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RED CHRISTMAS (2016)
Directed by Craig Anderson
Written by Craig Anderson
Starring Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, David Collins, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGavin, Deelia Meriel, Gerard Odwyer, Bjorn Stewart, Sam Campbell, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson
Find out more about this film here, @RedChristmas, and on Facebook here
It’s August and you know what that means? Christmas horror, of course! While it may be a little early for some holiday horror, RED CHRISTMAS is coming out early to jingle your bells and tingle your spine! I don’t think this is one of the best horror films of the 2016-2017 year, but it is one that continues to intrigue me. It’s the bold plot, the bizarre execution, the out there acting, and every other twisted detail of this maybe so bad it’s good film that makes it a standout for the year.
Christmas is a time for giving and no one knows that more than Diane (Dee Wallace) who has dedicated her life to make sure all of her children know that she loves them equally. This Christmas they are all coming home for Christmas Eve. But Diane hasn’t had a perfect life. Her husband died of cancer (but she has found new love with stoner Joe played by Goeff Morrell). The brattiest of her daughters is expecting a baby, right about now (gee, I wonder if that’ll factor into the story). Another daughter can’t seem to get pregnant, though it might be because her priest husband is secretly gay. Pretentious third daughter is about to leave home for art school. And her fourth child Jerry (Gerard Odwyer) has Down’s Syndrome and annoying quotes Shakespeare. Despite all of their faults, Diane wants them all together one last time before she sells the family home and goes on a long European vacation. But unbeknownst to everyone, 20 years ago, after a bombing in an abortion clinic, a full-term abortion leaves a live child to be found by a janitor in a toxic waste bucket. And the thought-aborted fetus named Cletus (Sam Campbell) is now grown and seeking to find out why Diane got rid of him.
Nothing says Christmas like having awkward abortion discussions with family. Uncomfortable discussion topics like religion, marriage, and politics are brought up and we all have to endure it for a dinner and then we can go about the rest of our year dreading to do it over again next year. RED CHRISTMAS addresses this holiday tradition in a pretty bold fashion. This film deserves props for addressing tough topics like abortion, mental retardation, cancer, and family struggles head on. These are taboo subjects most fear to tackle, but filmmaker Craig Anderson works with these things fearlessly. It’s something I admire about the horror genre, as themes involving this kind of uncomfortable subject matter have come up every now and then in horror films (HUMONGOUS, IT’S ALIVE, and THE BEAST WITHIN, come to mind) and addressed in a metaphorical and straight forward manner you just don’t see in other films. RED CHRISTMAS isn’t afraid to pose difficult questions about abortion, mental/physical disabilities, and how that affects a family unit. I admire this film because of this as decisions from Diane’s past come home to find answers.
That said, this is a pretty low budget film. This fact isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it will be for some. The acting feels as if the director wasn’t able to get the right take from some of the actors and seems like he had some difficulty even capturing Wallace roughly due to some rough edits and scenes that require a bigger budget than what the film had. The effects were decent. There’s one scene where a head meets a blender that is truly great. But the rubber mask the killer wears should have been left covered or just partially revealed as it really looks unconvincing in the light it’s presented in. Craig Anderson does go for a CREEPSHOW sort of look with vivid red and green lights bathing a lot of the latter scenes of extreme action and gore. This is a fun effect I wish he would have used more once this shambling monster comes home. And while some of the actions of the family feel unnatural and even unintentionally comical, Anderson does capture pure chaos at the end of the film effectively.
RED CHRISTMAS is an odd film to review. I really am smitten with the guts this film has by asking uncomfortable questions and presenting these problems in the most horrific of light. Then again, this is a roughly produced film that isn’t as successful in communicating its message as it could be. There’s some nice gore, a truly weird killer in Cletus the fetus who moves and talks like a psychotic Elephant Man, and it’s great seeing Dee Wallace (THE HOWLING, CUJO) in the spotlight showing how tough she is whatever horror she faces. Horror fans will have more patience with this one. Sensitive folk will condemn it for daring bring up abortion and its connection to mental retardation, but instead of treating the subject like a dirty secret, I love how this film is fearless in at least bringing up questions. If you want to have your morals challenged mixed with some old school slasher film schlock, RED CHRISTMAS is for you.