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YMMV / Black Christmas (2019)

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  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: One could interpret the film to also have An Aesop on the dangers of 'Call Out Culture', since Kris's activism either antagonizes people against her, irritates her sisters, makes Riley feel worse or only has people agree with her out of fear. Rather than opening up a level-headed discussion to convert people to her cause, she just tries to publicly shame and humiliate without a thought to the consequences.
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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: To what extent are the members of the DKO Fraternity doing this of their own choice, and to what extent are they all just the puppets of the essence of Calvin Hawthorne? The pledges who were possessed, all had unnaturally colored skin and dark blood. Anyone who bleeds red or is of natural color are likely willing participants. That being said, it's unknown who willingly came in and who was deceived into the fraternity.
  • Anvilicious:
    • The movie is very on the nose about its themes and metaphors about sexual assault, misogyny and toxic masculinity, to the point that most reviews called the movie out for caring about its themes way more than the plot or characters. And this is by design, because the movie's director has declared she put 'message before plot'.
    • Marty says the animal that represents what she looks for in a friend is the ant — because they all work together and the unit can't be destroyed if one of them is killed. This is extremely un-subtle Foreshadowing of the sisters banding together to save the day.
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  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The film was a feminist remake of the original with some less than subtle messaging. Fans of the original movie were dismayed by it not being a faithful adaptation, and general audiences, even those who would agree with the Aesop felt that the characters were douchebags with nobody worth rooting and/or caring for. Predictably, it was met with savage reviews and bombed at the box office, with the ill-fated 2006 remake being perceived as So Bad, It Was Better.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Ever since Blumhouse became a major player in 2010, people had grown increasingly riled about their total lack of female horror directors, which Jason Blum made even worse by saying that he couldn't find any. This film sees Sophia Takal become the studio's first for a wide-release theatrical film. Previous to her, there were two low-profile indie pickups, and a few in the studio's Hulu anthology film series Into the Dark, including Takal herself (New Year, New You).
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  • Bile Fascination: After all the criticism for its heavy-handed message, large amounts of people checked the film out to see if it was that bad.
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: "Rape culture and toxic masculinity are bad!", delivered with no subtlety against antagonists who are Straw Misogynists to the point of caricature.
  • Complete Monster: Professor Gelson is a misogynist who, upon discovering that the bust of Calvin Hawthorn contains Hawthorn's malevolent will, uses it to brainwash frat pledges and sends them out to murder "unruly" women. Killing several women across campus, Gelson intends to have the frat dominate political institutions with any women who resist the new way of things to be disposed of. Trying to have the heroines murdered, Gelson promptly has a sorority collaborator killed despite her attempts to be "good" for them.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: Even the biggest critics of the movie have pointed out that the themes of the movie (rape culture, toxic masculinity, male privilege, etc.) are worth talking about and that even the original 1974 film had serious political and social commentary. And it counts for something that the feminism the movie portrays isn't wholly sex negative. The problem they had was its execution, the unsympathetic, stereotypical main leads, and how it felt like it was a social message with a movie attached to it.
  • Eight Deadly Words: Many viewers don't find any of the characters likable. The male characters are mostly misogynistic jerks and/or murderers (and even the sympathetic male characters end up being mostly useless), while the sorority sisters are bland and annoying. Although Riley generally gets a warmer reception, even she's not enough to get most viewers invested.
    Chris Stuckmann: [Riley] is pretty much the only character in the film that you can feel some sympathy for because you understand where she's coming from and you side with her because that's fucked up. But everyone else in the movie is basically an asshole. People just walk around and treat everybody like shit; the women talk about the men poorly, the men talk about the women poorly. There's like two nice people in the movie.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: In the end, it's unlikely that anyone would believe what really happened to the sorority sisters. Not only do the police and school faculty have an established pattern of not believing women, explaining all the nonsensical black magic that led to the deaths of a bunch of male students would likely be a problem, not to mention the fact that there were probably some innocents burned to death. The sudden change in Riley's expression from triumphant to dismayed in the last second of the film seems to convey that she's just realized how much shit she's still in.
  • Franchise Original Sin: As mentioned below, the original also had a political message, in this case a pro-choice one, that wasn't exactly subtle. However, the pro-choice story was just a subplot that didn't take away the focus from the main story and the characters, while in the new ones the political themes take place front and center.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Riley's anguished "We're not inspiring people! We're pissing people off!" proves sadly prophetic of the criticisms towards the film's heavy-handed themes.
    • A few months later, a reboot (actually a stealth sequel) of The Craft was released. The parallels were drawn between the two; both based on horror films that carried strong social messages and still succeeding as narratives in the process. The attempts to update the story for the modern day resulted in a lot of 'wokeness', changing the villains to an army of Straw Misogynists and having a climax where the female protagonists unite to burn them to death. The Craft: Legacy was compared heavily with this movie, though its reception was slightly warmer.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Imogen Poots's look in this movie has a striking similarity to Daisy Egar Jones in the series Normal People — released a couple of months after. Both are characters in a college setting, survivors of abuse and have outspoken feminist beliefs. They're also both British actresses putting on accents (Imogen a Fake American, and Daisy a Fake Irish).
