Black Christmas (3 stars)

Black Christmas

This feminist spin on the classic slasher is blunt but occasionally effective

In Bob Clark's pioneering 1974 festive slasher Black Christmas the women of a sorority house were hounded by obscene phone calls and threats. They were creepy as hell. In the 2019 feminist update, directed by Sophia Takal who co-writes with April Wolfe, intimidation comes via direct messages on an app called YipYap. It doesn't have quite the same terrifying air to it, though does feed into timely themes of online harassment and unwanted attention from men 'slipping into your DMs'.

Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue and Brittany O'Grady play four tight sorority sisters who plot revenge on a campus creep with a peaceful protest. Their act of defiance against a founding fraternity sparks outrage and a murder spree. Cary Elwes turns up as a nefarious, bullying classics professor whose decision to only teach white male stories has resulted in a petition for his removal.

Though it takes a while for the film to find its footing, and it indulges in too much didactic chat, there are some neat touches that make it more memorable than Glen Morgan's 2006 remake. Firstly, the writers have given the women a punchy song about sexual assault that tackles the subject of campus rape head on. Dressed up in sexy Santa suits, the quartet subvert the typical jolly Christmas customs with a confrontational performance of the catchy tune (which also plays over the end credits). In addition, it asserts that to enact real change of any sort institutions founded on patriarchal values need to be radically challenged. It's a shame then that the female characters we're supposed to be rooting for are barely shaded in.

The slasher scenes aren't especially tense, and much of what occurs is obscured by darkness, yet the film does summon a sense of dread as the sisters go about routine tasks. It acknowledges the lessons that have been passed down by women through the generations, such as the need to look over their shoulders when walking home alone, or to grab their keys in their knuckles in case of attack. Some traditions and rituals need to die and Black Christmas shoots the harmful ones through the heart with a direct and occasionally excruciatingly blunt arrow. It may appeal to a similar teen audience who have recently reclaimed Katt Shea's The Rage: Carrie 2 as a feminist rallying cry.

General release from Thu 12 Dec.

Black Christmas

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US / New Zealand
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Sophia Takal
  • Cast: Imogen Poots, Lily Donoghue, Aleyse Shannon, Brittany O'Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Simon Mead, Cary Elwes
  • UK release: 12 December 2019

Four sorority sisters (Poots, Shannon, Donoghue and O’Grady) in a US university plot revenge on a campus creep, but their defiance sparks outrage and a murder spree.Timely slasher movie which takes a while to find its footing, but it has a sense of dread and it shoots misogynist traditions through the heart.