The second remake of a slasher classic: With their version of BLACK CHRISTMAS Director Sophia Takal explores exciting new avenues. And at some point, because of an over-ambitious agenda, it gets away from it. We reveal more about this in our review.
Riley (Imogen Poots) tries to figure out the killer’s identity.
The plot summary
As Riley Shane (Imogen Poots) and her friends from Hawthorne College’s Mu Kappa Epsilon sorority – athlete Marty (Lily Donoghue), rebel Kris (Aleyse Shannon) and foodie Jesse (Brittany O’Grady) – prepare for the holidays prepare, a black masked killer begins to slaughter female students. Can Riley and her friends even trust a man anymore? What about Marty’s lover Nate (Simon Mead), Riley’s new lover Landon (Caleb Eberhardt) or even the respected lecturer Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes)? In any case, the killer didn’t count on one thing: that the women were by no means prepared to become willing victims, but could fight back mercilessly.
The slasher classic “Jessy – Staircase to Death” from 1974 triggered a wave of protests in the USA. It was primarily concerned parents who took to the barricades against the horror film, which was marketed in the USA under the title “Black Christmas”, and which had a significant impact on the slasher subgenre. Hardly understandable from today’s perspective, because the film, which is released in this country from the age of 16, is downright harmless compared to the horror material produced today. But he was the first in many things: he established the first-person perspective in the Serenkiller film; i.e. tracking shots from the killer’s voyeuristic point of view. In addition, “Black Christmas” was one of the first films in which a single, pure girl – the so-called ‘final girl’ – remained at the end. And the first, which gave rise to a whole series of slasher films in which the horror was supposed to strike on a specific holiday. In 2006, in keeping with the trend of the two-thousanders, a much more brutal remake followed, which took up the essential principles of the original, but was able to convince with much more explicit kills and a well-formulated backstory about the perpetrator – at least this is similar in approach to the otherwise quite generic “One after the other” -Killer film also succeeded. For what is now the second remake, director and author Sophia Takal (“Always Shine”) has chosen such a different path that it can only be described as a new interpretation. And although it starts off promisingly, Takal’s rigid adherence to an obvious agenda turns it into a downright catastrophe.
Lindsay (Lucy Currey) becomes the killer’s first victim.
The “Black Christmas” series can demonstrate a remarkable emancipatory development within 45 years. In the slasher genre dominated by male killers and female victims, in which one could gain status as the ‘final girl’ primarily through virginity and abstinence from alcohol and drugs, Glen Morgan’s first remake from 13 years ago already stood out; Here the students were allowed to actively defend themselves and the killer surprisingly turned out to be a female killer at the end of the film. With her version of the horror shocker set during the Christmas season, Sophia Takal now goes a big step further and presents a women’s liberation strike that is clearly influenced by #MeToo and Co., the horror of which in the first hour only partially results from the fact that there is a woman killer on the campus . Instead, Takal, who is also responsible for the script, takes a lot of time to establish her main characters, each of whom has recently come into unpleasant contact with the male gender at least once. Regardless of whether it’s pushy ex-boyfriends or attempted abuse: Takal drives the two genders as far apart as possible in “Black Christmas”. But no matter how forced this may sound, at least in the first half of the film everything happens in a somewhat plausible way. Finally, she locates her story on a university campus in 2019. Takal plausibly captures the fact that the mood among the feminist-committed women in the student association can sometimes heat up and, on top of that, raises the question of whether the women’s behavior is caused by her Men’s overall derogatory behavior is not similarly despicable.
The staging of the already very few murders also fits in with this basic message, which tends to be initially exciting and gives the genre a breath of fresh air: When the women fall victim to the killer here, the morbid fun factor is hardly there, in contrast to the original and especially the remake not present at all. Instead, editor Chris G. Willingham (also edited the 2006 version of “Black Christmas”) repeatedly cuts in scenes in which the women feel reminded of past suffering. For example, when the killer is lying on top of one of the women and is about to stab her with a knife, we see in a short flashback the moment of imminent abuse, in which the victim was once also dominated by a man who was physically superior to her. This definitely feels more oppressive than the sometimes amusing, creative kills from the first remake, for example when the killer took an ice skate to ram it into the back of his victim’s head. But of course it also underlines Takal’s intention: her “Black Christmas” should only be fun when her women are allowed to take perfect revenge on the men. The violence and oppression exercised by men (which takes place here both physically and psychologically; for example, when it is shown at the very beginning that women can’t even feel safe if they just walk down a street normally and a stranger walking behind them) is simply intimidating.
The fact that Sophia Takal misses the point with her completely new approach isn’t that bad at first, but it’s certainly not unimportant for the viewer: Anyone hoping for a new hardcore slasher film from 2019’s “Black Christmas” will definitely be disappointed. In the USA, the film even received a PG-13 rating (comparable to the FSK rating from 12) on the grounds that the message conveyed by the film was particularly important for young women, who should have the opportunity to see it through the rating to see. There may certainly be some truth in that, but even without the message, “Black Christmas” would simply remain too chaste visually to justify a higher age rating. The makers almost completely avoid depicting blood and other visual escapades of violence. The film also doesn’t offer any jump scares. That, as well as the drift into supernatural realms that occurs for the first time in the series, are not the main reason why “Black Christmas” leaves the cinema absolutely unsatisfied. After the narratively not very subtle, but overall plausible first half, Sophia Takal devotes herself to the mood fueled by #MeToo and Co. and creates on the screen a clumsy battle of the sexes without any nuances, which has absolutely nothing to do with a serious discussion of socio-systematic deficits, but rather exclusively excavates trenches that already exist. “Black Christmas” begins as a contemporary questioning of existing genre mechanisms and ends in hysterical populism, with which the director sometimes abandons the horror genre completely. Incidentally, both genders agreed on this after the screening.
Conclusion: Sophia Takal’s plans to turn the male-dominated slasher genre inside out with “Black Christmas” fail after a promising first half because the director focuses too much on the conflict and not the solution. Not to mention that their film completely fails as a fear-mongering horror film.
Black Christmas 2019 is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, which is a horror classic. The film tells the story of a group of female students who are targeted by mysterious hooded killers who belong to a cult that seeks to restore the patriarchal order in society. The main character of the film is Riley, who is a victim of a rape that was never punished. Together with her friends, she tries to stand up to her attackers and uncover their conspiracy.
The ending of the film reveals that Professor Gelson, who is an alumnus of the ACO fraternity, is behind everything, and that the bust of the college’s founder, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is kept there. The bust contains black magic that allows him to control his followers with the help of a black substance that comes out of his eyes. Gelson and his cult want to destroy all women who oppose their ideology and make them their slaves. Riley infiltrates the fraternity house, where she finds her missing friend Helena, who has gone over to the enemy. Riley manages to rescue her friend Landon, who has been captured by the cult, and together they fight Gelson and his supporters. Riley uses Hawthorne’s bust to destroy the black substance that binds the cult and causes a fire in the house. Riley, Landon, and their friends survive, but Gelson and his cult perish in the flames.
The film also criticizes toxic masculinity, which manifests itself in the form of a cult that uses black magic to subjugate women. The film calls on women to unite and defend their rights and freedoms against any threats.
The film Black Christmas 2019 is not only a terrifying thriller, but also a feminist manifesto that shows women’s struggle against violence, discrimination and subjugation.
“Black Christmas” can be seen in USA cinemas from December 12th.