Posts Tagged ‘campus rape’

The original Black Christmas from 1974 is a beloved, if kind of weird, early member of the slasher subgenre. The senseless nature of the killer “Billy,” for whom we never get any sort of explanation, as well as the helplessness of the characters, still makes it terrifying forty-five years later. A 2006 remake tried to capture that terror, but it failed miserably, mired in too much exposition and cliches. So, of course, everyone was skeptical when Blumhouse decided to make another remake. But the trailers promised a new angle, so who knows? It could be good.

2019’s Black Christmas again follows sorority sisters trapped on campus and in their sorority house with a killer who appears to taunt them through messaging apps. But there’s more at play here, and it all leads back to a particular fraternity on campus and the university’s controversial founder.

Um…how do I even talk about this one?

As far as storytelling and scares go, this is pretty run of the mill for a slasher, especially ones where a lot of stuff is given away in trailers. Granted, a couple members of the audience did get freaked (one audience member did yell out “that ****er is smart!” when an antagonist did something pretty sneaky), but if you’re familiar with slashers, it all feels standard and a little pulpy. A bit more exciting near the late middle and the last third, but still pretty standard.

The one thing that sets this movie apart is its incorporation of feminism into the plot. And this is where I have to really think about what I type, lest readers get the wrong idea.

Now, let me say this outright. I identify as a feminist. I get upset when I read stories in the news where women are subjected to harassment and misogyny and they are the ones blamed or called into question rather than the men attacking them. I also work in an office whose job is partly to deal with harassment, misogyny, and assault in our organization’s workforce. So I support women breaking barriers and creating more equal places for them in society.

Black Christmas tries to explore these issues in what, considering some of our current events, could be considered timely. And unlike Countdown, which felt gimmicky with its use of the #MeToo movement (see my review here), there was no gimmick here. The film’s handling of feminist issues is well-done at times. There is a lot of discussion of campus rape culture and how we as a society should approach it. Two characters have opposing views on the subject: one says everything must be done to stop the systemic problem, including by survivors, while the other says that not every survivor is willing to be a warrior and may just want to move on. And both bring up good points.

Another scene where the theme is handled well is when one of the protagonists goes to report her friend missing, and the male cop is apathetic, even acting dismissive. Like he thinks the protagonist is making a huge fuss because she’s a woman, not because there might be an actual problem.

Still, there were some moments where I wondered if the inclusion of these themes, as well as some exaggerated aspects, were meant to check some boxes and make this a “woke” sort of film, not really explore the subject matter and allow for enlightening discussion. But then, as I got home, I remembered something that put the film in a new light.

Back in 2018, Jason Blum, owner of Blumhouse Productions which produced the film, made comments about women directors, especially in horror, that drew a lot of ire from the horror community. Blum apologized for the comments and promised to do better. Fast-forward to 2019, and Black Christmas is the company’s first film with a female director, Sophia Takal. Takal also served as a writer with another woman, April Wolfe.

So this film could’ve been Blum’s way of apologizing for his comments and showing that he’s progressive. Or, and I like this scenario more, Takal and Wolfe were given the freedom to make their own horror movie, they were very much aware of what Blum said and they made a film not just to talk about their own issues with the film industry, but also to remind Blum that he, along with a lot of other people and segments in society have to go to really make things equal between men and women. And if that’s true, I can imagine how much Blum squirmed in his seat.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Black Christmas an even 3. While not as bad as the 2006 remake and a nice comeback to Blum’s comments, it still has areas that could’ve been better.

Thus ends the horror films of 2019, which, with a few exceptions, were either average or just bad. Here’s hoping 2020 is A LOT better. Until then, pleasant nightmares!