There was no way I wasn’t going to review Black Christmas. A Blumhouse Production that enraged internet neckbeards for daring to be feminist? I was immediately sold. Black Christmas is a remake – the 1974 version starring Olivia Hussey rightfully bears a place in the slasher canon while the less said of the 2006 remake, the better.
Black Christmas is a tale of a group of sorority sisters stalked by unseen terror. It’s also about feminine power versus masculine power, modern feminism, sexual assault, and survival. I’m not going to discuss the plot too much (one does hate to spoil a horror movie). Rest assured that it’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, if a wee bit heavy handed with the big reveal. It’s tense and well-paced and I enjoyed myself, as I have with a majority of Blumhouse films that I’ve seen. I really do think they’re doing amazing things for the horror genre and can’t wait to see what comes next.
What I really want to discuss is the aspects of the film that drew the most criticism. I’m going to be blunt here. Anyone believing that this movie is aggressively feminist or reactionary has never been a woman on a college campus. I attended a large state school and if I had a nickel for every time I walked across a dark campus with my keys between my fingers or my finger on my key ring’s panic button, I could afford a vacation to Fiji once we’re all out of quarantine. Riley Stone, the central character of the story, is a sexual assault survivor and while her journey does involve surviving a slasher movie, it’s also about her journey of regaining her power and sense of self. She is believed and supported by her friends and sisters, if not by college administration, and it’s refreshing to see. There’s no victim blaming from the people who love her most.
I love all of the sorority sisters– they’re all real characters who talk like real women with their friends and when they fight, they fight like real women. They support and encourage each other and when the going gets tough and/or bloody, they have each other’s backs. When Riley is fighting off a hooded attacker during the siege on the sorority house, it’s clear that she’s revisiting her assault. When the other girls find her, they surround and soothe her.
Black Christmas contains some very good conversations about masculine power versus feminine power. I like how the characters correct each other and call each other out for problematic language – correcting a friend for calling someone a girl when they should have said woman, a thread of petitioning administration to fire a professor for sexist curriculum. While I do feel that the character of Kris is sometimes a bit over the top, I do appreciate that there’s a character present that’s asking hard questions and taking action, even if it can be construed as pushing Riley out of her comfort zone at times.
Women are allowed to be angry and violent in Black Christmas and it’s refreshing. Part of me wonders if that’s what drove some of the internet criticism of the movie upon its release. We’re not always used to seeing women fight back to the level they do in Black Christmas. While we do see primal women’s anger in horror (by no means am I proposing that Black Christmas does anything new here), I would argue that it’s not something that make viewers comfortable, no matter how often it’s shown. In horror, we’re meant to be violent only when we’re surviving. Yes, the violence in Black Christmas come as a result of survival instincts but the feminine anger that runs as a steady undercurrent throughout the film is not the kind viewers are always used to.
Women aren’t supposed to step out of line, the villains of the movie say. We’re not supposed to be angry. We’re not supposed to fight back.
The women of Black Christmas do just that and if that upsets you?
Sorry not sorry.