This movie succeeds in doing something it absolutely had not intended: It shows the concept of patriarchy as paranoid and silly. The intention may have been fourth-wave feminism, but the result is to illustrate a fear and in doing so expose its irrational panic. While it is a five million dollar budgeted Blumhouse film and it made Eighteen million worldwide and is therefore profitable, the imdb rating and scores on rottentomatoes for both critics and audiences tell a darker story than the one on screen. The movie had a reputation of being the “woke” version of Black Christmas, reflecting the sensibilities of the safe space generation. This remarkably turned off both audiences and critics.
In fairness, the movie is well executed. There is nothing wrong with the way director Sophia Takal places the frame. Then image quality is solid and the performances feel natural. As is often the case with movies going wrong today, it is the controlling ideas that sink it. The commentary track mentions “the cause” the movie is fighting for, and also references Scooby Doo as a tone they wanted to avoid, but they might as well have leaned into it. The professor (Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride) has the word “swine” on the chalkboard behind him as he shoots down the attitudes of a student by quoting Dr. Camille Paglia. Paglia represents the other kid of feminism besides Gloria Steinem’s brand, but it is placed here as if it is the code of the enemy. I agree with Paglia more often than not, so it is a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Might something be wrong with this professor and will he curse those meddling kids?
One of the male friends the internet would call a “soy boy” questions their outrage and their decision to provoke the bullies with an anti-rape song, he is shouted down until he has to say, “not all guys are misogynist” or something to that affect and his girlfriend shows him the door. The scene is devoid of any self-awareness. The movie spends time talking up a petition to get the professor fired and another push to get something other than straight white male authors on the curriculum. The audience is likely to say if you don’t like the reading list, go to another school. One element the Bob Clark original from 1974 and the 2006 remake had going for them was Andrea Martin appearing in both. I wonder what she might have brought to this otherwise often unintentionally funny variation.
Ultimately, the original written ending for this version was re-written during the shoot and the story behind the masked, hooded figure was changed. What they ended up with expects us to believe a premise like the black sleep of Kali in Temple of Doom where in this case a black goo smeared on a participant can turn that person into an unthinking maniac who nonetheless has a confidence and competence firing arrows. So in that way the young men are absolved of their actions by a cluttered and reactionary ideology of the writers.
When the quazi-heroine makes a gesture to dispatch the baddie and says a line that was censored in the final cut for PG-13 consideration, “Suck my cl**!” Cary Elwes should have replied, “As you wish.”