniably going to be extremely divisive, especially among male viewers, because it is so upfront and aggressive about its commentary. Viewers with a fragile male ego may be offended by the position that the movie takes on the rape culture that has infected college campuses across the country, but every single statement that Takal and Wolfe makes is true.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is that Takal and Wolfe completely nail the portrayal of these characters. Although the movie is satirical to a certain extent, there is a level of honesty to the dialogue that is able to totally sell the film’s commentary. This is the first movie in quite a while to capture perfectly the ‘fuckboismo’ that permeates modern fraternities, and that is what makes the film absolutely terrifying.
That said, the movie does have a few shortcomings. One of the biggest disappointments in the film is the cast. Although there are some very strong performers on an individual level, like Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes, the ensemble doesn’t come together as a whole. For a movie centered around a sorority, one would hope that the actresses would have had much better chemistry together.
The film also suffers from some pacing issues. Unfortunately, the trailers revealed a lot of the most important moments in the movie, and as such, the suspense isn’t as strong as it could have been. Takal shoots these scenes in a way that, while a tad generic at times, is mostly effective — but the fact that audiences already know what is coming eliminates much of the surprise.
Visually, Takal’s film is very stylish, playing with the typically bright and cheery look of holiday movie and giving it a dark turn. There are some shots in the film that are absolutely breathtaking, like one early on that involves a snow angel. However, the editing does get a bit overly choppy at times, and likely could have been used to give the movie even more of a rhythm.
This new vision of Black Christmas isn’t perfect, and its message is likely to put off some viewers, but that is exactly what makes it work so well. Many things about this film ring true, making it an important movie of the moment.
Black Christmas is now playing in theaters.