One from the to watch pile…
Red Christmas (2016)
Film: We all owe Bob Clark a great deal. If Clark hadn’t have made 1974’s Black Christmas, John Carpenter May never have made Halloween and the holidays may never have been a topic for the spectacular bunch of horror movies we have that are based in or around special occasions. A world with no Mother’s Day, no New Years Evil, no April Fool’s Day, no Silent Night and maybe even no Red Christmas!
Red Christmas is the brainchild of Australian actor/ writer/ director Craig Anderson who has won two AACTAs for his work on television comedies Double the Fist and Black Comedy. Anderson managed to get the skills of Horror legend Dee Wallace, probably known best for Cujo and The Howling in the film, and she really is the key to holding the whole film together.
Red Christmas tells of the final Christmas of the family home of a family in somewhat of a crisis. Diane (Wallace) has decided to sell the family estate so she can go on a world trip as she promised her now deceased husband that she would do after he passed. Her adult children aren’t too impressed with her decision as it means her Down’s syndrome son, Jerry (Gerard O’Dwyer) will be placed in assisted living… but on Christmas Day, a horrible secret returns to haunt Diana.
A cloaked figure names Cletus (Sam Campbell) has appeared and as a Christian family, they welcome him to their table, but Cletus seems to know a secret that Diana has kept hidden from her family. When he is rejected and kicked out of the house, he decides to wreak bloody vengeance on the family… but who will survive?
Anderson has created a magnificent looking film and uses all the tropes of Italian giallo cinema by using the Christmas lights of the family house to change the look of almost every scene. Within any particular scene, the colour palette changes from red to green (both giallo and Christmas colours) then to blue and pink creating an amazing depth in the image, and making the whole proceedings quite unsettling. It really is an amazing visual tool.
The casting is an interesting too. In addition to Wallace, O’Dwyer is a revelation. His performance is clever and funny, and evolves to a horrifying point after he feels rejected by his mother. Another casting choice which was a strange one was that of David Collins as a somewhat pervy minister: Collins is probably best known as the one with hair from the comedy group The Umbilical Brothers.
The film is gory and even though some of the effects are a little basic, they do the job well, and if you are a fan of practical special effects, like me, you’ll probably dig the low techy look of them anyway.
My only real problem with this film was I couldn’t help but think of the movie You’re Next (2011) with its family in crisis under siege and 80s horror actress in a matriarchal role, which did a very similar story (without the abortion or Down’s Syndrome themes) much more thrillingly.
All in all, Red Christmas takes some interesting and controversial subjects and makes an efficient horror film which is shocking and an entertaining watch. The best thing about this film is how damn serious it takes itself, even though there are occasionally a few ‘Fair dinkum’ Australian characters who might provide a touch of the old cultural cringe!
Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment DVD which runs for approximately 78 minutes and is presented in a clean 2.35:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio. The disc itself, however, does seem to suffer from a slight bit of uneven audio mastering as found myself adjusting the volume from extra to menu to feature and back.
Extras: There is certainly an interesting bunch of extras on this disc.
Behind the Scenes Part 1 and 2: if there was ever a series of footage to tell people what an absolute nightmare it is to make a film, and that you have to have have both perseverance and a large dose of insanity to do so, this is it. If I ever had even the slightest inclination to make a feature film, these two pieces have permanently washed it away.
There is a deleted scene which doesn’t really effect the film at all with its absence.
Visiting Gerard O’Dwyer is an interview with one of the disabled actors from the film. It’s quite a funny interview and O’Dwyer is charming.
There is also a teaser trailer and a trailer for the film.
The cover slick offers an audio commentary for the film provided by Anderson and O’Dwyer but this options seems to be missing from the actual disc as an option.
WISIA: Red Christmas is a decent slasher but there is possibly hundreds of other slashers that I’d watch again before this one.