Some Teenage Girls Want to Regift 'Black Christmas' (2019): An Interview with a Member of the Targeted Audience
Out of all the horror films released this year, one in particular stands out because of controversy. No, I’m not talking about Blumhouse’s The Hunt which remains locked deep inside censorship prison. I am talking about the remake of Black Christmas. Attention for this film does not rise from any gross display of violence or gratuitous bits of over-gore. Quite the opposite, actually. Before the film even premiered, many horror fans complained about the PG-13 rating...
...Long Twitter battles occurred through the debate of what constitutes as a horror movie and several people doomed the success of Black Christmas before the film even entered theaters. With all the arguing over the appropriate rating for horror films, quite a few horror fans lost sight of the main objective of the film: to create a scary movie for teenage girls. This is a demographic usually forgotten in the horror community, but just because the number of young female fans remains lower than young male fans does not mean the girls are not deserving of their own horror. A lot of the articles talking about Black Christmas look at how adults believe the younger generation would perceive the movie. Instead of assuming what teenagers want from a horror movie, I decided to find out for myself. Fifteen-year old horror film fanatic, Ava, helped shed some light on the importance of Black Christmas and points out where the film triumphed and where it missed the point.
NOTE: THIS IS JUST ONE TEEN'S OPINION AND DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ALL TEENAGERS, BUT HER OPINIONS ARE WORTH NOTING NONETHELESS
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
First off, we will look at creating a slasher film for young teenagers. Not a genre often attempted, so the science behind the films has not quite reached perfection and our resident teenager agrees. Ava says “it's a good concept to make movies for younger audiences, but I feel it almost never comes out well. For instance, this movie is targeted specifically towards teens, but in doing so, it never creates the true slasher persona it's trying to reach. There's no blood and it talks about some very adult topics.” But on the other hand, “It doesn't feature anything that would make the young audience flip out or get uncomfortable over. This remake allows us teens to see it without the awkwardness of seeing an R slasher with a parent or guardian.” For veteran horror fans such as Ava, the lack of blood and gore takes away from the genre and while the film may serve as an appropriate slasher for pre-teen horror fans just discovering the sub-genre, the plot limits some of the younger audience from enjoying the film.
If the point of the film was to encourage young girls to appreciate horror, then maybe not the best idea to also expose the demographic to such serious subtext. Instead of choosing issues for the audience to grow into, directors should pick more familiar everyday terrors for teenagers. The list of examples goes on and on, but Ava provided some key issues which most teenagers simultaneously understand and fear. "(Director) Sophia Takal could have done something with school related situations, such as being treated like a child but expected to exceed in school and behave like an adult, over-scheduling during the school year, stress, mental health, and the importance of letting adults know when you need help.” All acceptable issues which very easily could adapt to some creepy slasher-themed plotlines.
So, we know which storylines might have worked better, but what about the story we actually got? Well, even with the unfamiliar setting of a college campus, the film still earns an “okay” on the teenage rating scale. The third act brought a unique concept, but the predictability of the bust-worshipping cult took away some of the enjoyment. One trait which continued to spark annoyance with Ava was constantly (not-so-subtlety) hinting at the same ideas. To make the ending perfectly clear to everyone in the audience, the director dropped a massive amount of hints throughout the film, so by the third act the cult becomes such common knowledge it cannot even be classified as a ‘reveal.’ Also, the “’man bad, women good’ mentality of the film” became overdone and tiresome as the story progressed, according to Ava. Initially the concept served as a method to empower the female characters and female audience (special props given to Riley’s Christmas song), but by the third act our target audience found herself frustrated with how “every single male character was either a douche or incompetent.” Even within the realm of a cult-influenced slasher film, Ava could not suspend her disbelief enough to side against all the men. No teenager wants adults to talk down to them, so perhaps a bit of subtlety with the themes would have helped present the story and subtext better.
Our teenage source does believe the PG-13 rating and female leads help promote the film to teenagers, however, most of the characters fell short of creating a memorable presence. Ava pleads for the characters to “show us their dark side or if they're the antagonists, show us their good side. Riley was the only character that opened up and changed throughout the film. For some reason, no other character was allowed to do this. If I was watching that movie and all the characters went through some kind of growth throughout the film, I would have probably dismissed the predictability of the plot.” The film obviously targeted young girls, but our source believes the film actually “fails in so many ways to be relatable to young girls, they should have just made it an R movie. The theme of men=bad just show that this movie was doing a good job at showing how annoying millennial feminists and SJW's can be.” Due to the lack of growth and gore, and the inclusion of feminist focused themes, this Zennial believes the film would resonate better with horror fans of the millennial generation who don’t “mind a lot of these boring remake tropes.”
Did the remake of Black Christmas reach their intended audience? Kind of. The teens appreciate horror movies with PG-13 ratings, but maybe creating a non-gory slasher film with loads of political subtext might not be the best way to reach young female horror fans. There were plenty of PG-13 movies of 2019 and while these films did not fit into the slasher sub-genre, features such as Escape Room, Happy Death Day 2 U, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark provided the young viewers with accessible and relatable horror films. So, horror movies aimed at generation-Z (especially girls) can be done, but just don’t talk down to the audience. For anyone looking for tips on how to create horror for the youth, I will leave you with some advice from our expert Ava:
“If you're an aspiring horror filmmaker targeting towards teens, make the film about topics and relatable situations teens would understand and empathize with, just be careful to not make it cringey.”
By Amylou Ahava
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