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Film / Black Christmas (2019)

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"I will bring you to your knees."
"Iím tired of hiding. Iím tired of running!"
Riley Stone

Black Christmas is a 2019 horror flick, and a loose remake of the 1974 original directed by Sophia Takal (Always Shine), written by April Wolfe, and starring Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes.

It's the winter holidays, and on the Hawthorne College campus, a mysterious killer is murdering sorority girls. And when Riley and her sisters come under fire, they have to engage in a fight for survival where finding out who kills and why might be the only hope...

Previews: Trailer.

Black Christmas contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Riley, Kris, Landon, and the sorority girls of the other house.
  • Affably Evil: Professor Gelson has a tweedy and friendly persona, even when he's passive-aggressively criticizing his critics during lectures and threatening to subjugate womankind.
  • Ambiguously Evil: With the reveal of the black goo from the bust of Calvin Hawthorne, it becomes unclear if all the members of DKO are truly evil and/or misogynistic. Some of the members have unnaturally colored skin and dark blood, while others have normal-colored blood and skin. Anyone who bleeds red or is of natural color is likely willing participants, while those with unnatural color and dark blood are likely brainwashed and not actually evil. It's never made clear to what extent the goo influences the frat's behavior, or who entered the fraternity willingly or was deceived.
  • Artistic License Ė Law: The DKO Fraternityís plan is to infiltrate the courts and eliminate womenís rights. This would be impossible to do since womenís rights are a civil right protected by the American constitution and any attempts to get rid of them would be thrown out as unconstitutional.
  • Asshole Victim: Brian, Gelson, and Helena.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After receiving a few threatening messages on an app, Riley gets a phone call from an unknown number. She hesitates to answer it, and when she does, it's a bunch of scary static and warped voices... until it turns out to just be Helena's mother with a bad connection.
    • In one shot, it appears as though the dying Marty is going to call the police to get help. The campus security arrives... at a different sorority house which is also getting attacked by the DKO fraternity.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Riley, Kris, and the surviving sorority girls destroy the DKO fraternity and rescue Landon. However, Nate and many others are dead and it's left questionable if many of the members of DKO were actually evil since they were being mind controlled by the strange goo, meaning that they may have killed potential innocent victims and are essentially mass murderers. And considering how sexist the campus police force is it's likely that they'll be arrested for mass murder. Worse, the post-credit scene shows their pet cat licking the black goo.
  • Brainwashed: The DKO fraternity is brainwashing its pledges to commit murders. It's not entirely clear whether the pledges knew exactly what they were signing up for before they became murderers. Landon briefly gets brainwashed himself.
  • Brand X: All of the sorority sisters are on a fictional social media app called YipYap. Since it's used by murderers to harass their victims, it's not surprising that no existing social media company opted for product placement.
  • Carry a Big Stick: In the climax, the frat brothers are armed with Greek paddles, not that they do them much good.
  • The Cavalry: When Riley is about to be sacrificed by the frat, she's saved by the arrival of Kris and the girls she had saved from the other sorority, who starts beating the hell out of the frat boys.
  • Chaos of the Bells: "Carol of the Bells" is played during the film's trailer over snippets of gruesome murders.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The motion-activated Santa gets established in an early scene and ultimately helps Riley escape a killer by providing a distraction.
    • The comb Riley gives to Helena at the beginning. It is the possession of hers that marks her as a target for the fraternity, and ultimately gets used as a weapon.
  • Combat Haircomb: When Riley is forced to kneel at Brian's feet in the frat house, she grabs the comb that had been stolen from her earlier off the altar and uses it to rake Brian's face.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Riley and Kris are fleeing from the killer in the sorority house. They run into the kitchen and crouch down at the far end of the kitchen island, out of sight of the door. They hear the killer enter and his footsteps slowly advancing towards their hiding spot. However, before he reaches the end of the island, he stops, turns around and walks out. It is actually a trick to make them think it is safe to come out.
  • Coming and Going: A variant. When Brian has Riley pinned to the altar and is about to kill her, she keeps flashing back to him raping her the year before. Although she ultimately succeeds in fighting him off and killing him this time.
  • Covers Always Lie: A case of misdirection rather than outright lies. The defiant pose of the four sorority sisters, combined with the tagline "Slay, Girls," suggests that Riley, Kris, Jesse, and Marty all succeed in fighting off their attackers. However, Jesse and Marty get killed by the villains. Jesse dies without fighting back or even knowing that she's in danger, and she's pictured with the Christmas lights that she's holding when she dies rather than a weapon. Marty is holding the hatchet she uses during her heroic sacrifice.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: The Reveal that the headmaster was mind controlling the students to sexually assault the women on campus makes it clear that the women weren't the only ones being violated; the men were blacked out and themselves not mindfully consenting.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: There's snow on the ground during the Christmas season. Lindsey inadvertently makes a snow angel on the ground when she's stabbed and dragged away.
  • Evil Brit: Professor Gelson.
  • Female Misogynist:
    • Professor Gelson reads a patriarchal-sounding quote from an author who turns out to be Dr. Camille Paglia. Paglia is actually a very controversial feminist author whom many other feminists consider to be the opposite of a feminist.
