Movie Review: Black Christmas

Whoever was responsible for putting together the trailer for BLACK CHRISTMAS clearly didn’t understand the concept of “teasing”. No sooner was the first trailer released back in September than film fans took to the Internet to complain that the trailer gives away too much of the story. I try not to see a trailer until I’ve seen the film and now that I’ve seen both for this film I can say that yes, these people are correct. If you’ve seen this trailer, you know what’s going to happen.

BLACK CHRISTMAS is a #TimesUp era update of the now classic 1974 slasher film of the same name. In this version, while most of the students at the fictional Hawthorne College are either gearing up or gearing down for the Christmas break, MKE sorority sister Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is busy gathering signatures for her petition to oust lecturer Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes, THE PRINCESS BRIDE) from his position at the university for his sexist reading list. (Is that really grounds for firing someone these days?) Kris’ activities have not gone unnoticed by either Gelson or the frat boys at DKO, who are known collectively at “the Dekes”. Their past president, Brian Huntley (Ryan McIntyre), has just arrived back on campus to lead the fraternity’s initiation ritual of pledges and memories of a sexual attack he committed a few years earlier have unsettled MKE sorority sister Riley (Imogen Poots, I KILL GIANTS; SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY). The women at MKE aren’t going to sit idly by though, and they convince Riley to join their revenge performance at the DKO frat house’s Christmas party. While all this plays out, women from a few sororities start disappearing. It seems that a cloaked character is bumping them off one at a time. After Riley and her friends realise that campus security isn’t going to look after them, they decide to take matters into their own hands.

This BLACK CHRISTMAS is a curiosity. While the original has been credited with creating a new sub-genre of horror films, this version is one slasher film that doesn’t show any blood. Most of the murders take place off-screen and the ones that the audiences do see are surprisingly clean. It may be that the producers wanted to have a PG-13 rating in the US (it’s rated IIB here in Hong Kong) to attract a wider audience but, by doing so, they delivered something that’s very beige. And who knew that you could kill someone with an icicle to the chest… through a T-shirt and a bulky sweater, no less? Ridiculously lame doesn’t even begin to cover how toothless this film is. Equally curious is that the women refrain from using the “R” word when they talk about the sexual attack on Riley. Come on, ladies. You’re supposed to be all woke. Call it for what it is! We can’t even blame it on male blindness. This BLACK CHRISTMAS was written by Sophia Takal, who also directed, and April Wolfe. The pair was obviously inspired by Jordan Peele’s socially conscious horror films, GET OUT and US, but they’re clearly out of their depth here. I’ll concede that some of the jump scares are good but the film’s pacing is a complete mess. The first act is interminably slow (my colleague kept learning over to me complaining that he was bored) while the second act, which is actually fun, lasts all of five minutes.

Save yourself the HK$100-odd (US$12) and just watch the trailer. This BLACK CHRISTMAS is as exciting as a keg party with lite beer.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, December 13th, 8:30 am HK time!

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