Friday, December 15, 2023

'Tis the Season - Black Christmas (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Black Christmas (2019)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length:  1h 32min
Rating: PG-13
Director: Sophia Takal
Writers: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe, Roy Moore
Actors: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O'Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Simon Mead, Madeleine Adams, Nathalie Morris, Ben Black, Zoƫ Robins, Ryan McIntyre, Mark Neilson, Lucy Currey, Jonny McBride
IMDb Blurb: A group of female students is stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy.
Cat’s Point of View:
What can I say, I can’t resist watching a movie where the plot focuses on something happy and wholesome, like Christmas, and flips it into something dark and sinister. I’m always curious as to what lengths the story will go to in order to pull it off – and whether or not it can claim success at such. When that concept was coupled with a chance to watch Cary Elwes (Saw, Stranger Things, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One) and Imogen Poots (Fright Night, Green Room, Vivarium) in action – both actors I greatly admire – I was eagerly anticipating my experience viewing Black Christmas.
Of course, I did realize at the outset that this movie was a remake. Whenever someone tries to revamp a horror movie, the odds tend to be stacked against the film unless it bringing something to the table that was missing from the original that made it lacking. Of course, then there’s entirely rebooting the concept to take it into another direction. That option tends to be less successful more often, finding backlash from fans of the original in addition to the usual suspects among critics.
This particular Black Christmas had a lot to answer for, considering this wasn’t just a remake but the second remake of the original 1974 movie. From what I’ve gathered while reading up on this 2019 version, the story was intentionally brought in a different direction than its predecessors rather than producing a shot-for-shot redo. Aside from the title and broad plot elements involving dead sorority girls on the cusp of Christmas break, there aren’t any direct tie-ins with the other Black Christmas movies.
This updated Black Christmas landed on screens amid the #MeToo Movement. It attempted to give us a solid feminist story where the strength of sisterhood was pitted against the patriarchy and long-standing collegiate gender bias and the struggles of campus rape-culture. These messages were loud and clear and fairly bashed in the face of the audience. Don’t get me wrong – especially in the case of the latter topic – subtlety and subtext wouldn’t have done that particular message justice, but everything else felt a little heavy-handed. At one point I found myself thinking, yes I get it that this is a feminist movie but wasn’t this supposed to be a slasher? What happened to the slashing?
Therein, I believe, was one of the main downfalls of this iteration of Black Christmas – it was PG-13. Bending this story to meet the rating requirement just to reach a wider audience pretty much slashed the Achilles tendon of the whole production. There was no gore, the method whereby the antagonists attempt to accomplish their goals felt weak and didn’t have enough to hold it together, and there weren’t enough laughs or even screams to counterbalance all the heavy-handed politics.
I loved the core connections and sisterhood among the girls and how they supported each other, for the most part- but that was generally it. Everything else just felt rushed and I perpetually felt like I missed something important that happened before the movie even began. While all of the twinkly lights were pretty, they couldn’t out-shine the fact that there was little of the promised horror actually in the film.
To be clear, I didn’t hate Black Christmas.  I just don’t think it accomplished what it wanted to, and it wouldn’t be my choice for a re-watch during its titular season… or really at all.  
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 31%
Metascore – 49%
Metacritic User Score – 1.9/10
IMDB Score – 3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5
P.S. - There is a brief mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 11, 2023

'Tis the Season - Santa Games (2022)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Santa Games (2022)
Genre: Comedy
Length: 1h 30min
Rating: Unrated
Director: Keoni Waxman
Actors: Marquez Jackson, Faizon Love
Blurb from IMDb: When the manager of a mall where Santa Charles work decides to replace him, he asks to find his replacement. When this ad goes viral, the interview process becomes a series of tasks and challenges leading to an all-out competition.

Selina’s Point of View:
Holiday films are usually good fun for the whole family – at least the ones that aren’t horror. Since I was trying to avoid rom-coms this season, I thought leaning into the family aspect for some flicks would be a good way to do that.
Unfortunately, Santa Games was not the best pick.
The premise of the film made me smile when I came across it, so it was an easy add for the schedule. I knew it was going to be a low-budget flick, so I had my expectations ready for exactly that. Even still, it wasn’t good.
In the first ten minutes of Santa Games there had to have been about 20 fat jokes.

Now, I grew up in the 80s. I can handle fat jokes. They were woven into pretty much all the media at the time. Some of those films/shows I still go back and watch today. The problem is that not one of the jokes in Santa Games was funny. In fact, it was mostly the main character repeating, “was that a fat joke” over and over again. That’s not even creative.
As the movie progressed, it didn’t get better. Most scenes had the exact same annoying musical background that got overly repetitive.
There was only one scene in Santa Games that I kind of liked. It was a little after the half hour mark, between the main character and his nephew. It was a good scene, meant for a better film, with better acting.
It’s a shame. With the premise and the setting of Santa Games, a little more creativity could have made it a good film. Instead, it feels wasted.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 56%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 1.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG
P.S. Some scenes during the credits.