Warning: Major spoilers for Black Christmas below.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a festive horror movie. This year, it’s Sophia Takal’s remake of slasher flick Black Christmas designed to offer a reprieve from all those A Christmas Prince sequels. However, those who saw the original 1974 horror movie, or its 2006 remake, may be surprised by how the new Black Christmas ends.
Bob Clark’s Black Christmas was inspired by the classic scary story in which a babysitter receives threatening phone calls before learning those calls are coming from inside the house. (That tale is also the basis for the film When A Stranger Calls, and it’s parodied in meta slasher Scream) In the original, sorority sisters are murdered one-by-one over Christmas break on their deserted college campus.
Takal’s version, which she co-wrote with April Wolfe, is entirely different. In this story, the sorority sisters at the fictional Hawthorne College are hunted down by a cult of supernaturally-charged fraternity brothers who want to punish women who aren’t subservient to men.
The film stars Imogen Poots as Riley, a rape survivor who is still grappling with the trauma of her assault by a beloved fraternity president. When Riley and her sorority sisters receive threatening texts through an anonymous messaging app — and some of these sisters go mysteriously missing — Riley suspects her rapist’s fraternity is behind it.
Riley is correct. That night, fraternity pledges in cloaks descend upon Riley’s sorority house, attempting to kill everyone inside. Riley and her sisters fight like hell, and succeed in killing one of the pledges. There’s something weird about the pledge, though: His eyes are black, and he has weird black goo pouring from his body instead of blood.
Riley learns that the fraternity pledges have been given a misogynistic supernatural power, thanks to a statue of Hawthorne College’s racist, sexist founder, Calvin Hawthorne. The statue gives the men super strength — which they use to kill women they don’t think will abide by? their “proper” gender roles — and also turns men around them into their “true alpha selves,” which causes them to target women aggressively.
Riley is kidnapped at the fraternity house, where it’s revealed that the fraternity brothers have been stealing objects from the sorority sisters in order to show their pledges — who have basically become foot soldiers in their violent, misogynistic quest — who to kill next. It’s here that Riley learns who gave the brothers her comb: It was Helena (Madeleine Adams), her “little sister” in the sorority, who is all too happy to bow down to men if it makes her life easier.
Despite Helena’s betrayal, Riley escapes when the campus’ many sorority sisters break into the frat house and rescue her. Riley lights a fire in the frat house during the battle between the sisters and brothers, and the sorority members escape, leaving the brothers and their misogynistic ways to burn.
Yes, Riley literally burns down the patriarchy in the final moments of Black Christmas, which might be the best treat of the holiday season. If you can stomach all the slashing in order to get to the cathartic feminist ending, Black Christmas is in theaters now.