  • Informed Wrongness:
    • Riley acts like Kris is crazy for wanting to go to the cops, saying they'd never be believed and they need to take the fight directly to the DKO. However, going to the cops would probably be a good idea in this situation. While it's unlikely the cops would believe them about the black magic murder cult, there's still ample proof that members of the frat murdered or tried to murder the sorority sisters, forcing an investigation of the frat and backing up that Riley and Kris acted in self-defence. When Riley does go to the frat house alone, she gets captured and would've been killed if Kris hadn't been able to persuade another sorority to storm the house. As noted under Esoteric Happy Ending, the girls have possibly made things worse for themselves by burning down the frat and killing everyone, because they've destroyed a lot of evidence corroborating their story. In the worst case scenario the girls may get punished for murder/manslaughter and arson.
    • Riley is supposed to be cowardly for not wanting to take place in a Christmas performance in the frat house she was raped in that's directly attacking the behaviour, with said rapist in the crowd! And Kris goes ahead and posts the video online behind Riley's back, in which she also names Riley's rapist. Riley is rightfully annoyed at this violation of her privacy and consent, but the film treats it as her going back on the cause.
  • It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: Chris Stuckmann recalls criticising the technical aspects of the film and being shot down.
  • Jerks Are Worse Than Villains: Kris is the most despised character in the film, even up against the frat house of rapists and murderers. This is because she is a terrible friend to Riley, anyone calling her on her nasty behaviour is portrayed as a Strawman, she goes through no meaningful character development and becomes a complete Karma Houdini by surviving to the end. She's also arguably the most responsible for the continued abuse her sisters get from the frat. A contributing factor is that while the villains are all one-dimensional Hate Sinks, Kris is supposed to be sympathetic to the audience despite having few positive qualities.
  • Narm:
    • It's very obvious that the film was shot as an R-rated film and then edited down to be PG-13, since the camera cuts away before we see anything graphic, which makes a lot of the supposedly scary scenes come off as awkward.
    • Most of the feminist and empowering moments come off as this, like the line 'You messed with the wrong sorority'.
    • Setting a deadly serious feminist empowerment song to the tune of "Up on the Housetop," making it impossible to not think about the actual lyrics you should be hearing. The version played over the credits doesn't help here, as it gives it a more traditional "Christmas song" vibe, making it that much harder to take seriously.
    • During said performance, the lyric "what you did is called assault" is accompanied by shocked faces from the crowd as if the girls uttered the biggest Precision F-Strike imaginable.
    • In the opening kill, Lindsey's Dull Surprise when confronted with the frat member. It's especially hilarious because she was suspicious of a normal man walking behind her, but not a mysterious black-robed figure.
    • When Riley and Kris are driving away from their house after narrowly escaping the killers, Riley proceeds to explain, at length, exactly everything that has been happening so far in the plot and how it connects to the DKO frat. It comes off as very awkward and unnecessary, almost as if the audience is presumed to be too stupid to have figured this out for themselves.
    • The rant Kris has about how "men have all the power", culminating in her flipping out at "not all men". Chris Stuckmann compared it to a Twitter thread rather than an actual verbal conversation between human beings. The fact that it's unashamedly Anvilicious doesn't help.
    • Kris's melodramatic "I don't stop because they don't stop!" is meant to come across as passionate and empowering, but sounds extremely whiny and Wangsty — especially when she's being called on how her behavior is causing trouble for other people.
    • Cary Elwes's performance as Professor Gelson is almost cartoony, with how thickly he layers on a posh accent because of course an older British male in education has to talk like Prince Charles. It feels like something out of a different film.
    • When Kris throws her drink in Brian's face, it cuts to Marty making a very silly expression that says "oh my God, I can't believe she just did that" — as though Kris did something scandalously radical. It makes her look rather easily impressed.
    • Gelson, Hawkthorn, and the fraternity are comically misogynistic extremes to the point of wanting to infiltrate the courts and outlaw gender equality, which sounds more like something you’d see in a parody than a serious horror flick. Gelson explaining his evil plan in exact detail to the protagonist’s face doesn’t help.
  • Nightmare Retardant: Despite its potentially creepy premise, many viewers felt the film rarely managed to pull off genuine horror and was even unintentionally funny at times. Most of the "scary" moments come in the form of cheap Jump Scares you can see coming from a mile off and the more violent scenes are heavily (and awkwardly) edited, which undercuts much of the tension. The big twist that the killers are being mind-controlled and given preternatural strength/endurance by magic black goo was also widely found too silly and outlandish, given the movie's attempt at a serious tone.
  • Older Than They Think: Despite the criticism of the film's Anvilicious feminist message, others have pointed out that the original film had a decidedly pro-choice message theme to it.
  • The Scrappy: Kris is not well-liked due to her Soapbox Sadie persona being perceived as too obnoxious and self-serving — as she seems to have little regard for how Riley feels, except when it benefits her. She's also apathetic to Helena's disappearance and seems to make a habit of flashing Kubrick Stares at people when they disagree with her.
