Tracker Pixel for Entry

Takal Celebrates ‘Black Christmas’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | December 23rd, 2019

Filmmaker Sophia Takal’s reimagining of Bob Clark’s 1974 slasher classic “Black Christmas” improves on a tepid 2006 remake by Glen Morgan without finding the weird alchemy of the original. Sharing screenplay duties with April Wolfe, Takal may not have managed a definitive version, but she should be credited with constructing a genre entry interested in the feminist exploration and expression of ideas that reach beyond superficial blood and gore exploitation. Playing with of-the-moment vocabulary familiar on college campuses, the latest “Black Christmas” upends several slasher conventions, even if the film is a step down from the director’s excellent “Always Shine.”

Imogen Poots plays Riley, a sorority sister and apparent Final Girl. Preparing for winter break like her cinematic predecessors, Riley -- still reeling from a sexual assault committed by an unpunished and unapologetic student who stands defiantly before her -- reluctantly participates in a holiday-themed “Up in the Frat House” sketch that parodies “Up on the Housetop” with verses calling out a variety of coercive, unethical, and criminal behaviors stereotypical of booze-soaked brotherhoods. That eye-opening musical number succinctly encapsulates the filmmakers’ thematic agenda.

Prank phone calls are updated to app-based direct messages, and “Black Christmas” initially teases the possibility that the quiet Landon (Caleb Eberhardt), who takes a liking to Riley, may not be as kind and sensitive as he first appears. Throughout the film, Takal takes aim at misogyny in its multiple guises. Whether aggressive and out in the open or hidden behind a mask, the insidiousness of rape culture is investigated through “good girls,” “nice guys,” not-all-men arguments, and a Hawthorne College literature curriculum that name-checks Camille Paglia but excludes anything not written by a white male.

As Professor Gelson, Cary Elwes is the academic who openly cultivates a sexist teaching agenda, and his performance stands in for a wide variety of false victimhood narratives. Unable to accept even the slightest whiff of equality and egalitarianism, Gelson’s overreactions -- even as they occur within a system designed to favor the men credibly accused of committing rapes -- will remind viewers of any number of high-profile office holders perpetually outraged when confronted with facts, logic, and the truth.

Not all of the mechanics of the storytelling work, and Takal and Wolfe aren’t quite sure how to resolve some clunky elements that veer out of realism and into sorcery and the supernatural. But “Black Christmas,” despite the earnestness of its admonishment of entitled patriarchy (Takal, rather brilliantly, has claimed that she drew on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings), never takes itself too seriously. Like many genre exercises, the characters function with a level of self-awareness that flirts with metanarrative.

Smartly, Takal doesn’t always do away with the most obviously “expendable” characters, particularly the women who would traditionally be victimized by the relentless killer, and “Black Christmas” refreshingly subverts Old Dark House math to reinforce the punch of the trailer’s highlight line: “You messed with the wrong sisters.” It is on this count that the director makes her boldest and shrewdest move by sending her young women into literal battle against the privileged bros being groomed to perpetuate white male power as future brokers in education, business, law, and politics.

Recently in:

by Rob Hannahistory@nd.govAs I write this, the beautiful Stutsman County Courthouse State Historic Site in Jamestown is only partially furnished. But this photo, taken by my one-time colleague Guinn Hinman, caused me to see the…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comTwo teenagers rescued around 20 Koalas from the horrific bushfires in Australia, fitting them in their car.An anonymous donor pays off back taxes for several mobile home residents. Neighbors with…

Thursday, February 6, 6-8 pmFront Street Taproom, 614 Main Ave, FargoThe ND Hemp Association is committed to lending education and advocacy to propel the hemp economy for the state, serving as a medium of resources, news, advocacy…

by Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.eduOn New Year’s Day, I was sporadically listening to Sirius Radio Channel 5 as they did their annual countdown of top songs from the 1950s and cringing at my fading aural memories. This prompted me…

Our Great Leader of the Zombies Is Tilting at Windmills AgainA few days after he was impeached by the House, King Donald admitted to a group of young conservatives attending a Turning Point USA annual summit in Florida he never has…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

I am a voracious reader of anything culinary and a subscriber to several culinary periodicals. I like to hang onto them as I find it hard to throw away these culinary nuggets of information with their adventures to distant lands. …

Music

Here’s to the ladies

by HPR Contributor

by Jill Finkelsonjsfinkelson99@gmail.comDeb Jenkins returns for a 23rd year of celebrating Fargo’s Women- and their music. The story is old news now, Deb tells me over the phone as I ask her- how did this start? 23 years ago, she…

The death on March 29, 2019 of Agnes Varda concluded a career perpetually in bloom. The legendary artist and filmmaker, unmistakable in later years under her wonderfully cartoonish yet delightfully chic two-tone coiffure, was 90…

“Surrealism permeates--there’s a legacy there with contemporary art where they’re still trying to capture or convey something that can’t quite be fully understood without the existence of that thing that you can’t fully…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader spoke to Act Up Theatre board member Jackie Shaw, about the fundraiser "Kabaret for Kaleidoscope" at the TAK Music Venue.High Plains Reader: How did the idea for this show come…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

Perched along the banks of the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela Rivers and tucked up into the surrounding hills, Pittsburgh’s 90 distinct neighborhoods are connected by more bridges than Venice. Commuters and travelers enjoy…

Wellness

Yoga on the Farm

by Ryan Janke

Every Thursday evening during the month of June, Mara Solberg is inviting people to come out and try Yoga on the Farm. It is a unique yoga experience that was born from an idea that was proposed to Solberg.“I’ve been with Red…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

by Karen Andersonkartcone@gmail.comCongratulations to the Fargo School District for opening up a discussion regarding today’s students as covered in the January 7, Barry Amundson article “Social, emotional learning a forefront…