April Wolfe is a writer, filmmaker, and podcast host that I’ve been following on Twitter for quite some time. When it was announced that she was going to be co-writing 2019’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, along with director Sophia Takal, I was beside myself with joy. I’ve not only admired her from a social media standpoint but also because of her no-fucks-given attitude as well as her ability, as a film critic, to truly dissect a film. Imagine my happiness when the opportunity arose to sit and chat with Ms. Wolfe about her involvement in BLACK CHRISTMAS.
Sitting across from me in a leopard-print sweater, Wolfe easily evoked confidence and warmth during our interview prior to the film’s release. Of the many topics covered, we discussed how she became attached to the project, dealing with haters, working alongside Sophia, and the blatant themes presented in the film.
It’s such a pleasure to be speaking with you today! I’m excited to dive into this film with you. How did you get involved with BLACK CHRISTMAS and what was it like to undertake such a beloved horror film?
April Wolfe: Super stressful (laughs). I mean it was but it wasn’t. It was stressful for not the things that people think it was stressful for. Sophia [Takal] and I met when she came on my podcast, Switchblade Sisters, and I just loved her. She’s so weird in the best way. I like people who make me a little bit uncomfortable because they’re so smart. We kind of clicked on that and she’s one of the few people on my show who has made me nervous. I was at a point where I was wondering if I was ever going to make a feature so I sent her a script that I had been working on. I was like, “I think this would be perfect for you, please don’t hate me for sending this to you.” She read it and she loved it but then BLACK CHRISTMAS came up. I told her immediately that if she ever wanted any notes that I was there for her as both a critic and a writer. I told her I would happily give her any kind of notes because I wanted her to succeed and this was a huge opportunity for her because BLACK CHRISTMAS is big. I needed her to succeed and not be knocked around. I sent her a bunch of notes and she ended up really liking those – most of them were questions such as “What if this person was like this” or “What if this character did this” because that’s the way I tend to work on things. Then I would talk about larger ideas like global metaphorical things. We just clicked on this and she asked me if I wanted to co-write with her because I have more of a horror background and she comes from a psychological thriller and these high-minded character-focused films like Always Shine, which is one of my favorite movies.
Then she told me the film would be coming out on Friday the 13th this year. I officially came on incapacity April 1st, I believe, and then mid-May we were in New Zealand prepping to shoot so that Sophia could start shooting the first week of August. We were doing major re-writes as we were prepping which was actually amazing because that meant that I could talk to props, I could talk to production design, I could talk to the cinematographer and be like, “What’s possible on our budget? Do I need to re-write this out?” We went through so many different action sequences, I’ve got kills in my pocket for days because we couldn’t do them because of time or whatever. While Sophia was in prep, she was able to still work back with me. I would do a lot of writing by myself and then I would send it to her and [from her notes] I would be able to give her more things as possibilities. Then she would rewrite them cause you are really servicing her vision and she knows what she wants and I really appreciate that.
What I loved about what you and Sophia created was that you both knew exactly what you were doing. When making something that is a reimagining of an iconic film, how do you prepare yourself for all the bullshit that gets thrown in your general direction?
April Wolfe: I think it’s funny. I will take screenshots of things and send them to my friends and be like, “What the fuck?!” (laughs). There’s definitely a few dudes who wrote to me about why I should release the movie with an R-rating and I would be like how do they think the co-writer has [the ability to change that]? They’d tell me I’m making a big mistake [with the PG-13 rating] which made me wonder if these dudes even know how movies fucking work (laughs). Or they would tell us how the makers of the Sonic movie heard the fans and re-wrote it. Our movie is like a $5 million dollar budget, [Sonic‘s] is like $150 million, I think we will be okay. They would tell us we were going to lose money and I was like no, probably not (laughs). The only thing that I worry about and the thing that always happens when a woman or a person of color makes a movie is that they change the conversation to be like you have to like this movie because it was made by women because there are people not liking it for the wrong reasons. That’s the thing that I worry about because, with a background as a critic, I love criticism. I love people who engage with movies, even if they don’t like them. I want to live in a time where people feel free to not like a movie made by a marginalized person. We just haven’t gotten to that point is what it seems like, so it is frustrating to me. For instance, that discussion about the rating is now hi-jacked towards people who might not even like the movie but feel like they have to defend it now. I don’t want to put that onerous on people. I just don’t want that to happen to anyone. I don’t want people to feel like they have to defend something they are on the fence about. It feels dishonest.
In your opinion, why do you think it’s important to have a film like this that is so incredibly blatant in its themes?
April Wolfe: I’ve been saying for the past couple of years – fuck subtlety. When I was working with Alan Scherstuhl, when he was still my editor and a critic both at LA Weekly and The Village Voice, we would talk about movies and we had really similar tastes and aesthetics. One of the things we really appreciated were movies that just fucking hit you in the face with some stuff because the time that we live in is just – subtlety is so fucking overrated. For instance, Blindspotting was one of my favorite movies. The ending was really divisive for people because it was rapt and overt to the camera and I was like, fuck yes, give it to me. Lay it out! Lay it all the fuck out and do it in an artful, fun, interesting or moving way. I was so moved by the ending of that movie. I think movies like that are the ones that I gravitate towards more and more often. Ari Aster is a person that I adore and people give him shit because he’s so good at what he does. There’s always going to be backlash but I just fucking love what he does. He will tell you what the movie is about right in the fucking movie, literally will lay it out, and it’s like yeah dude, why would you hide this?
I liked that the film also incorporated moments that women would relate too such as holding your car keys in your hand when walking to your car because if you get assaulted you can use it as a weapon. I did read a study that indicated using car keys as a weapon doesn’t work but regardless, I’m still glad it was incorporated into the film. Same with the Diva Cup, as I’m sure not many men picked up on that.
April Wolfe: That’s one of the reasons why we made [the car keys] work in the film. I needed that to be a weapon and I wanted the character to be confused since she’s never had to do that before but has always been told to use them in case of an attack. I feel like [those examples] are definitely something that I hope will grow on people. I think that maybe their friends, partners, or parents might explain some things to them. Also, I think, in a weird way I hope that our movie doesn’t come off as too cishet in a manner. I hope that queers like this movie because I hope they can relate to those things as well. It is a woman problem but it’s also like a weaker person’s problem. When I say ‘weak’ I don’t mean it in a mean way, I see it in a way that they just don’t have the power that other people do. I do know that there are gay men, for instance, that do the car key trick. Unfortunately, we are all fucking targets. I think there is a large enough [group of people] that will be laughing during the movie and [those who are confused] will want to know why they are laughing. Sometimes, you just have to teach people why something is funny.