A Tale of Two Horror Movies: Snatchers (2019) & Black Christmas (2019)

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of Redbox, the company that managed to survive the digital streaming revolution with its ubiquitous red monoliths stationed outside every pharmacy, Wal-Mart, and gas station in the country.  Without the overhead of Blockbuster, Redbox has scraped by on its hundreds of locations and super cheap rental fees, and by throwing coupons at customers every five minutes.

Little Lamar has one trusty (if occasionally glitchy) Redbox kiosk outside the local Dollar General.  I was convinced until this week that I was single-handedly keeping that kiosk afloat, but in The Age of The Virus, everyone is looking for cheap entertainment, and I’ve had to wait on someone slowly browsing through the dozens of selections before picking their entertainment sleeping pill for the night.  Regardless, I’ve rented so many movies for dirt-cheap, I’m achieved “Legendary” status with Redbox.

Finally, the recognition I deserve.

My point is, Redbox makes it compelling to watch a lot—and I do mean a lot—of schlocky trash.  They used to throw $1.50 off coupons at me (remember, a rental is only $1.90 for a DVD) like concubines at King Solomon.  Now they’re going with a BOGO strategy, which probably suits their interests better (if you forget to return your two movies, you’re going to pay for another night for both of them).  Either way, it just means I watch a TON of movies.

If I’m spending, essentially, $0.80 on a rental, I’m willing to take some risks.  Sometimes, as in the movie Snatchers (2019), that risk pays off beautifully, and I stumble upon a diamond in the rough.  Usually, I lose the bet, as was the case with Black Christmas (2019).

Lately I have been on a horror kick (I’m just two horror rentals away from earning my “Horror Pro” badge on Redbox).  Horror films seem to be where some of the best ideas in film today are coming from, and a good horror movie seems to point to human nature as the true monster.  That’s pretty much the theme of every Stephen King novel—the 1950s small town bully and the abusive dad is the real monster, not a clown.

But horror, like science-fiction, can explore concepts and ideas that other genres can’t, and there are some hidden gems out there (like 1982’s The Sender, on Hulu now).  As a Christian who believes in the supernatural—at the very least in the Holy Trinity, angels, the Devil, and demons—some horror films have an added degree of plausibility:  they serve as cautionary tales not to mess around with the occult, etc.

Of course, some Christians would caution against even watching movies about that stuff—not an unfair point, for anyone that has seen Hereditary (2018) or Midsommar (2019), the former of which made my soul feel sick, it was so disturbing (Midsommar just confirmed to me how fortunate Scandinavia was to convert to Christianity, and away from paganism).

That’s all a needlessly lengthy intro into this twin review of Snatchers and Black Christmas.  Redbox had thrown me another BOGO code over the weekend, and I was looking for something out of the ordinary.  I rolled the dice, and essentially broke even.

Snatchers was surprisingly good.  Refreshingly so, in fact.  I’d heard nothing about this film, so I was going in completely blind.  From the Redbox description

After a status-obsessed high schooler decides to lose her virginity, she wakes up the next day nine-months pregnant — with alien twins. Unfortunately for her, both of her new kids have a desire to kill just about every human they meet.

—I assumed it was going to be terrible, a “made-for-TV”-quality mishmash of bad acting and poor plotting.

I was completely wrong.  As one RB reviewer wrote:  “Simply delightful. A fun and well made comedy horror flick that pulls it off with some very good acting and a well written script.”

Amen.  Snatchers pokes a great deal of gentle fun at its teen protagonists.  The main character, Sarah, gives birth to two alien parasites.  Her lunk-headed boyfriend, Skyler, has recently returned from a trip to Mexico.  One of the film’s recurring gags is that everyone suspects his trip to Mexico is the source of the parasites, but they’re all squirming about acknowledging aloud that unpleasant things tend to originate south of the border.  Every time someone mentions “Mexico,” there’s a mariachi shaker rattle.

The movie is very well-written as a comedy-horror—with the only real “horror” coming from the gore—with moments where I laughed out loud at the sheer absurdity of it all.  It also features Rich Fulcher of The Mighty Boosh, which made for some a nice reminder of that unusual series.

I highly recommend Snatchers.  As for Black Christmas, well, I highly recommend you burn any copies extant.

Black Christmas is, ostensibly, a remake of a 1974 film by the same name.  When I first saw it in the Redbox queue I just assumed it was a raucous comedy about black ladies misbehaving humorously at Christmas.  That would have been way better than what it actually was:  90 minutes of white-male bashing.

Look, I’m not one of these viewers who hates a female lead or a black main character, nor do I get my back up about the villain being a white guy.  Hans Gruber was an excellent villain, not because he was a white German dude that upheld “the patriarchy,” but because he was wicked—and slick.  He was a well-drawn villain, the perfect foil to John McLean.

But this movie was just pure social justice propaganda.  The conceit is that a fraternity on the campus of Hawthorne College has fallen under the influence of the possessed bust of the college’s founder, Calvin Hawthorne.  Hawthorne was involved in the dark arts, and founded his college in part to teach men how to use their power to rule the world (and to correct the tide of feminism, apparently).

That’s an interesting concept that plays on urban legends about secret societies running the world (which I increasingly think might have some credence to them).  The victims of that secret society are a group of sorority girls stuck on campus over the long winter break.

Again, that’s all fine, and an interesting setup—but the girls are almost universally unlikeable.  It was like the movie was daring you to “believe all women,” even if the women in question had no redeeming qualities.

The worst character, by far, was the strident, light-skinned black girl.  What was so dumbfounding about her character is that she was clueless about the consequences of her actions.  Her protests got the accursed bust moved to the frat house in the first place.  She was also circulating a protest to have an English professor removed from his position because he taught the classic canon of Western literature.  She even says, “They’re not my classics!” because they don’t include every ethnic group and sexual orientation ever invented in the depths of a Women’s Study department.

Naturally, the English professor is a villain.  The whole movie plays out that way:  everyone you think is bad is bad, and everyone you’re supposed to think is good is good.  There’s one sorority girl who joins up with the bad men.  That’s it—no other major twists, no character development, no changes.

The strident black feminist learns nothing about nuance.  She hates white men just as much as she did at the beginning of the movie—probably more so after [SPOILER ALERT] burning them alive in the frat house!

Black Christmas was a Blumhouse production.  Blumhouse churns out a lot of low-budget, woke “horror” movies for Hulu, along with some theatrical releases.  I’ve watched most of their Into the Dark series on Hulu, so I should have known what to expect—a lot of recent-college-grad wokery and bad writing.

Black Christmas is black and white in the worst way possible.  The only men that have any redeeming qualities are the most compliant and awkward beta males in the film, including Imogeen Poots ethnically-indeterminate crush, a socially-backwards blerd (black nerd).  Another sorority sister’s boyfriend is an endlessly accommodating and long-suffering footstool, who is then summarily ejected from the girls’ lives the moment he points out how absurd and hateful the black feminist is.  He’s killed mere moments later when he comes back to help protect the girls.

It’s the kind of movie that makes my blood boil as I watch it, because it’s blatantly and unapologetically “let’s kill whitey” propaganda.  I don’t care if a house full of white dudes is set on fire (in a movie, in a movie!) if it works with the story, and it’s not intended as some type of ham-fisted commentary.

So, in case I haven’t been clear, learn from my mistakes:  do not rent Black Christmas.  Torch it like that frat house if you see it.

But Snatchers—get ready for a laugh-a-minute.

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