The remake of the 1974 film serves as a companion piece to 'Ready or Not' in re-examining gender dynamics within the genre.
[This story contains spoilers for Black Christmas, Ready or Not and Hustlers]
Horror has long been a space to talk about femininity and gender, whether it's the overt abortion allegory of 1974's It's Alive or the role of the final girl in countless slashers. 2019 has been particularly pointed in how the horror genre uses gender to critique issues affecting women today, and this weekend'sBlack Christmas, a loose reboot of the 1974 Bob Clark-directed sorority horror feature, caps a year that saw a number of films looking at the horrors women face, and their desire to stand up and fight for their rights.
Where the original Black Christmas dealt with sexual harassment and a side plot on abortion, director Sophia Takal and co-writer April Wolfe's take is a pointed critique of today's culture. Their leading lady, Riley Imogen Poots, is a student of Hawthorne College and is a rape survivor. While Riley is still suffering the effects of her trauma, the college has moved on, with the administration not believing her claims and only her sorority sisters and a few others standing in solidarity with her.
Screenwriter Wolfe has said that the movie was inspired by the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice accused last year of committing sexual assault as a teenager. It's easy to see this influence reflected onscreen. The fraternity at the center of the movie is one with roots deep in the founding of America. Riley's friend Kris Aleyse Shannon brings up that the founder of Hawthrone owned slaves and his statue, once the centerpiece of the campus, has been removed due to cultural sensitivity. As Riley and her friends are set upon by the frat, it's discovered that their power comes from the statue itself. This blending of the mystical and the historical also popped up earlier this year in the film filmReady or Not. That film also involved a final-esque girl, played by Samara Weaving, being hunted by her rich in-laws.Ready or Not | Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The family at the center of Ready or Not also have its wealth and, by extension, its power, gifted to them through magical means. The family patriarch effectively sold his soul to a man named Mr. Le Bail who granted him money and prestige. In return, anytime a family member gets married their spouse must “play a game.” Weaving's Grace is the new initiate tasked with surviving a game of hide and seek and, like the women of Black Christmas, realizes that being a woman means she's perceived as lesser. In the world of the rich, powerful, and male, she will always be the sacrificial lamb. So when her husband, a man going presumably against his family and willing to throw away money for love, ultimately turns on...
In 1955, Oscar-winning actor Charles Laughton, who appeared in films like Witness for the Prosecution, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Spartacus, stepped behind the camera as a director for the first and only time. The result was The Night of the Hunter, a dark, moody thriller starring Robert Mitchum as a serial killer, and a movie that is beloved by cinephiles and has influenced generations of filmmakers and storytellers. It’s a stone-cold classic: not just one of the best films ever directed by an actor, but a movie that many including the revered film magazine Cahiers du cinéma consider to be one of the best films ever made, period.
So while it’s not exactly surprising to learn that Universal is developing a remake, the news does arrive with the same exhausted sense of, “But…why?” that always accompanies stories like this.The Night of the Hunter Remake
Variety broke the news about the remake, which is described as “a contemporary version of the original thriller, rather than a period piece.” Screenwriter Matthew Orton is developing the movie for Universal Pictures. Orton only has one produced credit to his name thus far: he wrote a 2018 spy thriller called Operation Finale which I have not seen but it looks pretty good. Peter Gethers Lay the Favorite and Amy Pascal Spider-Man: Homecoming, Little Women will serve as producers. Still, knowing how great this movie is makes news about a remake tough to swallow. There are thousands of middling movies with solid premises from the golden era of studio filmmaking – why mess with a classic?
The 1955 film, which is based on a novel by author David Grubb, follows a sociopathic preacher who travels the country marrying women for their money, murdering them, and then moving on to the next town. During a stint in jail, the preacher learns that his cell mate has $10,000 stashed somewhere; after the cell mate dies and the preacher gets out, he goes looking for the money, conning the cell mate’s widow into a relationship and trying to coax the location of the cash out of her two young children.
Mitchum’s preacher becomes increasingly unhinged as his patience wears thin, and his menacing performance scared the hell out of an entire generation of moviegoers, and many people have called The Night of the Hunter one of the scariest films they’ve ever seen. Here’s the very old-fashioned trailer with an introduction by Gremlins filmmaker Joe Dante explaining how it scarred him as a child, followed by a spoiler-heavy video in which Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro talks about how much the film means to him because of the way it blends horror and beauty on screen: