15th Dec2017

Interview: Craig Anderson talks seasonal horror ‘Red Christmas’

by Philip Rogers

With Christmas just around the corner it is time to get into a festive mood and there is nothing better to start the season than a Christmas Slasher. Craig Anderson has got into the spirit of Christmas past with a colourful homage to the classic 80’s slasher in his latest release Red Christmas. I got a chance to ask him a few questions about why he chose to write and direct a Christmas Horror, dealing with the taboo subject of abortion and working with Dee Wallace. 
And if you haven’t read it yet, check out my Red Christmas review

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What can we expect from your new film Red Christmas?

The incredible actor Dee Wallace – ET (1982), Cujo (1983), The Howling (1981); stars as a mother who brings her grown up family home for Christmas. It’s a normal Christmas day with plenty of family stress, but then a really weird dude rocks up the door. The family invites him in and he turns out to be a little off the planet, so they kick him out. Big Mistake! He comes back and turns the Nancy Myer’s family film into a 1980’s slasher.

Why did you decide to write a Christmas themed horror movie?

I think horror should deal with taboo subjects, but most of the time it does over very acceptable ‘taboo’ subjects. So, I wanted to make a horror movie that dealt with abortion and decided to set it at Christmas after watching Black Christmas (1974), one of the only existing horror films that deals with the subject.

The film deals with taboo subjects which includes abortion. Were you worried about how this may be received by the audience?

For sure, the last thing I wanted to do was make a movie that made women scared to have access to the appropriate health care. In Australia (where I’m from), abortion is less of a ‘debate’ then what it is in America, so the first draft I wrote was very much an over the top slasher film. But it was reading way too ‘anti-choice’, so I decided to consult with midwives and do focus groups with women, to discuss the ethics surrounding the film. It was intense. It lead me to craft Dee’s character into a woman who is trying very hard to have her own choice and not have it taken away from her. At the end of the day, I’ve also ‘personalised’ the foetus by having a villain who has survived his own abortion- so no matter what, that’s a pro-life statement. Which is why I put a closeted gay minister in it, so no church could use it for bible study.

What were your influences for the look and style of the film?

Obviously giallo was a big influence, the work of Dario Argento, Jess Franco, Lucio Fulci and the films House (1985) and Prom Night 2 (1987). But surprisingly the biggest influence for the lighting for the second half was from a Disney cartoon called Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), which features two chipmunks stuck in a Christmas tree. Each branch they went to was a different colour and I loved that.

Did you write any of the characters with actors in mind?

I always wanted the lead character to be a woman who had appeared in horror films during the 1980’s so Dee fit the bill perfectly. Just about all the other characters were written for the performers, who are all comic actors down under that I had worked with and loved. Particularly Gerard O’Dwyer who has Down Syndrome and is one of the best actors I know.

What was it like working with Dee Wallace and how did she become involved in the film?

Dee was great! She is so smart and has so many experiences working with great directors, that when she offers an idea, you just have to go with it. It made the film so much better. I got to the script to her through a writer Lee Gambin who was writing a book about the making of Cujo.

What do you think makes Red Christmas stand out in the slasher genre?

It features more comical interplay between the characters, and I like to think that you become more attached to them (compared to the usual group of teenagers who you can’t wait to see die). But the biggest thing that sets it apart is that the killer rings the doorbell and sits down for a cup of tea with all of his victims. In fact, he didn’t really want to kill any of them. But the chat around the Christmas tree goes so badly that he snaps.

Have you got any plans to do a sequel to Red Christmas?

I sure do. It’s set at Christmas 20 years later and is called Red Christmas: Coffin Birth. If you google the term after you see the movie, that might make some sense to you, but basically, it’s set at college and is about a group of women who have to deal with misogyny on campus as a group of MRA’s are upset that men are being killed.

Were there any elements in the final film which were different to the original script?

No, it’s all as it is. We shot it for no money and deferred payments, so had to be very precise with what we shot. We had a shooting ratio of about 1:1.3 (meaning we only occasionally did a second take). If I had a bigger budget there would be more fun stuff in there and some of it would be a bit clearer, but I’m also excited by being restrained by budgets.

What is your favourite scene in the movie?

The reason I made the film was so that I could have the bad guy sit down and chat with the family around the Christmas tree. I think that scene is hilarious and something I have always wanted to see in a slasher film. My other favourite scene didn’t exist in the script and came from Dee Wallace, working through the drama on the shoot day – it’s towards the end of the film and shows her character mourning after making a horrible mistake.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

I work a lot in Australia on comedy television, which I love. I’ve also written a couple of scripts, one being a comedy about a group of office workers who are mistaken as terrorists and are forced to fight hordes of SWAT teams inside an office building.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to direct their first movie?

I learnt a lot when directing this movie, mostly about producing. Make sure there is a market for your movie and that you have marketable elements in it that people will want to see. I’m lucky I have Dee in my film, otherwise no one would want to see it. There is no such thing as a film that does well at a festival because it is ‘so good’. That’s just an illusion to sell films to indie film audiences. Most of the time that is a co-ordinated publicity tactic to get people into the cinema. Even Blair Witch (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) were films that huge studios got behind and spent millions on a strategy that brought the film to market. Basically, you need to look at the 1000’s of films each year that you never hear about and realise what they were doing wrong.
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Red Christmas is available to purchase on DVD and Blu Ray now.

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