A classic of the horror genre, Black Christmas (1974) kick-started the slasher film cycle with the chilling tale of a group of sorority sisters that are stalked by a deranged killer as they prepare for the holiday break. A remake in 2006 received a lukewarm response from fans of the original, and now horror specialist Blumhouse Productions has reimagined the festive fear favourite for a new generation, with co-writer and director Sophia Takal bringing a modern female perspective to the slasher genre.
The big question that horror fans are asking is, ‘Why revisit Black Christmas again?’
Blumhouse approached me with the idea of remaking Black Christmas. It’s a movie that I’ve always really loved and admired for its really well developed female characters and interesting and frank politics on abortion, the relationships between men and women, and sexual politics. Also its style and the way it basically invented the slasher genre. It was a movie I thought was so fresh at the time, and what excited me was the challenge of making something that was equally contemporary and exciting for 2019. Again, not just in terms of the themes we’re exploring, but also in terms of the structure and playing with the form of the slasher movie.
My cinematographer Mark Schwartzband and I really wanted to riff on that ‘70s American horror style – even though Black Christmas is Canadian. I think it’s a reimagining in the way that Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria reimagined Dario Argento’s film – the tone and the energy and emotions of the original translated through another filmmaker for a new time.
I think the original Black Christmas is a perfect film, and I hope that people who’ve seen it will take something new away from this one. And the people who see this film fresh will go back and get excited by the original.
What are your thoughts on the 2006 remake, and did you revisit it prior to making this film?
I had not seen it prior to agreeing to make this movie. It was a movie that didn’t resonate with me as much as the original did. It was very much of the time it was made, as well, in terms of where the slasher genre had evolved to at that point in time.
The slasher films of the ‘80s were largely female-driven – women were the victims but they were also the heroes…
I think it’s pretty complicated. The woman who is the ‘final girl’ has been put through the wringer and is usually a virgin and embodies the “proper traits” of what it is to be a female. I find it a bit alienating watching a bunch of women running around in bikinis and getting stabbed – combining the titillation with the violence is a little upsetting to me.
This is the first Black Christmas film that wasn’t shot in Canada. Why did you shoot in New Zealand and how did you find the experience working over there?
The main reason we shot in New Zealand was because this project came to me early this year and there was a release date of December 13 that we were trying to hit. So we had to shoot during our summertime, which is of course your winter. There was a particular town called Dunedin that has a really beautiful university where we shot.
I found shooting in New Zealand to be an absolute dream. The crew and New Zealand actors were wonderful and talented and passionate. And I felt that even though I was a stranger coming in to a strange land, we all formed a family for the three months we were there and I felt incredibly lucky to work with everyone that I did.
Many horror fans re-watch the original Black Christmas as an annual tradition – do you have a go-to Christmas movie?
I have two – When Harry Met Sally, which I count as a Christmas movie, and another romantic comedy called Starting Over. Die Hard is another fantastic Christmas movie. I think anything with a Christmas tree counts as a Christmas movie.
• Black Christmas is in cinemas on December 12