Black Christmas film review: is this feminist take on a horror classic a festive treat?

Black Christmas 2019 takes the bare bones of the sorority chiller to deliver something new…but does it work?

Forget everything you know about the two previous Black Christmases. Aside from the setting (a sorority house during winter break) and the vaguest possible plot outline (some girls get killed), this new festive horror is a completely different proposition. Unapologetically feminist, it’s a movie that takes aim at toxic masculinity, upending slasher conventions as it goes – and in making a sturdy political argument, it’s reasonably successful.

As a horror film, though? Well, forgetting about the other two Black Christmas movies would also be a good way to avoid unflattering comparisons, because of the three, this is the weakest.

On the night before Hawthorne College breaks up for the winter, literature student Riley (Imogen Poots) and a handful of her sisters prank a sexist fraternity’s talent show with an accusatory song about date rape. Though other women at the university applaud them, Riley and several of her sisters – including activist Kris (Aleyse Shannon), naïve Helena (Madeleine Adams) and bossy Marty (Lily Donoghue) – find themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of threatening DMs. And as campus clears out for Christmas, Riley suspects some of her fellow students aren’t making it home alive…

From misogynist lecturer Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) to entitled alumnus Brian Huntley (Ryan McIntyre) and quietly resentful boyfriend Nate (Simon Mead), there’s a whole spectrum of villainous men in this movie. But just listing ways in which the patriarchy hurts women doesn’t really make for a good story, especially as most of the female characters are pretty sketchily drawn. There’s plenty to root against, but not much to root for.

This Black Christmas is also sadly lacking in scares. Whether the lack of bloodshed is to keep the age classification low or to make a point about violence against women in horror, it results in a pretty toothless watch, while a bit of creative gore might’ve helped liven up an otherwise dreary hour and a half.

It’s hard to fault the film’s intentions, but it’s also hard to actually sit through.