REVIEW: ‘Black Christmas’ Reworks a Classic For the 21st Century

**Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Black Christmas (1974) and Black Christmas (2019)**

Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) was a game-changer for the horror genre. It’s often cited as one of the first-ever slasher films and was a major inspiration for John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). It also originated the frequently quoted line, appearing in spoofs and countless other films: “The call is coming from inside the house!” Needless to say, when remaking the film for a 2019 audience, Sophia Takal (director and writer) and April Wolfe (writer) had big shoes to fill.

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Black Christmas (1974), Warner Bros.

Takal and Wolfe’s take on Black Christmas (2019) maintains the best parts of the original — Christmas ambiance, creative kills, and mysterious messages directly from the killer — while giving the film a few much-needed updates. The original was very progressive for its time, but the sexism is apparent in the way the women are filmed and in the ambiguous ending. The 2019 version aims to remedy that while capturing the creative storytelling and scary-fun antics of a killer targeting a sorority. 

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Black Christmas (2019), Universal Pictures

The new film centers the story of Riley (Imogen Poots), a college student who works as a barista and is currently dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Despite attempts to sit out, Riley ends up performing alongside her sorority sisters at an event with a fraternity. The group performs a parody of a Christmas song with the lyrics changed to make the song a commentary on rape culture. Shortly after, Riley begins receiving mysterious text messages with threats, much like the creepy phone calls the sorority girls received in the 1974 film. Riley brushes them off and goes to a Christmas party for students who aren’t going home for the holidays. There, it becomes clear that the threats were serious. The rest of the film is a thrilling, action-packed fight against the masked murderer that entered the sorority house. 

The murder scenes are all Christmas themed which feels a little cheesy at times, but is visually captivating and markedly different from most horror movies. My personal favorite scene was an homage to the original film. The first murder, shown on the movie poster for the 1974 film, involves a plastic bag being placed over a woman’s head, so after she dies, her screaming face is frozen in place. The 2019 film puts an unexpected twist on this kill, turning it into an attack against the killer rather than one on Riley. 

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Black Christmas (2019), Universal Pictures

In addition to the horror elements, Takal and Wolfe crafted realistic and meaningful friendships between the young women in the sorority house. Riley’s close friends Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), and Jesse (Brittany O’Grady) all have their own subplots and important places in the story. Seeing Riley and her friends makes the movie all the more entertaining because the audience has reasons to care about everyone on-screen.

Black Christmas (2019) is a great film for horror fans who want some collegiate Christmas ambiance, too. Christmas movies don’t have to be all holly-jolly — sometimes, it’s okay to give horror fans some good, Christmas kills as a treat.