There is nothing scarier than being alone at night: especially if you are a woman. To up the ante, Black Christmas (2019) gives us the image of a woman alone at night on a college campus, which may be the only thing scarier than just being alone. Sophia Takal’s rendition of the Canadian classic set’s up the premise of the film within the first 10 minutes, as college student Linsdey (Lucy Currey) is stalked and then ultimately murdered with an icicle. This set’s in motion a string of suspicious disappearances, threatening and anonymous dm’s, and eventually more killing.
To say that the original Black Christmas wasn’t political, is just untrue. But, while the 1975 classic was indeed political – because how can a film about a sorority being stalked by a crazed man not be – Black Christmas suffers from what has can be deemed as “corporate feminism,” or “marketable feminism.” There are hamfisted lines such as an exchange where Riley (Imogen Poots) tells Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) him and his followers are: “insane,” to which he replies “No. We are simply men.” It’s things like this that guarantee an eye roll from the audience, and dialogue that sticks in your head because it’s so unforgettably cringe-worthy. But, while Black Christmas fails to stray from this hamfisted dialogue, the films depiction of trauma is a refreshing one.
In the first quarter of the film, it is revealed that in the year prior, Riley had been sexually assaulted by a member of one of the universities frats. She’s wary around loud noises, and also nervous around men. When she ultimately ends up at the same party as her assaulter, the film integrates Riley’s point of view with small memories from her assault. These memories come as sharp flashes, giving the audience the knowledge of her assault but not prolonging it. It’s these moments and the overall discussion of trauma and recovery that saves Black Christmas from being a forgettable film.
While Sophia Takal’s decision to give the film a PG-13 rating so young girl’s can view it in cinemas is a commendable one, I truly believe Black Christmas would have benefited from an R rating. The leads up to the kills are nowhere near as tense as they should be with a PG-13 to make the audience feel any sense of dread.. This ultimately makes the horror aspects of the film dull, when they are supposed to be engaging and strike fear within the audience. The film is in no way as “bad,” as critics are making it out to be, and even the weak dialogue doesn’t fully deter the film from doing what I believe Takal intended to do. The problem with this film, is that it isn’t scary. In fact the most frightening thing about it, is a baffling shoe-horned-in supernatural twist that occurs towards the climax. Although it isn’t the best (or the worst) film of 2019, Black Christmas is a moderately enjoyable holiday thriller, that offers important commentary on gender politics on college campuses.