Black Christmas: Woke Horror with Feminist Power
Black Christmas (2019)
If you are slumped on the couch full of Christmas dinner and need an energetic slasher horror flick to reinvigorate yourself, then I’d recommend Black Christmas, a 2019 American horror film, the second of two remakes of the 1974 original Canadian film (of the same name).
Black Christmas’ Social Theme
Black Christmas is set on a university campus, but don’t let that fool you. Despite its setting, Black Christmas is not your typical dumbed-down college movie; it actually touches on themes of rape, violence, and misogyny. In fact, it is woke, and it gave me feelings of girl power in line with the #Metoo movement.
“[Black Christmas is] inspired by…this idea of misogyny always being out there and never totally eradicable.”Source: Director Sophia Takal (Entertainment)
Black Christmas actually has a social aim: to empower women and expose certain frat boys for the sexual predators that they are. The film was directed and written by two women who admit that the movie was a way to keep the light shining on the predatory men in positions of power, which occurred a few years prior to the film’s release.
“All of these men were being exposed for all the terrible things they had done … but then they were coming back into the public sphere”Director: Sophia Takal (The New York Times)
Misogyny and Violence in the Real World
We have all heard of American jocks’ sexist tendencies; this movie gives us that, but with some black magic thrown in for good measure. While I am not a huge slasher horror fan, I did enjoy this.
Of course, #metoo is a real world problem.
In a 2018 op-ed in Teen Vogue, Wade Davis describes how universities are now mandated via Title IX to streamline all of their student-athletes on the issues of sexual assault and harassment, as well as consent. He states that college athletes are on average more likely than other students on campus to identify with hyper-masculinity and to accept “rape myths.”
Black Christmas Review
Black Christmas gets straight to the point, and the acting is pretty good too. The sorority gals have real friendship chemistry and are just about likable enough to make me want them to survive.
It stars Imogen Poots as the protagonist who seems to fit this type of easy-going style of horror having previously starred in 2011’s Fright Night, another horror remake. Poots suits the part, a friend you would want at your side and someone you can feel emotional towards, considering the assault she went through– a trauma she is still trying to “get over” throughout the course of the movie, with the help of her ultra-feminist friend Kris.
The movie doesn’t make us wait for the first killing, this happens early on and impresses us by using an icicle as the murder weapon.
I thought I was the only person who knew that icicles are the best way to murder someone.
It leaves us anticipating even more outrageous murder weapons and it doesn’t let us down by throwing a bow and arrow into the mix.
But the death scenes seem a bit too rushed, I mean, if you’re going to go all out with the murder weapons, you might as well prolong the killings.
The Black Magic Frat Boys
The frat boys seem to be under some weird, black magic spell which leads them on a sorority gal killing spree. The head of this magic frat cult, as I call it, is none other than Cary Elwes, from the classic The Princess Bride.
But in Black Christmas, Cary Elwes does not play a loveable, romantic Westley character, but a dark, disturbed university instructor.
Unfortunately, I had the sense that he was involved from the beginning, during an early scene in which the students are petitioning to get him fired because he is sexist and focuses solely on male authors in his lectures. His smugness oozes Leader of Black Magic Fraternity Cult. Too bad, because his character’s transparency diminished the suspense factor.
I did feel uneasy with the theme of this movie; the frat guys made my skin crawl and I couldn’t help but feel angry whenever they came on screen. This movie can definitely trigger some assault victims and may be hard to watch but it is worth it in the sense that it brings these issues up in the first place.
One such scene involves a song describing date rape, an ordeal Riley (Imogen Poots) went through 4 years prior with a university frat boy. The sorority gals put on a Christmas show dressed in Santa costumes and sing clever lyrics about date rape and how everybody knows what the frat guys are up to. The frat guys aren’t too happy about this and so begin their revenge tactics.
The movie does have some redeemable male characters which demonstrates how the writers didn’t want to portray all males as misogynistic creeps, which is appreciated. There are also some decent fighting scenes but unfortunately no decent scares, this is supposed to be a horror movie after all! Even jump scares are non-existent.
Another annoying aspect is that it uses text messages too often and too small to even read them coherently. I suppose I should have expected this texting fiasco, it’s a college movie after all.
But this movie did hold my attention which I wasn’t expecting. So, give it a go and see how you feel about it, you might also be pleasantly surprised.
Black Christmas Scorecard
Jump Scares: 1/10
Creep Scares: 4/10 (I’m being generous!)
Killing/Action Scenes: 5/10
Carol Kavanagh is a traveler, freelance writer, podcaster, and horror enthusiast. You can check out her podcast, Horror Therapy, on Spotify.
She also wrote this article about David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and others, which you can find in the links below the editor’s note.
Editor’s note: This is not a political or current affairs magazine, but I asked the writer to compose the above blurb about American jocks’ sexist tendencies (the last paragraph under the header, Misogyny in the Real World), with links, especially in the context of #metoo. I found it helpful. Exploring the links in her blurb helped me understand the movie in a deeper way.