This is going to be a hard one to review, not only because it’s a controversial remake (in name) of a classic, but also because it’s chaotic as a movie, too. The only spoiler that I’m giving in this review is that a prominently featured unicorn figurine with an extraordinary large horn is disappointingly *not* utilized in any type of maiming or killing, which was a real missed opportunity.

He just wants to be a useful plot device symbolizing female empowerment

The Plot:

I say that it’s a remake in name because it’s quite different from the original (1974) and remake (2006).

Riley and her sorority sisters are getting ready for winter break as she is still struggling with a sexual assault that occurred in her past. She mentors another sister, Helena, while being friends with Marty, Jesse, and the out-spoken Kris. She begins to get weird texts via their school’s notification system after she and her friends perform at a talent show, opening mocking the fraternity her assailant belongs to.

Soon, the strange texts escalate and they realize that they’re being hunted by a masked figure. They must work together and fast to discover the secrets behind the university’s history and unravel its dark past, terrifying present, and devastating future…

The Good:

The acting from Imogen Poots exceeded my expectations. It was not an easy role, and had challenging dialogue to not only convey but to make believable. Good use of body movement, especially when solitary and during quiet moments, for example in the blue portrait hallway before the talent show. I think she’d be great in an indie horror.

Same with Aleyse Shannon, especially when a lot of her dialogue was very clunky. I hope she’s in more Scream Queen parts, especially in different roles.

What I love in these Black Christmas movies is the use of Xmas décor as part of the set and lighting. Very good job with that. Cinematography was smooth and lovely until shaky-cam PG-13 violence.

Set design is beautiful with the “old tradition” narrative of the story. Every creak of the floor is real and genuine-feeling, and not a manufactured sound in post-production. Whoever scouted the areas did an amazing job.

Thoughts: Brain Roll Juice

So….yeah. It’s a heavy-handed #MeToo feminist film, so your tolerance and taste for the movie are going to be dependent on your opinions of the #MeToo movement. And it’s not subtle winks and nods, it’s most of what’s on screen, down to the pink snow shovel and diva cup used as weapons (in different ways).

Quarter for size comparison

And it’s told in the lens of Blumhouse Productions, so we get pink cat-ear headbands; Secret Santa vibrators; putting in a tampon in front of a roommate; thong-talk; the phrase “boy-cotted”; push-up bras; and the many times when people are corrected for using the term “girl” instead of “woman”. Surprisingly, there was not white wine, yoga pants, or pumpkin-scented candles present.    

What I’m saying, is that while there are things being said, things that rightfully should be said, it’s through a tight and mediocre lens. It felt more like an episode of Riverdale mixed with 13 Reasons Why than a remake of a classic slasher film, including the off-screen deaths and lack-luster ambiance.

Previously on Black Christmas…
we bought more high-waisted jeans

Also, thank goodness that the characters had stockings with their names, or literally necklaces of their names, so I knew who was who because they so often blurred together. Which is fine, almost standard, for a horror/slasher film, but not when your message is that we should care about these women from the beginning.

Character-wise, I knew almost nothing about them, any of them. It was even a throw-away line that we learned our main character’s parents had died, and this was never brought up again.

My wild guess is this: this was not originally a Black Christmas remake; it was a script about a sorority house that was slapped with the title to promote it. It’s so disjointed -plot and script- that I think there were a lot of scenes cut by the studio because they either got worried by the message or decided to double-down on the message. I think these scenes would have made it flow better and given more character development, maybe even a better ending (which didn’t make a lick of sense).

I don’t think the changes would have made it a great movie, but I think it would have been a better one. And don’t get me wrong – there have a lot of subpar movies made since the dawn of film, and this one is better than most, if just for the effort of trying to say something, especially in a male-dominated field of horror. Props to that. But at the end of the day, will this get more hate/vitriol than Blumhouse’s Uncanny Annie or Truth or Dare, even though they were of equal or lesser value? Yeah. Will a lot that hate/vitriol come from people reading a few keywords and not actually watching the movie? Sure. Maybe that’s the real juice to roll your brain in.

Now guess which one has
made less friends

One last thing of note before I sink back into the darkness. I find it odd that with PG-13, we can’t watch a human being bleed after getting stabbed in the chest by an icicle, but we can watch a woman be assaulted multiple times, and that meets quality standards for a 13-year-old.

Oh, and Riki Lindhome co-wrote the song for the talent show.

Bottom-line:

Don’t watch this as a first date movie – super awkward.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
About the Author

When not howling Tina Turner classics with Glorious Spouse under a Detroit moon, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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