A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black Christmas is a reboot of a 1974 holiday horror classic, which was previously remade in 2006. Characters are murdered, but very little blood is shown -- villains emit a weird, black goop instead. Date rape is discussed (and ridiculed in a song), and there's lots of fighting, stabbing, and killing with weapons/blunt objects. There are some jump scares and a building on fire. Sporadic strong language includes several uses of both "s--t" and "bitch." A young man and woman kiss; he throws her on the bed, and then they're interrupted. Characters wear sexy Santa outfits, and a woman inserts a menstrual product by unzipping her jeans. College-age characters drink socially (beer and champagne); one drinks too much and vomits. The movie tries to introduce complex discussions around gender, equality, and diversity, but it isn't very scary and ends up going a bit haywire.
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What's the story?
In BLACK CHRISTMAS, it's near the end of fall semester at Calvin Hawthorne University, and several sorority sisters are preparing to spend some time celebrating. Riley (Imogen Poots) has no family to go home to. Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is an activist who's currently trying to get a classics professor (Cary Elwes) fired for using too many works by White men. Marty (Lily Donoghue) and Jesse (Brittany O'Grady) are their best friends. Together, the young women perform a musical skit during a holiday talent show in which they accuse fraternity boys of date rape. They hope to stir up a little controversy but instead start getting threatening DMs from Calvin Hawthorne himself. Then powerful masked figures show up at the sorority houses and start to kill the women. But Riley knows what to do, and it involves walking right into enemy territory.
Is it any good?
Having little to do with either the 1974 classic or the very poor 2006 remake, this holiday horror reboot is a strong attempt at a feminist statement that often goes either haywire or not far enough. Black Christmas, like its predecessors, is set in a sorority house at Christmastime, and there are brutal killings, but that's all these movies have in common. (The earlier two were more traditional "slasher" films.) At first, the new movie raises interesting discussions about how some classes are largely taught based on the writings of White men, without much diversity. The characters even argue about it, with interesting takes.
Directed and co-written by Sophia Takal, the movie also spends a little time getting to know its characters, establishing their friendships and relationships in natural ways and using the holiday atmosphere to interesting effect. But as a horror movie, Black Christmas is pretty bland; the killings aren't scary, and they don't have much emotional impact. As soon as their friends die, the other characters seem to simply forget about them. Then, the final showdown contains an evil plot so ludicrous that it largely negates all the arguments the movie was trying to make. The original 1974 version is still the best: smart, scary, and atmospheric, with strong characters and performances. This one gets points for trying, but it doesn't quite work.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Black Christmas' violence. Do the killings have an emotional impact? Why or why not?
What is the movie trying to say about gender, equality, and diversity? Does it succeed?
Should classics courses be taught using the works of White men? Would it be possible to make the classes more diverse?
Are men and women equal? What steps could be taken to make both groups feel that way?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?
- In theaters: December 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2020
- Cast: Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes, Aleyse Shannon
- Director: Sophia Takai
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Holidays
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, terror, thematic content involving sexual assault, language, sexual material and drinking
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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