    • Helena turns out to be a traitor for the DKO frat, saying she'd rather live subservient to men.
  • Fiendish Fraternity: The DKO fraternity is revealed to be killing the sorority sisters while having raped multiple girls (specifically protagonist Riley) over campus. They did this with the assistance of sorority sister Helena, although it ultimately turns out that DKO was brainwashed by the bust of founder Calvin Hawthorne and evil professor Dr Gelson, though it's left ambiguous how culpable they are.
  • Food Slap: When Phil makes a rape joke at Riley's expense in the cafe, Kris throws a glass of water in his face.
  • Foreshadowing: Gelson reads a passage from a Female Misogynist. Later, it's revealed that Helena is a traitor due to her Female Misogynist beliefs.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Due to the movie's PG-13 rating, a lot of shots of violence and gore cut away before anything graphic is seen.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Professor Gelson and the fraternity. Even before the murders start happening, the frat brothers are shown to be condescending horn dogs who make misogynistic statements and rebuff Riley's rape assertions against their former president. For his part, Gelson seems to preach patriarchy as part of his class.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Marty attacks a frat guy with a hatchet to hold him off and cover the others' escape.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The film is set at, uh, Christmas.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Lindsey, our first victim, is killed with an icicle.
    • Riley stabs the cloaked man who first attacked her in the sorority house with her keys.
    • In the climax, the surviving sorority sisters arrive armed with a number of items, including improvised weapons. One sister wields a Hanukah menorah.
  • Info Dump: The movie has a lot of exposition, which is delivered rather awkwardly, notably in the car scene.
  • In Name Only: It's a Slasher Movie set on a girl's sorority at Christmas. And that's all it has in common with the original. The biggest changes are that there are multiple killers, the killers are being controlled (and granted superhuman physical prowess) by some demonic black goo, and the killers are explicitly motivated by murderous misogynistic beliefs induced by said black goo; the original film revolved around a single human killer who relied on stealth and cunning to pick the girls off one by one, and whose motivation is the generic "murderous psychopath" common for mundane-type slashers.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's a Running Gag that men call the sorority sisters "girls" and get corrected, "women!"
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Riley basically does this for a moment, pretending that she'll kneel to Brian just to get a chance to attack him.
  • Informed Ability: The killers are said to be given supernatural strength, but they never display it. In fact, judging by the fact that they're routinely killed rather easily by women, they seem weaker than the average man.
  • Jerkass:
    • All the male characters bar Landon and Nate, but special mention goes to Professor Gelson and Brian Huntley.
    • Despite being one of the main protagonists, Kris comes off as a big one. She's very insensitive towards Riley and doesn't seem to care how she feels unless it benefits her. She's apathetic to Helena's disappearance as well.
  • Just Hit Him: The male attackers often choose to grab or strangle their female victims, which helpfully gives all the other women around them ample opportunity to stab them with something.
  • Magic Feather: To give Helena confidence for the upcoming Christmas performance, Riley gives her a hair comb and tells her that it has the power to give strength and confidence to any sorority sister who wears it. After Helena leaves, it's revealed to be just some random comb.
  • Man on Fire: Kris throws a lamp at the feet of Professor Gelson which ignites the black ooze seeping from the bust of Calvin Hawthorne: This sets fire to him, and the fire soon spreads to the rest of the frat house.
  • The Mole: Helena apparently believes in the frat's stance on the position of women, and acts a mole inside the sorority: stealing the items the frat uses to track their victims.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One of the girls is named Jesse, similar to Jess Bradford, the name of the protagonist of that film. However, this Jess explicitly dies, while in the original, it's unclear if that Jess survives or not.
    • The main sorority house has the address of 1974 Elm Road, both a reference to the year the original film came out and a possible reference to A Nightmare on Elm Street (one of that film's actors, John Saxon, was also in the 1974 Black Christmas).
    • When Kris finds Jesse's dead body, she's lying in a chair in the darkened attic. In the original film, Clare's dead body is in a similar position in the attic (though, unlike this movie, she's never found by anyone).
    • Riley suffocates one of the fraternity guys with a plastic dress bag when he attempts to strangle Kris. This is the same way the aforementioned Clare dies in the original film.
    • The fact that Fran's body is never found in this film also echoes Clare's fate in the original film.
    • Helena's mother attempts to find her daughter when she fails to arrive home, similar to both Mr. Harrison in the 1974 film and Leigh in the 2006 remake. Though she never appears onscreen like those two.
    • The first victim of the movie, Lindsay, dies in a similar manner to the house mother from the 2006 remake: both die by stab wounds caused by icicles.
  • Neck Snap: Black Mask kills Helena this way during the ritual in the frat house.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Nate seems like a nice guy and fully supports his girlfriend and her sorority sisters against the misogynist DKO guys. It gets subverted when, one night, he starts drinking beer, gets surly and complains of a migraine, leading to a huge fight with the others. It turns out that the bust of Hawthorne is bringing out his "inner alpha," though it doesn't have time to fully take effect. After returning to apologize, he gets another dose of brain-altering migraine, causing him to go into another rage against the hidden killers, but promptly gets killed himself.
