BLACK CHRISTMAS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SOPHIA TAKAL / SCREENPLAY: SOPHIA TAKAL, APRIL WOLFE / STARRING: IMOGEN POOTS, ALEYSE SHANNON, LILY DONAGHUE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The second remake of Bob Clark's festive slasher classic has more on its mind than creepy phone calls and holiday-inspired slaughter. An impassioned takedown of American campus rape culture, Sophia Takal's feminist remake takes the title and throws almost everything else away. Including the phone calls, in favour of - sigh - DMs.
Stalked by a hooded killer wielding a bow and arrow, the sorority sisters of Hawthorne College are taken out one by one during the campus's winter break. Assault survivor Riley (Poots) and activist pal Kris (Shannon) are the latest to capture the killer's ire after humiliating the local frat bros. Could the events be related, or is Cary Elwes' sinister college professor to blame, following Kris' campaign to have him fired? Not all men, but certainly any (or most) of the ones in Black Christmas could be our killer.
Never has a slasher film been so profoundly disinterested in being a slasher film than Black Christmas '19. From the bloodless, mostly off-screen kill sequences to the complete lack of work put into the killer's look - and all the way to its bizarre finale - it doesn't even attempt to pass itself off as a slasher film. There's no atmosphere, tension or build-up, and the call-backs to Clark's iconic kills are neutered and distracting. It doesn't even feel particularly Christmassy.
The message is a vital one, but the delivery system is fatally flawed. Lacking in satirical bite, wit, or subtext, its anger goes a long way, especially during the song-and-dance routine - the film's best sequence. But the script by Takal and April Wolfe is embarrassingly on-the-nose; more buzzword-rammed Twitter screed than holiday slasher film. Who needs subtext when you can just Say the Thing, over and over, loudly and bluntly? This film aspires to be the feminist answer to Get Out, but lacks the humour, panache, and smarts. That this came from the studio that brought us Jordan Peele's modern classic and the inventive, clever Happy Death Day is particularly disappointing.
Its earnestness and good intentions are to be admired, but this shoddy remake is a mess. Too concerned with message over storytelling and atmosphere, it's even worse than the last attempt at remaking this film. Black Christmas, as they say, 'comes with receipts'. Good. Because it's certainly not a keeper.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10