Director: Craig Anderson
Cast: Dee Wallace, Janis McGavin, Sarah Bishop, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Geoff Morrell, Gerard Odwyer, Deelia Meriel, and Sam Campbell
Studio: Artsploitation Films
Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: In theaters August 25, 2017
Rated: Not Rated
Who doesn’t enjoy a good old slasher? Call me a sadist but when done well, it can be incredibly fun to watch a killer pick off his victims in an increasingly creative way. But bad slashers far outweigh the good so, of course, I approached Red Christmas with a certain amount of trepidation.
The movie’s set-up has all the right hallmarks. Diane (Dee Wallace) has invited her entire family to spend Christmas together before she sells the family house. There’s Ginny (Janis McGavin), the conservative Christian daughter who arrives with her pastor husband Peter (David Collins); joining them is Ginny’s pregnant sister Suzy (Sarah Bishop), who is foul mouthed and not afraid to ridicule Ginny and Peter’s beliefs, along with her husband Scott (Bjorn Stewart). They’re joined by their pot-smoking Uncle Joe (Geoff Morrell); Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), the Shakespeare loving brother; and the youngest sister, Hope (Deelia Meriel), who was just accepted into art school.
Their Christmas seems to be going along just fine when they’re visited by Cletus (Sam Campbell), a strange deformed man adorned in a black robe and covered in bandages. “To keep my skin from falling off,” he explains. After the family eventually kicks Cletus out, they find themselves in a battle for survival against the demented man who’ll stop at nothing to tear them apart.
The premise of Red Christmas assures the family will be in for a good old-fashioned Christmas bloodbath. And the film delivers on that promise, albeit at times in an uneven manner.
The actors in Red Christmas are far better than one would expect from this genre. Wallace, in particular, is no stranger to the horror genre as she has starred in some ‘80s cult classics like The Howling, Cujo, and Critters, just to name a few. She easily steals the show by bringing depth to what could be a rather one-note character.
Despite Red Christmas being well-acted, the issue with some of the characters is most of them exist just to be killed so it’s hard to care for any of them. On the bright side, the killings, for the most part, are creative and fun to watch. They’re not as gory as you expect but are still brutal while being darkly humorous. For example, one of the murders utilizes a character’s deathly allergy to peanuts, which doesn’t sound that funny but in Red Christmas, is used for a creative and darkly comedic effect.
Director Craig Anderson’s vision for Red Christmas is a bit uneven. Loads of scenes are filmed utilizing a handheld camera at a low angle; this usually results in a shaky picture as the cameraman follows characters as they run from room to room. At times, that helps add to the sense of panic the characters are feeling but other times, especially when it’s dark, it can be hard to tell exactly what’s happening. The lighting, however, is used to great effect as Christmas decorations illuminate rooms in various shades of cheerful reds and greens that juxtapose nicely with the slayings.
Anderson’s writing is inconsistent, though, when it comes to the characters’ intelligence. At first, they seem smarter than the ones in the usual slasher flicks. They immediately call the police as soon as shady things start happening and try to find a safe place to hide. But then, almost as immediately, they begin making dumb decisions, such as hiding their phones around the house and then calling them in an effort to distract Cletus. It’s typical to have dumb characters in horror movies but at times, Red Christmas stretches the believability too far.
Where Red Christmas fails is when it tries to be more than a simple slasher film. Abortion plays a huge hand in the plot of the film, specifically with Cletus. While the subject is utilized in a creative way, it makes it difficult to understand what message the movie is trying to relay. At times, it has a more pro-life stance and at others, a more pro-choice viewpoint. While it could be argued that Red Christmas is showing both sides of the coin, it comes across as not being able to commit to a single message.
The effects are lazy at times. The death of one character should have been incredibly bloody but instead, it looks like a fountain shooting red-colored water. The worst offense, however, is how it looks like they shoved a beach ball under Bishop’s costume to make it seem like she’s pregnant. It looks incredibly fake and had me giggling each time she appears on screen.
Red Christmas is sure to please slasher and horror fans. It falls into the same traps films of this type usually do but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
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All Photos: ©2017 Artsploitation Films. All Rights Reserved.
© 2017, Dustin Kogler. All rights reserved.
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