But, this is a slasher film, so characterizations aren’t the reason an audience turns out. Sadly, the kills are dull. Takal manages to destroy any semblance of atmosphere with bland visual compositions and poor lighting. As Riley leaves the sorority house, the camera cranes down to show a dead person freezing on the porch. This has no payoff whatsoever. The audience already knew that this person was killed, and the still-living protagonists never stumble upon the body. It is choices like this that make her direction so ineffective. There is no suspense or dread at seeing a dead body that the audience saw get killed.
At the very least, it is more coherent than the editing. When walking back after the DKO performance, Kris turns around to face Riley and Landon, who is walking behind everyone. There are a few bits of dialogue. Then Kirs hands Landon a bottle of alcohol. He grasps and brings it up near his chest. Cut to a medium shot of just he and Riley, and his hands are back down at his waist. It is jarring and confusing. Given the tepid direction of the film, I doubt Takal is aiming for a French New Wave style.
It is also not the only time something like that happens. There are examples throughout the entire film, but this is one of the most egregious. Riley receives a phone call while out looking for a Christmas tree, and then there’s a cut to Kris looking back at Riley. There’s a wide shot of Riley facing Kris, then a close up of Riley talking on the phone, then a repeat of the wide shot from Kris’s point of view, only now Riley’s back is to her. The entire film feels like that hilarious line from MST3K– “Time is warped, and space is bendable,” only not in a fun or amusing way.
“This review is brought to you by the letter B…B for befuddlement over this film’s target demographic. B for bad, which this most definitely is.”
But, we got sidetracked from the languid script. See, the biggest problem throughout the entirety of Black Christmas, more than the piss poor editing or the lazy directing, is that the screenplay states matter of factly what every slasher film with a final girl has been dealing with via subtext. See, the film thinks it’s being progressive, when in reality, it merely brings the depth of the original movie or A Nightmare On Elm Street, for example, via their subtext to the foreground.
This causes two massive issues. Firstly, if there is no depth to mine, then the movie is shallow. Again, not necessarily a problem with slasher films, but this movie thinks it has something to say and does not, so the viewer leaves both unentertained and dumber. Second off, it makes all the heavy-handed messaging, which comprises the bulk of the dialogue, ring hollow. With nothing going on underneath, the constant petitioning and politics of the film have no deeper meaning, so they come across as lip service.
Mind you, it entirely possible to make a genre film by heavy-handed and still be engaging as hell. Assassination Nation is a lot of things, but subtle it ain’t. I bloody well love that film. I am also a fan of the Purge franchise, and one of those entries is titled Election Year. But those films have the stylistic flair to backup the moralizing, while also still have a few deeper hidden meanings to certain aspects or scenes. This version of Black Christmas does not have any of that. Aside from a decent cast trapped in a shoddy everything else, there is nothing to recommend here.