    • Landon is a rather reticent but nice guy who respectfully attempts to woo Riley. He's brainwashed as well, but gets better.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The surviving sisters send Landon into the fraternity to act as a distraction. It gets him possessed and almost turned into another murderer. They're lucky Landon actually managed to break the possession.
    • Before that, Kris campaigned to get the Hawthorne bust removed from being on display. It got moved within the frat, which is how the brothers discovered its magical powers.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The film doesn't do much to hide that Gelson, a university professor whose reactionary views on women's roles are expressed through his repeated clashes with campus activists, is an unflattering parody of Jordan Peterson. Gelson is also supposed to be a satire of Brett Kavanaugh, whose alleged sexual assault of a college classmate in the early 1980s became a focal point of his 2017 Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Both intentional and attempted due to lower the rating from R to PG-13. One example includes the film cutting away before we see Jesse's face with a shard of glass stabbed through it.
  • Obvious Villain, Secret Villain: The fraternity is already pretty crappy when it's clear they covered up Riley's rape, and the professor is a Smug Snake who lectures Riley on how women should know their place. Then the sorority sisters see them breaking in and killing people. But the sorority themselves has one Token Evil Teammate, Helena, who betrayed her sisters to them. Although she is swiftly dispatched.
  • Odd Name Out: Not obvious at first, but four of the five main female characters (Riley, Kris, Marty, and Jesse) have masculine or unisex names. The fifth, Helena, turns out to be The Mole working for the fraternity/cult.
  • Police Are Useless: The police don't believe Riley when she reports her sexual assault and doesn't believe her again when she comes to report Helena's disappearance. The moment campus security does try to do something, however, he gets killed seconds after arriving at a different sorority house.
  • Rape as Drama: Brian sexually assaulted Riley three years ago and was never punished for it. She eventually kills him personally.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Up in the Frathouse" is basically this, calling out rape culture in fraternities.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Helena, who betrayed her sorority to the killer fraternity, is killed by them to make a point.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The storyline about Riley's rape by fraternity president Brian was most likely inspired by the Brock Turner case.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: Riley, Kris, Marty and Jesse wear these during the talent show at the frat house. (Helena was originally supposed to be one of the quartet and is seen wearing the dress, but she gets drunk, and Riley takes her place.)
  • Slipping a Mickey: Riley was raped after getting roofied.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The sorority sisters' Sexy Santa Dress dance during the talent show is this to the Plastics' similar performance from Mean Girls.
    • At one point, there's a hallway sequence that plays exactly like the hallway sequence from The Exorcist III.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: The university security guard makes and eats a sandwich while Riley reports that her sorority sister is missing.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Kris is the most militantly progressive sorority sister, to the point that it starts to grate on her sisters.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The DKO Fratís ultimate goal and how 90% of the men in the movie treat the Sorority girls.
  • Straw Misogynist: Hawkthorn, Gelson, and the fraternity members are all over-the-top misogynists who plan to take over the courts and severely curtail womenís rights.
  • Take That!: The Christmas dance is meant to be a derogatory reference to Mean Girls, which Sophia Takal doesn't like.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Helena, the traitor within the sorority who collected the objects so the pledges could find their victims.
  • Token Good Teammate: Basically applies to Landon, who only joins the fraternity because he was temporarily brainwashed by the bust and snaps out of it when Riley breaks it. Though it's debatable if any of them are actually evil on their own due to The Reveal.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers give away the fact that the frat is behind the murders, but they do manage to leave out the supernatural element behind their killings.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Multiple scenes in the promotional footage have been altered with CGI to include the killer. These include a version of the scene where Helena is brushing her teeth with the killer standing behind her (in the movie, she is all alone), and a scene where the girls unmask the killer, only to find the college founder's head statue behind it. There is also a modified scene where Riley closes the door of Helena's room, only to reveal the killer standing behind it.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Despite Helena helping them, the fraternity still kill her to make a point.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: If Kris hadn't petitioned to get the bust of Hawthorne removed from the main building, the frat would never have discovered the power it had and the murders would never have happened. Of course, how could Kris have known or even thought of that?
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We never find out where Hawthorne College is, though judging by the fact that it snows there and its founder "owned slaves in the North," it's apparently in the Northeastern US.
  • World of Jerkass: A rather typical trait in slashers. The men are jerks and/or killers, the women are superficial and insufferable, and everyone is bigoted in one way or another. Riley and Landon are the only exceptions.
  • Wham Shot: The reveal that the sorority house where Riley, Kris, and Marty are living in isn't the only sorority house being attacked.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Helena, who has been secretly working with the fraternity, and stole items from her sisters that allowed the possessed pledges to locate their targets is killed afterwards.

"Ho-ho-ho, bitch. You messed with the wrong sisters."


Video Example(s):


Black Christmas 2019 Review

Good thing he came with a mute button.

How well does it match the trope?

4.2 (5 votes)

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