20th Apr2020

‘Black Christmas’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Simon Mead, Madeleine Adams, Nathalie Morris, Ben Black, Zoë Robins, Ryan McIntyre | Written by Sophia Takal, April Wolfe | Directed by Sophia Takal

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Black Christmas. A familiar title if not a familiar film. Already remade once in 2006, it seems Blumhouse decided 2019 was ripe for reinvention of the film – tasking female filmmakers Sophia Takal and April Wolfe with rebooting the series. And it’s not a big a failure as other reviews have made out. Though it’s not without its problems…

This time round the action takes place at Hawthorne College, which is quieting down for the holidays. One by one, sorority girls on campus are being killed by an unknown stalker. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy; and killer is about to discover that this generation’s young women aren’t willing to become hapless victims as they mount a fight to the finish.

OK, so going into this new version of Black Christmas I knew that the filmmakers had taken more of a feminist perspective on the subject matter this time round. And no, unlike a lot of genre fans, that didn’t really offend me… In this day and age we should expect more and more if this type of “woke” horror to appear. The fact they chose to use a classic slasher movie in which to launch their particular brand of genre fare is surprising. I guess name recognition works a lot better in terms of getting people to see your film even though early reviews were pretty terrible – hell, it worked to get me to see the film on DVD after all!

In terms of being another redux of Black Christmas this is really anything but. It’s not a remake, reimagining or any other type of “re-” film. It’s more like watching a direct to market film that uses a familiar title as a cash-grab, and audience-dupe if you will. In terms of title versus story, this is like watching one of those totally unrelated Amityville films that seem to come out on DVD every couple of months. You KNOW those aren’t Amityville films however, here Blumhouse and the filmmakers claimed this was a new take on the classic 1970s slasher. It’s not. In fact there are so many changes to the story and even the genre – for yes, unlike the other two Black Christmas films  – this is NOT a slasher movie. Not in the slightest. It might use a trope or two from the slasher genre, it might even use the same sorority house setting as its slasher brethren but this is definitely not a slasher movie… Not by a country mile.

In fact this particular Black Christmas is more of a demonic possession movie; complete with black ooze, the living dead (in the old-school voodoo style, not zombies) and a crazy cult!

Yes, you read that right. We’ve gone from slasher to black magic/voodoo possession movie. And that’s the most erroneous thing about this film. Forget all the complaints about the fact this film has a feminist agenda, forget those that say this is a man-hating film. This Black Christmas does hate something, it HATES Black Christmas. It’s like someone decided that they thought the title was cool and the seasonal setting, but then decide the rest of the story was terrible. It’s not. Black Christmas is a classic of the genre, that’s why many genre fans hated the 2000s remake Black Xmas – but compared to this film the previous remake is a piece of genius filmmaking.

Frankly not as terrible as other reviews have made out, 2019s Black Christmas should be at least commended for finding a new take on a familiar story. Just a shame then that the story they do tell is ruined by a total disrespect for the original film and slasher films in general… but given the genres “misogynistic” tendencies wasn’t that to be expected? Oh, and quick sidenote, that “alternate ending” provided as an extra? Really looks like they were possibly setting this one up to get a sequel… It truly does. With a sly cliffhanger denouement that – honestly – is surprisingly believeable but also ruins one of the films characters IMHO.

Bonus Features:

  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • You Messed with the Wrong Sisters
  • The (Re)Making of a Cult Classic
  • Welcome to Mu Kappa Epsilon
  • Feature commentary by director Sophia Takal and star Imogen Poots

Black Christmas is out on DVD now from Universal Pictures UK.

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