They messed with the wrong Christmas movie. Again.
Hawthorne College is an institution of higher learning being dragged reluctantly into the modern “woke” era by individuals demanding more from their school than the status quo. As the college quiets down for Christmas break, a sorority uses a holiday tradition to highlight and embarrass The Founder’s Fraternity over an ignored sexual assault accusation from a few years back. Even before the event, however, a number of young women thought to have left for the break are being reported late getting home, and Riley (Imogen Poots) discovers her initial suspicions are far worse than anything she could have imagined.
As the second reboot of the original 1974 Canadian slasher film about a killer stalking a college over the holidays, one might expect filmmakers would have studied the failings of the 2006 reboot that sacrificed an R-rated promise for PG-13 fare… and how poorly that final film turned out. The trailers for this re-imagining reflect not just an updated stylized stalker but even a modern excuse for it, but a last-minute edit again from R to PG-13 may already be telling. Ghost stories like The Others, Poltergeist, and the American remake of The Ring have done fine with less than an R rating, but is that even possible in the slasher genre?
The surprise hit Happy Death Day proved you can do a smart and fun slasher flick (with a Groundhog Day twist) on both a budget and a PG-13 rating, so the benchmark and precedent has already been set. Unfortunately, any goodwill and promise the trailers for the 2019 remake of Black Christmas appears to have been left on the cutting room floor. Plot aside, the theatrical cut repeatedly pulls the punch of every setup, leaving nothing more graphic or more mysterious than the trailer. While ambitiously trying to have it all — a rape-culture expose, a decent horror film, plus an comeuppance ending — an unwillingness to “go there” hamstrings the entire production and ultimately underwhelms.
This brings us to the biggest story problem: pushing a victim to take back power before they’re ready. So much mystery is made over Riley’s past that it undercuts the setup (thou shalt not be boring) until viewers feel hit over the head with “men bad” examples when the story could have moved forward. It isn’t until we get halfway through the second act that the other shoe finally drops, yet even then the movie refuses to go as far as needed. What’s worse is the supernatural being introduced as a catalyst before being pissed away with lackluster explanations instead of showing it; the kill-rules could have been far more interesting with this revelation and even surprising. Unfortunately, the in-story film coasts on good actors rather than a good script, even squandering the sinister appearance of Cary Elwes.
In the first remake, victims being dragged under the house with Christmas lights made the trailer look wicked but were absent in the final film. After the second trailer for Black Christmas 2019, there are exactly no secrets left and nothing more to see; it’s like watching the movie in two minutes for free. Hints of history at the school are present from the opening title card, yet the “current generation” supposedly guesses exactly how everything works while doing nothing that makes any sense. A deliberate body count is pointless if no one knows who did it or especially why, and if there was any greater plan going forward, why call attention to it with a between-semester culling guaranteed to shut the school and your hunting ground down? Failing on every story level, Black Christmas is one of the worst films of the year… again.
Black Christmas 2019 is rated PG-13 for violence, terror, thematic content involving sexual assault, language, sexual material, drinking, and trying to pass off an after-school special as a slasher film.
Zero skull recommendation out of four
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