27th Sep2017

‘Red Christmas’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Janis McGavin, David Collins, Sarah Bishop, Bjorn Stewart, Gerard Odwyer, Atlas Adams, Sam Campbell, Deelia Meriel, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson | Written and Directed by Craig Anderson

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Red Christmas is the latest festive horror which has been produced by, and stars, Dee Wallace. The film continues in the traditional bloody footsteps of the Christmas slasher genre, although writer and director Craig Anderson takes a lot of time to really develop the characters, giving the film a bit more depth than just your normal hack and slash.

Red Christmas begins in an abortion clinic, with a woman who is undergoing an abortion. During the procedure a bomb is detonated, causing panic and confusion as everyone tries to evacuate. Acting quickly, the removed foetus is dumped into a biohazard bucket which is kicked aside as everyone begins to leave. Unbeknownst to them the baby is found by the bomber, still alive, who takes him away.
This seems fortunate for the baby at first but as we see from the opening montage, it comes at a price. The bomber is a crazed sadistic priest, whose religious upbringing of the baby, who he calls Cletus, makes the practices of Margaret in Stephen Kings Carrie, look like Mother Teressa.

The film continues 20 years later as we are introduced widowed Diane (Wallace). She has invited her brother and four children home with their partners, in the hope of having one final Christmas before she sells the house. The family gathering is interrupted when a stranger covered in bandages and wrapped in a black cloak, rings the doorbell, claiming to be looking for his mother. As its Christmas, Diane lets him in to rest, but when he starts to bring up the past her kindness soon turns to regret. The stranger explains how he survived, after being abandoned in the abortion clinic during a bombing. Distressed by him bringing up the past, Diane dismisses his claims before asking him to be thrown out and warned never to come back. Ejected, the family think it’s all over and look forward to enjoying their Christmas plans, but outside the stranger has other plans. He has finally found his family and after being ejected now wants revenge.

Red Christmas feels different to your conventional seasonal slasher, as it uses the Christmas theme as a backdrop to the drama and bloodshed in the film, rather than making it a focus of the film. Director Craig Anderson takes time to really develop the characters, concentrating on the relationships and drama of the characters, as much as it does on the horror. The film is also driven by an excellent script, which has more than just some brilliantly witty one liners.

As expected Dee Wallace stands out, proving once again why she is such a respected actress – easily switching from a loving matriach, to a mother who can be ruthless when it comes to protecting her children. There are also some amazing performances from the rest of the cast, including Sarah Bishop who plays the heavily pregnant Jenny. Her feisty nature turns to panic, when she realises she is going into labour, whilst the rest of her family is being slaughtered. Gerard Odwyer also stands out in the film… A particularly emotional scene where he confronts Diane about why she decided to have an abortion really stands outm adding weight to the underlining concept set up at the start of the film.

Director Craig Anderson takes time to build up the tension, manipulating the environment to create a claustrophobic feel. During the day the film looks bright, with the open plan rooms and surrounding windows making it look spacious and clear. However, when the horror starts, the characters are forced to retreat into closed in rooms, the lights go out and the scenes create a more claustrophobic feel. The use of Christmas lights and bright coloured bulbs in the rooms, also do more than just add a festive feel. The colour of the room has a glow with a striking red or green which gives it an edginess and eerie look to it.

It’s often difficult to get the balance between comedy and horror right, but Red Christmas manages to weave the two seamlessly. The film builds up the tension gradually before it is interrupted with an unexpected moment of violence. Often delivered with a tongue and cheek comical timing, before moving instantly back to a tense horror. Allowing it to maintain the horrific atmosphere and stop the film from becoming a parody.

Cletus is an unexpected antagonist and you still find yourself sympathising with him, even during the moments when he takes revenge – which he does with creativity and without remorse. The scenes where he uses an axe works well as it happens unexpectedly, but my favourite kill is the police officer who arrives on scene. After the police vehicle pulls up, we see Diane running out but when she arrives he is standing next to the car with a bear trap locked around his head!

Red Christmas may follow in a familiar bloody trend of the genre, but the development of the characters, a well-structured story, and genuinely funny moments help to make this stand out from the Christmas crowd. It may be set up with the theme of a Christmas horror, but it has enough elements to make it worth watching anytime of the year. Although… it is a film which I am definitely adding to my annual Christmas horror watch list!

Red Christmas is available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from Artsploitation Films.

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