If you’re familiar with the horror-film trope “the calls are coming from the house”, then you’re familiar with Black Christmas. The gripping original, from 1974, is one of horror-cinema’s creepiest and ragingly feminist films. It makes sense, then, that it’s the subject of multiple remakes; Glen Morgan’s 2006 version of events being palatably ‘fine’ or on-a-limb ‘alright’.
And yes, the intersection of horror cinema and feminism is not new. Quiet girls who step up to defeat the ultimate evil and discover own strength doing so is a classic story, reaching way back from ‘I Spit on Your Grave’. What’s interesting then, too way further than ‘Susperia’ levels, Black Christmas doesn’t really feel like a remake. Sure, our final girl and her sorority sisters have closed down for the holidays, and there’s a killer – but, spoiler, he’s definitely not in the house, and well, it’s 2019 – so even if he was, he’s a millennial and he’s absolutely not going to use the phone.
What you can expect from Black Christmas then, is more of a reimagining, say writers Takal and Wolfe. Riley (Imogen Poots) and her sisters, having formed the kind of female friendships that inevitably blossom whilst co-habiting, are staying home for the holidays. On the last day before the rest of the campus toddle off, there’s a talent show – in which Riley’s friends call out the perpetrator of her sexual assault. Someone gets too drunk, and at the last minute, Riley ends up joining them – her alumni assaulter in the room. As a direct result of this, the girls begin receiving menacing DMs from an anonymous source, that eventually escalates into murder.
What’s most admirable is Black Christmas’ handling of Riley’s sexual assault, and the campus views on it. In a world where sexual violence has been experienced by most of the women you know (Yes, it has – ask them) the dialogue around this crime during Black Christmas is way more important than the film itself. Cut to be a 15, it’s a Me Too slasher – informed with the reality of how the world reacts to sexual violence, and it teaches just why young women should, and will, fight back – together.
What you have to do then, to really enjoy Black Christmas, is to think of it as a different film entirely. Un-marred by the original, it’s a Bechdel test passing revenge slasher fest, perfectly uncovering how far we still have to go with our handling of sexual assault. It’s important that this film is penned by two women, and directed by one – especially given Jason Blum’s less than emphatic comments about female directors – and, for a studio that’s generally more grindhouse-leaning in its outputs, it’s a huge step in the right direction. Slap a different title on this film, and it’s pretty good. Expect it to break the ground that the 1974 one did, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s really your call (or…DM?).