I rarely see horror movies. I don’t like to be scared just for the sake of being scared and I’m not fond of watching people run from monsters and die meaningless deaths.
But my favorite movie of the year by far is the 2019 remake of the horror movie Black Christmas, directed by Sophia Takal, written by her and April Wolfe, and starring Imogen Potts and Aleyse Shannon in the key roles. And I say that after a week in which I saw three movies, including both the obvious one and one that has received many rave reviews.*
Black Christmas is the feminist movie I’ve been looking for. It’s not just that it obliterates the need for the Bechdel test by being a movie in which women talk to each other about all kinds of things, it also gives us ordinary young women with dealing with a terrible situation all by themselves.
No superheroes here. Just regular people realizing they, too, can fight evil. (Also no superhero battle scenes, thank all that’s holy. I cannot tell you how tired I am of overwrought CGI battle scenes.)
Might be some spoilers in here, so if you’re planning to see it and don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now.
This movie has been criticized for being overtly feminist. Since that’s the only reason I saw it (after reading this piece about it, which also includes some spoilers) I don’t see that as a negative. Given that most women have been thrilled by the occasional glimpse of powerful women in movies, I suspect there are a lot of people besides me waiting to see something like this.
Apparently the critics also think it wasn’t faithful enough to its predecessors. I haven’t seen those movies and am unlikely to do so, since the set up of this one plus that criticism and the fact that it’s labeled a “slasher” film give me a very good idea about what happens in them (lots of young women die in nasty ways).
Further, people are upset that it got a PG-13 rating instead of an R like its predecessor. I assume that’s because it’s not gory and doesn’t lovingly photograph dead women, also a plus.
In this film, members of a fraternity decide to target women, focusing on members of one sorority in particular but also attacking others. The frat boys are apparently inspired/possessed by some kind of magical force brought on by the bust of the college’s founder and do a ritual that makes them even more misogynist than they were to begin with.
There’s a professor who has been compared by several reviewers to that Canadian guy who has an online following. Certainly he teaches a class that promotes misogynistic thinking and uses a quote from Camille Paglia to support his views — a reminder that one doesn’t have to be male to be misogynist.
One of the main characters is Riley (Imogen Poots), who was raped by the former president of the fraternity and got no assistance from the police. That former president has come back for a holiday with his brothers.
The other is Kris (Aleyse Shannon), a feminist activist who is doing a petition against the professor and previously got the bust of the founder removed from a public place (though that may have been what caused the frat to become possessed by his evil, since they ended up with it).
Riley and Kris and two others of their sisters do a skit at a showcase in which they accuse the frat guys of rape. But the killings have already started before then.
In one of the early scenes, a woman is being stalked and puts her keys between her fingers, ready to fight. That key motif is repeated later in the film, when all hell has broken loose and the boys are attacking the women in their house. Kris (I think) stabs one of the attackers in the neck with her keys.
In the end, the women are successful at saving themselves (a call to campus security just gets the cop killed). And they do it by forming a group that comes to rescue Riley and fighting together against the guys.
They don’t fight like superheroes or like the stars of martial arts movies. They just fight however they can with whatever they can bring to hand. Yes, some of the women die; this is a war. But a whole lot of them survive, and they do it because they fight and support each other.
One of the other criticisms of the movie is that the men are possessed by this evil substance (or something) from the founder, who may have dabbled in the black arts. Some have suggested it wasn’t necessary, that men deciding to punish women for daring to criticize them would have been enough.
But I think it was an excellent metaphor for toxic masculinity. What the frat guys are doing even has some effect on the two good men in the movie, though both are able to shake it off.
Obviously I like the feminist take, but I also think it’s a good movie. I was sucked in from the beginning, and while I noticed things like the key motif, my inner critic kept her mouth shut. When I don’t make critical or caustic comments to myself while watching a movie, that’s a sign that it’s done it’s basic job of sucking me in.
I’m sure this will be out soon on streaming, if it’s already gone from theaters. Highly recommended.
*Star Wars was fun as long as you don’t mind the complete annihilation of the laws of physics. I’m always down for good defeating evil. Knives Out showed how great actors can do over-the-top without being annoying and was very well-constructed. Neither sucked me into their world completely.