Reel Talk

Black Christmas and the Horror of Patriarchy

ChristmasPoster

 

Over the last couple years, basically the time that I’ve been running this site, I’ve been trying to get more into horror movies. And, thanks to a resurgence in high-quality horror movies, that’s been pretty easy. Horror has never been my genre, other than Monster movies, and I think a major part of that was the fact that while I was growing up the dominant genres of horror are the two that I still hold in the lowest esteem. Slasher movies and torture porn. Neither have ever really connected with me, and even more modern attempts to revitalize either of them don’t really hit me that hard. But, I’m always game to try new things. I love movies, and I want to experience good stories, so even if it’s something that seems a little outside of my tastes or comfort zone, I usually try to give it a shot. Which, is how I ended up getting Black Christmas on my radar. I have never seen the original film, or its remake, and honestly don’t even know what they’re about to know if this new film is really only a remake in name only or not. But, based on my general disinterest in the slasher genre, I don’t think I’ll be checking out either anytime soon. But, I heard some decent word of mouth, along with a barrage of negative, and figured I’d check this little flick out. And, you know what? It kind of worked for me.

The film follows a group of sorority sisters attending a fictitious ivy league university known as Hawthorne College. The four main women, Riley, Kris, Marty, and Jesse, are all about to attend a party held at the worst frat on campus, where another girl named Helena and everyone but Riley are planning on participating in a Christmas-themed talent competition. But, they plan on singing a song taking down the rape culture of the frats, specifically calling some of specific people out. And, after Riley finds Helena mid-sexual assault, she tells her to go home, and takes her place. Which, is difficult because the former president of the frat, who just so happened to assault her years before, is visiting. But, they still perform their song, pissing off quite a bit of a frat boys, and then head home, happy that they pulled it off. But, the next day, things start getting weird. Riley and the other women start getting mysterious DMs, seemingly from the problematic founder of the college, threatening them. They try to ignore it, until they notice that Helena is missing, causing them all to start to worry. Riley is convinced that the frat is behind it, but isn’t able to prove anything.

Until some ominous and mysterious figures break into their sorority house that night, and start attacking the women. The masked men manage to kill Marty and Jesse, but after quite a bit of fighting Riley and Kris are able to kill them. Which is when they find that they’re some of the new pledges to the frat, seemingly mind-controlled and bleeding a black ink. Riley starts to think that this is all connected to some strange cult activity, which the founder of the college in theory was involved with, but Kris just wants to flee. That is until she ends up encountering another sorority on campus, where she finds that they’re also being attacked by brain-washed frat boys. Riley gets to the frat first, and ends up finding out some crazy things. The frat boys have been working with a disgraced sexist professor to find that a bust of the founder, Caleb Hawthorne, was full of a magical liquid which can control minds. So, they’ve been forcing it upon each other, ready to make an army of men who are ready to take over the world, and force women back into subservient roles that they think is natural. They capture Riley and attempt to force her into submission, but the other surviving sorority girls show up and attack the frat boys, fighting them until Riley is able to shatter the bust and the cursed liquid, saving them all.

 

 

ChristmasLead

 

I’m really not sure what’s up with the highly negative reaction that this movie is getting. Well, beyond just general misogyny. That seems the be the big complaint I’m seeing, just a bunch of dudes who are absolutely furious that some women got together and made a horror movie about a group of sorority sisters who fight against some blatantly evil frat boys while spouting some generalized feminist thinking. I guess I also see people complaining that it’s rated PG-13, and thus doesn’t have nearly enough gore and violence, but I’ve never been the type of person who thinks that disgusting gore in a movie is a sign of quality, especially since so much of it is computer generated anyway. So, the two biggest knocks just didn’t make much of a difference to me. What we got is a pretty slight little horror movie, full of some fun performances. Yeah, it’s not a subtle film, and some of the dialogue is hilariously bad, but I’ve never really considered the slasher genre to be a particularly subtle one. It’s a movie that seems targeted at teenage girls, largely, hoping to serve as an entrance to the world of horror while also giving them an empowering message. And, I don’t see anything wrong with making a movie that isn’t personalized for the general male audience of horror. But, apparently that’s just a bridge too far for some guys, who resemble the villains a little too closely.

Because this is a movie that is absolutely fed up with the way the world works these days. It’s very blatant, and as subtle as a brick to the face, but it’s full of a righteous fury that manages to carry past any quibbles about the dialogue. We have a group of men who are absolutely furious that they don’t get to be openly chauvinist, and have gone so far as to consort with the dark arts to gain power in order to make women pay for their perceived slights. They see equality as oppression, and have a grand plan to place like-minded male monsters in positions of power all across America so that the world can be made “great” again. Like I said, it’s not subtle, but neither is reality anymore. These types of people exist, just look at the numerous posts of smug guys taking pictures of their mostly empty screenings of this movie, mocking the idea that women should be allowed to have dumb horror movies that cater to them. Things suck right now for women, just as they have for most of human history, and I imagine that a film like this has to be highly cathartic. I didn’t love the movie, and it didn’t seem to connect with most people, but hope that there are some girls out there who see this insane little tale about smashing the patriarchy and gets something out of it.

 

Black Christmas was written by Sophia Takal and April Wolfe, directed by Sophia Takal, and released by Universal Pictures, 2019.

 

 

ChristmasWrath

2 replies »

  1. This is a great review; thank you! I expect there to be differences in any remake, but there was nothing about any cults or cursed liquids in the 1970s original; it was just a simple thriller about some crazy-eyed creepola harassing sorority girls over the phone. Mind you, the feminist updates totally make sense to me, because women have been beating the snot out of masked psycho killers ever since this subgenre was first birthed in the 1970s; so it seems only right that they’re trying to appeal more to women as an audience now. (Women love horror too, guys!) The only thing that sticks in my craw is all this “black magic” business, which just sounds rather hokey to me. But I will probably give this a try at some point, since you seem to have enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that it’s doing something different. The way you describe the original film I question why they even named this one Black Christmas, other than nostalgic reactions to the name. But, I thought it was pretty fun. Definitely worth a rental I would say.

      Liked by 1 person

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