REVIEW: To its detriment, ‘Black Christmas’ is more concerned with themes than thrills

I wasn’t expecting any other movie this year to give “After” a run for its money as the worst film to be set on a college campus in 2019, but here we are.

This is the second time “Black Christmas” has been remade, with the other coming out in 2006 and the original having been released in the 1970s.

In this film, the main characters are college students and members of a sorority. The leads include Riley (Imogen Poots), Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue) and Jesse (Brittany O’Grady). The four are preparing for the Christmas holiday, but Riley is struggling with her life after having been raped by a fraternity member. Making matters worse is the fact that her story wasn’t believed by law enforcement.

Riley’s Christmas season only goes downhill more, when she begins noticing disappearances on campus. Eventually, her and her friends learn that the female students on campus are being killed and they become the next target. As they try to survive, they also unravel what’s really going on and the truth has a connection to the school’s founding.

“Black Christmas” does something respectable when going with a remake approach. It tries to have the same setting and such, with a college campus backdrop, but also incorporates its own story and characters. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise really ends.

This movie is a disaster, with an absurd, poorly executed story, ham-fisted messaging, weak characters and poorly shot action. The film’s story, for example, introduces so many ridiculous aspects that it lacks any weight.

XmasBlog2
Courtesy Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures.

Not that you can’t have an over-the-top story in a slasher flick, but as things get more absurd, it’s hard to be invested in the more topical themes the film is trying to shove in. The imbalance in tone and messaging, along with a story that keeps taking several leaps that make it difficult to suspend disbelief, cause the picture to crumble.

It also doesn’t help that the movie’s climax feels absolutely rushed. It’s supposed to be a crescendo but it turns out to be a total dud because of the weak set-up.

The characters, meanwhile, are almost all annoying or unlikable, with pretty much the exception of Riley. Not only are the protagonists and antagonists insufferable, though, they’re also rather generic. Every person here is written more like caricatures, with none coming across as convincing.

It doesn’t help that the movie isn’t all that scary, either. Not that a movie needs to be rated R, but for slashers, it does kind of help. There aren’t any memorable kills here, and it doesn’t have unique aspects, like those featured in “Happy Death Day,” that sets it apart.

Worse than the lack of scares, though, is the action moments. The sorority sisters do fight back in a few scenes here, but it’s so poorly shot and edited that it’s difficult to make out what’s going on. This is especially true during the picture’s climax where several people are fighting in a small room and it’s tough to have an idea on what’s happening.

Director and co-writer Sophia Takal seemed more concerned with including themes than thrills in this flick, and they put their messages out there with less subtlety than even “Countdown” which came out earlier this year. The result is a movie that seems built around that messaging with the name of a classic horror film slapped on it. From its script to its characters and most in-between, “Black Christmas” misses the mark. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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