Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 28, 2020)
Though 1974’s Black Christmas failed to earn much money at the box office, it turned into a cult classic, one that helped pioneer the “slasher horror” genre. 32 years later, 2006 brought a remade version, one that didn’t score with fans or critics, as it underperformed commercially.
With 2019’s re-remake, would Black Christmas finally find an audience? Again: nope.
Because of its super-low $5 million budget, the 2019 version made a tiny profit. However, I’m sure the studio expected more than $18 million worldwide.
Maybe the 2019 film will spell the end of the story. I doubt it, so I expect a re-re-remake sometime around 2032.
As the students of Hawthorne College prepare to enjoy Winter Break, tragedy strikes. A trio of masked marauders murder a young woman named Lindsay (Lucy Curry) – and do so with an icicle.
The terror doesn’t stop with this one isolated killing, however, as the perpetrators set their sights on the sorority sisters of Mu Kappa Epsilon. This leaves them in a literal life and death struggle to beat their psychotic assailants.
If I ever saw the 1974 Christmas, that viewing occurred long ago and departed my memory. The film does enjoy some fairly notable talent, though, as it involved Christmas Story director Bob Clark and actors such as Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey and a pre-SCTV Andrea Martin.
As the review link earlier indicates, I did watch the 2006 Christmas, though without that online evidence, I’d probably forget it. Dull and trite, the remake became a tedious genre effort.
At least the 2006 Christmas held true to one key aspect of the slasher genre: an “R” rating. The 2019 version wimps out and goes “PG-13”, a choice that denies genre fans potential gory thrills.
While the “PG-13” means tamped-down bloodshed, it doesn’t force the film to become bland or watered-down in other areas. A good horror film can prosper without graphic violence if it manages to churn out tension and scares.
That’d come from a good horror film. Unfortunately, the 2019 Christmas doesn’t qualify as a good horror film.
On the positive side, at least the 2019 film attempts something different in terms of plot. This occurs mainly because this version adopts a social orientation to suit its era.
This means the story focuses on Riley (Imogen Poots), a student who got raped by frat boy Brian Huntley (Ryan McIntyre). Though the school expelled him, he escaped criminal charges and continues to enjoy a positive reputation among his former pals.
The 2019 Christmas delves deeply into the social side, as it devotes a lot of its running time to the issues of male domination and abuse. Indeed, it takes until well past the 50-minute point for the horror to launch in earnest, as most of the prior running time deals with character and political issues.
A well-made movie could integrate these “MeToo” themes in a competent manner, but in the case of Christmas, they feel gratuitous. While I feel like I should admire the movie’s attempts to involve commentary into what could be a brainless slasher, this flick operates on such a simplistic level that it seems insulting.
I get the impression that Christmas goes for the social themes solely to add a patina of relevance to the tale. I don’t sense a lot of sincerity, as the movie treats Riley’s rape and related domains in such a casual manner that their involvement becomes superficial at best.
A smarter movie could achieve these goals, but Christmas lacks any sense of intelligence. It also goes completely off the rails during its third act, as the implausible becomes the absurd.
Perhaps if Christmas managed some tension or scares, the ham-fisted stabs at social commentary might not turn into an issue. Unfortunately, the film flops in that regard as well, and not because it lacks graphic violence.
No - Christmas fails because we never care about the characters and the film doesn’t develop its story in a compelling manner. We don’t get any real tension of drama, so we plod along from one ridiculous plot point to another.
All of these factors lead us toward an unconvincing and often downright silly mix of horror and social commentary. Pretty much nothing here succeeds.