I Write These Movie Reviews Locked in the Trunk of Your Car. Thanks for the Snacks!!
Sophia Takal and April Wolfe
At the very least, the second Black Christmas remake is not the least entertaining movie to have come out this Friday the 13th weekend. It’s at least as good as that insipid Jumanji sequel.
I mean, if you’re over the age of 10. Sorry, your kids dragged you to see it. You can get them back by hiding all their Christmas presents until February. When they ask you what happened to them, you could say something like they were given to higher quality, smarter children that pick better movies than Jumanji 2.
If you’re an adult and for whatever reason you were actually looking forward to Jumanji 2, you get what you get and I hope the surgery goes well.
The Black Christmas remake is also better than that Clint Eastwood movie about yet another white guy that did something special. More entertaining in a very facile way.
But that’s about as high the praise as Black Christmas ’19 gets, because for most of its hour and a half running time, the audience is left wanting more. It’s a PG-13 Blumhouse movie, so you know the “scares” are going to come not fast and furious, but obvious and cheap.
You expect more, considering the pedigree behind the camera (Blumhouse notwithstanding). Writer/director Sophia Takai’s Always Shine was one of the more interesting films of 2016, not perfect but an always compelling, sometimes disturbing take on female friendships. Her episode of Into the Dark was one of the more watchable installments of an uneven series.
You’d expect/hope her (and co-writer April Wolfe) take on the 1974 Bob Clark Christmas classic would be possibly compelling, hopefully disturbing and at least watchable. Or why else would you do yet another Black Christmas?
1 out of 3 isn’t bad.
Yes, yes it is.
Black Christmas 2019 opens in Hawthorne College, the rapiest college in all of America. If you’re a female Hawthorne student not being assaulted by a Brock Turner stand-in, just wait a few minutes.
We learn that the founder of Hawthorne, Brett Kavanaugh Hawthorne was a sexist, a slaveowner and a misogynist and some of the more woke of the student body have removed his bust off campus, never to be seen again. Or will it?
We meet our heroine Riley (Imogen Poots, always a joy to see onscreen). She lives with her sisters at the sorority of…
Actually, I never got the name of the sorority, but since a good portion of its members are going to die bloodlessly in the next 20 minutes of screentime, I’m just going to call it Gonna Die Next or GDN for short.
Riley and her GDN sisters are preparing for Christmas break. Before they go, they’re going to put on a show for the campus fraternity, the Toxic Males. One of their sisters Lindsay (I was going to look up the actress’ name but since she’s going to die in less than a minute I’m not even going to bother) can’t make the show because she’s tired and has to take a train the morning.
As she’s walking back to GDN, she’s stalked by a guy in a robe borrowed from Eyes Wide Shut. Then she’s dead. Do we care? Sure, but we care more about Riley.
Why do we care about Riley? Because she’s got a deep dark secret that the audience won’t know about until later.
Riley’s taking dead Lindsay’s place in the show. She and her sisters possibly-dead-because-she’s-black Kris (Aleyse Shannon) and probably-dead Marty (Lily Donaghue) sing a Christmas song to the Toxic Males that doesn’t really go over well.
Probably because it triggers their rapist tendencies.
The song is pretty catchy, though.
Riley, Kris and Marty barely escape with their lives. They crushed the song, as well as calling out a campus full of enablers.
They should feel proud of themselves. They should enjoy this moment, considering some of them won’t be alive much longer.
The next morning comes. The performance is recorded and posted online.
Riley is now getting threatening DMs from someone claiming to be the dead founder of Hawthorne. The texts are along the lines of “Watch Out”, and “You’re Next”. Sorry, You’re Next was a better movie. These DMs are nothing new to any woman who’s ever been online ever.
Riley reports it to campus police. The white male police officer (Officer Shoot a Black Motorist) doesn’t believe Riley because she’s a woman. And because of what she’s wearing. And because she gets her period.
Riley goes back to her house, frustrated that nothing is being done. Little does she know that there’s another dead body on the roof.
And what about Landon (Caleb Eberhardt), the seemingly nice guy that’s taken a genuine interest in Riley? Is he going to end up trying to assault her or flood her inbox with pictures of his penis that no girl has ever wanted or ever asked for?
And what about the smarmy Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes)? Could he have something to do with this?
Um, yeah. It’s Cary Elwes. You’ve seen Stranger Things. He’s now cast as generic white bad guy. 20 years ago that might have been…inconceivable.
Before the night is done, the body count will rise. Even if the scare count doesn’t.
What Works With Black Christmas 2019
- The cast of mostly newcomers are brilliant throughout and carry the movie through its many dead spots. The always dependable Poots has an easy chemistry with her co-stars. There’s never a moment when you don’t believe they’ve been friends for years and that they wouldn’t do anything for each other. Like wade through a mediocre horror movie with their burgeoning careers relatively intact.
- Callbacks to the original Black Christmas are handled in ways you might not expect. Some of them are blatant (kitty!) and some you might miss if you’re not paying attention. They’re handled with a wit and knack for the unanticipated that’s missing throughout most of the movie.
- That song really is catchy.
What Doesn’t Work With Black Christmas 2019
- At least half a dozen cheap Blumhouse “scares” that anybody who has ever seen a horror movie can see coming. If you’re actually afraid of anything that happens in this PG-13 milquetoast piece of junior high sleepover “horror”, you’ll probably die of fright by the time you’re 25. Because you’re a p*ssy. You wonder what Takai and company would have done with an ‘R’ rating. It would have at least given us some blood and gore, instead of a d-bag with a bow and arrow (Hawkeye?).
- You thought it was only early Bond movies that had a villain overexplain the plot to a bored audience. Not just once, but twice. You wouldn’t think a movie as ripped-from-the-headlines and femme-centric as Black Christmas would be guilty of mansplaining.
Considering what else came out this weekend, Black Christmas is not the worst thing to see if you feel you need to go to the theater. Just don’t expect much in terms of scares or suspense. See the original again. See the 2006 remake. See this eventually if you’re bored. Just get someone else to pay for your ticket.