  • Shocking Swerve: The cult/fraternity members are essentially mind-controlling their pledges with black goo coming from the bust of the founder.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Riley is 100% justified in being annoyed with Kris for posting the video of their performance. Just because Riley agreed to do the dance as a replacement for Helena, it doesn't equal agreement to it being posted on the internet — especially as her quip about her rapist (naming him in the process) at the end was actually caught on camera and it being posted online would cause a lot of trouble for her that she at that point in the film probably did not want to deal with (her being there in the performance to begin with got her marked for death anyway, can you imagine what would have happened if the outside world of people who saw that video were brought in and the AKO frat actually won in the end?).
    • During the argument with the sorority girls, Nate is presented as being in the wrong and downplaying the actions of the DKO fraternity. However, some of his points aren't exactly invalid, such as when he rebuts Kris's claim that "men have all the power" (e.g. economic status, mental health, homophobia, racism etc. can all potentially negatively affect and disempower men).
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: A criticism of the movie from fans of the original Black Christmas was that besides revolving around a sorority being targeted by a killer at Christmas, the plot has little to do with the 1974 film. In particular, in the original (and the 2006 remake) the girls are stalked by a mysterious, largely unseen serial killer known only as "Billy", with a few side characters being suspected of being the murderer. Here, the threat is explicitly a misogynistic, black magic-practicising fraternity who have actual supernatural powers. Some even feel that the Black Christmas title was just slapped on for marketing purposes. Tellingly, Sophia Takal had been planning a remake of I Spit on Your Grave when she was approached to do this instead.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The movie missed an opportunity to have Kris die in the end, possibly pulling off a Heroic Sacrifice or getting a Dying Moment of Awesome. This would have alleviated many of the issues people had with the character being insufferable, and might have redeemed her in the eyes of some. She also could have realised her mistakes and apologised to Riley for forcing her into a situation she didn't want to be in, but Riley instead tells her that she was right the whole time.
    • While covering this movie on The Kill Count, James A Janisse points out a couple of ways it could have built up on its themes:
      • When the girls are out Christmas Tree shopping, a throwaway line from Kris implies that she is well off. James suggested that it would have been a good opportunity to explore the intersection of feminism and class and the resulting blind spots that can occur.
      • After Kris posts the video of the dance online (against Riley's wishes), James suggests that it could have explored whether or not it is right to call out an institution for a crime, if it makes the victim uncomfortable.
    • The film could have also examined through Kris why 'call out' activism can sometimes yield negative results and make matters worse — and why her abusive behavior could possibly drive impressionable young men into Professor Gelson's clutches — all the while examining how real life predators are made.
    • Many felt that the movie should have been its own thing rather than a remake of the 1974 film, since the similarities to the original are superficial at best.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: While the majority of critics just thought the film was mediocre at best, Imogen Poots is generally considered to have given a good performance. She makes Riley a sympathetic and compelling protagonist, and carries the film in some of its weaker parts.
  • Tough Act to Follow: The original is considered the granddaddy of the slasher genre, and is a strong Cult Classic to this day. The 2006 remake has a growing fan base and those who enjoy it as So Bad, It's Good. This having the 'Black Christmas' title attached to it meant it already had strong shoes to fill.
  • Uncertain Audience: This is the second remake of the slasher classic — which has a dedicated fan base. However, it has virtually no relation to the original's plot, only taking place on Christmas and having a couple of Shout Outs. The film also has very unsubtle feminist subtext — dealing with rape culture in a way most viewers found very preachy. The director filmed it first to be R-rated but then decided in the edit to release it as PG-13, resulting in a lot of awkward cuts to some scenes. Horror fans were turned off by the heavy-handed social commentary more akin to a college lecture, which also had the effect of turning off feminists insulted by its simplistic messages (trying to deal with toxic masculinity and rape in a movie aimed at teenagers, similar to Crossroads).
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: The reveal that the frat boys are all being controlled by the college's founder raises the question of whether they're actually responsible at all for their actions. While as a group they're established to be a bunch of rather misogynistic assholes, we don't know if they can really be considered murderers who deserve to be burnt to death.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The sorority sisters, except for Riley, don't come off well, being annoying, self-righteous and sometimes downright nasty. Some specific examples:
    • Kris's efforts to push Riley into facing her accuser during the Christmas contest can go both ways. While she urges Riley to break out of her shell, it can also be seen as a self-serving or reckless act to push a trauma victim past her threshold. She also then compounds it by posting the video online without Riley's consent and then acts like it's Riley's fault and that she just wants to be a victim when she's upset about it gaining traction.
    • Given the reveal that the Hawthorn cult is capable of mind-control, the question of how responsible the frat brothers were for their murderous actions is never made clear. Even after they see that the mind control has been lifted from Landon, they simply lock all of the remainder in their frat hall to burn to death.
  • The Un-Twist: Gelson's leadership in the frat's murderous ways seems almost too obvious to be the real twist — especially when in an early scene, Riley literally walks past a painting of a younger Gelson hanging with paintings of the other alumni — but yes, he's revealed to be the leader in the final act. The film doesn't play up the reveal very hard, so it seems they never really considered it much of a twist either.


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