A group of female students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy.
College is tough. College during Christmas break while a homicidal maniac is on the prowl is even worse. Yet, with this proven premise the revisiting of the idea proves problematic in the new Blumhouse remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS. With a hell of a lot to say about gender roles and inequity, the new film helmed by Sophia Takal, accompanied by co-writer April Wolfe, feels like an anemic version of something truly wonderful.
Let’s start at the beginning. Ridley (Imogen Poots) is a clearheaded individual who works at the local coffee shop while attending Hawthorne College. When not pressing the next espresso, she is making a connection with adorable fellow student and customer Landon (Caleb Eberhardt). Things are winding down as most students are headed home for the holidays, and a few linger in their respective fraternities and sororities. Sitting in her last day of class, creepy Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) attempts to make a point about gender presumption in literary works (RED FLAG). With that, the break begins.
Listen, don’t @ this reviewer for the parenthetical red flag. It is that obvious in the tell-all trailer, much less the movie itself.
To make the best of the situation, the remaining on-campus students decide to throw their own Christmas dinner of sorts. Of course, there is a sinister force at work that has a much darker vision of yule-tide activities in mind. Soon, a black-cloaked individual arrives st Ridely’s sorority and begins offing the female students one by one. Yet with the end of act two, and the revelation of a murderer, we see that there is still far more to learn and much more mystery to unravel.
It is here that BLACK CHRISTMAS not only goes off the rails but plows through an orphanage and sets fire to a convent. Wrong-headed is an understatement in this new approach to the material and we are taken for a third act ride that is equal parts baffling and preposterous. The male characters are boorish and one-dimensional, the female characters are mostly erudite and victimized. These are some broad strokes considering the aim is to remain mysterious. Then there is Elwes who is so obviously sinister that we expect him to be snickering and twirling a mustache. Take that and infuse a supernatural aspect and you have Blumhouse’s BLACK CHRISTMAS.
The good? There is actually quite a bit. Marty (Lily Donoghue), Jess (Brittany O’Grady), and Kris (Aleyse Shannon) are all acceptable supporting characters and performances. Poots does an adequate job of leading the group through the carnage. The four leads have a palpable chemistry that rings true and has us hanging on. There are also some honest moments here and in the script penned by director Takal, and Wolfe, that actually resonate. Yet, despite the momentary respites of quality, we are thrust back into mediocrity.
With this genre and this title, we are here for the blood. Too bad, as the blood has been turned black. (Yes, in a contrived plot device, the killer’s blood is black. We are then rewarded with a PG-13 rating.) I wanted a bad-ass, punk rock, female-centric, take-no-prisoners update to the classic slasher classic, BLACK CHRISTMAS. I wanted to feel the true meaning of holidays with found family teaming up against a murderous foe. Instead, we are handed a convoluted supernatural thriller that barely resembles its namesake and squanders any chance at being memorable.
The only lasting positive that I can say about the 2019 version of BLACK CHRISTMAS is that those who did good work in it will benefit from it, while the bad will burn off in the ether like a nasty egg-nog hangover.