Black Christmas: Horror Remake Will Scare Audiences Away

2 out of 5 stars (Has some good moments, but is overall bad)

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Note: Black Christmas is about sexual assault on college campuses.  If that subject is uncomfortable for you, I advise skipping this film.

Black Christmas is the 2nd remake of a cult classic 1970’s slasher about a group of sorority sisters surviving masked assailants.  I haven’t seen the original film or its 2006 remake, so I figured I could analyze the new Black Christmas on its own terms.  Unfortunately, my enthusiasm vanished faster than toasters on Black Friday as I watched a movie with solid acting, several good jokes, and isolated moments of tension be drowned out by a bafflingly mishandled message.  Black Christmas is a giant lump of coal that fails both as a fun horror film and topical commentary.

College girl Riley (Imogen Poots) is looking forward to celebrating winter break with her interchangeable sorority sisters (Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, and Madeleine Adams).  A victim of sexual assault by the head of the campus fraternity (Ryan McInTyre), Riley and the girls call out the frat’s actions via a Christmas performance (an admittedly satisfying sequence).  However, the sisters soon find themselves cyber-stalked and chased by a mysterious hooded figure, putting them in the fight for their lives.

Black Christmas is well-cast and hits its comedic marks, but lacks effective scares.  Imogen Poots and newcomer Aleyse Shannon are standouts, with the former providing a grounded performance and the latter (despite playing a wholly unlikable character) possessing a strong screen presence.  According to my college-age sister, everyone looks and talks their age.  Also, the presence of Cary Elwes, the heartthrob from the children’s classic The Princess Bride, hints at the cheesy fun that could have been.  Unfortunately, the kills are more obvious than the unhealthiness of a Big Mac, the supporting sisters have less depth than a slice of bologna, and 2 narratively critical scenes occur offscreen, yet the film is written as though we saw them.

However, the biggest sin of Black Christmas is its attempt to marry sexual assault with fun popcorn thrills.  It feels like chunks of 2 radically different movies were smashed together rather than one cohesive vision, offering a simplistic, one-size-fits-all nonsolution for real-world victims while also failing as a horror film.   Skip Black Christmas.

Rated PG-13 for Violence, Terror, Thematic Content Involving Sexual Assault, Sexual Material, And Drinking

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