Red Christmas (2016) Australia
Written & Directed by Craig Anderson
Runtime 81 minutes
Thanks to the generous folks at Artsploitation I was allowed access to this before it’s release. Alas life happened, as it so often does, and I didn’t manage to view it until after it was unleashed upon the unsuspecting public. Nevertheless, after viewing I feel it’s my duty to utter a few words and stand by my promise that I would formulate something comprising a review. Without losing myself down the predictable meandering path (that I usually get drawn inexorably towards that honestly has little to do with anything) I shall endeavor to make sense of my hastily scribbled notes in order that I may send yet another celluloid review to my editor.
In Red Christmas the delightful Dee Wallace (Critters, The Howling, ET, Cujo and a slew of other notable genre standouts) leads the cast and the family into a holiday gathering that delivers more than the typical clashing of values, ideals, dysfunctional family dynamic and the merriment often associated with the consumption of large amounts of alcohol and carved up sluces of fresh-from-the-oven flightless birds.
Among said gathering is a myriad ensemble of characters that give the film an over abundance of charm and numerous dialogue exchanges that are truly unforgettable. From a particularly nasty argument over where to place a lemon meringue pie after ‘breaking its seal’ to the stand in father figure who continues to blunder his choice of epithets (…”Christ!. Fuck! Sorry Father!…”) in front of his ‘daughter’s’ spouse, a pastor. To the unmistakably pregnant second daughter who likes to point out that Dianes, played by Dee Wallace, decisions with the monies from the sale of the family home (too many spoilers already? My bad!) are hasty and altogether selfish all while she drinks and smokes with no regard for the livelihood of growing life within her womb. I cannot neglect to mention a standout character, the pastor, Peter portrayed wonderfully by David Collins (of the frenetic childrens television The Upside Down Show fame), who displays his innermost forbidden ‘desires’ none too secretively with an awkward grace to say the least.
Hypocrisy abounds and the story flows at a delightful pace which I might add is a tad top heavy in the predictability department. Especially in light of the opening sequence that leaves little room for questions (even in my own overburdened clustered excuse for a barely operational collection of squishy spongy material).
Cue a knock at the door and the entrance of an odd looking fellow in a tattered long black shoal. The family are shocked at his gaining entry past the foyer, but it is Christmas and Diane is in a giving mood, Tis the season after all. A rapid fire round ensues in which all wish to know more about the mysterious stranger. A question that ‘turns the tide’ of the movies vibe is about the cloak and whether it’s worn because it’s owner is cold. The strangers name has already been confirmed, his name is Cletus, and it’s oddly similar to the name of something seen ‘rescued’ from a biohazard bucket in the films opening stanza. Cletus answers frankly…”Yes…it keeps my skin on.” Then proceeds to pull a crumpled piece of paper from deep within his vestments. …”I’d like to read my letter.”
The film quickly transforms from one bearing a jovial, comical, quite relateable feel to one altogether different. I won’t spoil it, suffice to mention if one hasn’t worked out who Cletus is by now and his relation to another cast member one should consider a marathon of Scooby-Doo episodes and possibly reconsider their career path from whatever it is they choose to do to becoming a crash-test dummy (no disrespect meant to those in this field of study. I can well imagine a virtual tirade of emails overflowing my Inbox. Yours is a thankless job and I for one would like to thank you for your continued dedication to the cause.)
Red Christmas shines brightly in the Massacre based around a popular holiday theme genre (did I just add another spoiler?) for many reasons. It’s characters go far beyond the standard cardboard cutout format many associate with the genre each has foibles and qualms. Some moreso than others, lest the movie turn chaotic. The addition of Jerry, Dianes son, into the storyline adds humor as well weight and sufficient context to make the viewer ponder upon circumstance, choice and Dianes personality in light of what has already transpired. Cletus, the antagonist if you prefer, has a backstory and internal reasoning/emotions far from the typical character arriving complete with sharpened implement and malicious intent. All in all a picture written with attention to detail and insight to make its audience think whilst being shocked in more ways than one.
The soundtrack/score is also well worthy of mention, it works more than effectively to offer palpable, at times seething, tension as well powerful atmosphere and an ominous presence.
The aura is also provided by way of applaudable camera work, picturesque location and scene slathered in dark humor awash in unmistakably festive hues. Green and red, though don’t be fooled the emotion isn’t always as jolly as the season in which the scene is painted.
As predictable as Red Christmas plays out it doesn’t fall short in delivering scenes that will stick with the audience for some time to come. One involving a jar of peanuts is particularly inventive whereas another showcasing a wind up flashlight ends how one might consider it should. Utilizes a kinetic energy saving device in that instance is not advisable, even from the standpoint of a crash test dummy.
The effects used are practical, grisly at times though not overused as to turn this into nothing more than merely a gorefest and enough to sate those demanding crimson, coming by way of liquid not light source, in their celluloid choice.
The films finale wraps the feature up brilliantly, bringing it back full circle, displaying vivid imagery that might well make many reminisce upon stained glass ensembles. Images of a manger, packages of frankenscence, murr (whatever that may well be used for) a bearded dude whose mind is surely blown at this point and the birth of a child from the womb of a virgin (wait wha-?).
If anything Red Christmas is a testament to the adage That your past will one day come back to haunt you. And in the case of Diane it does just that with shocking consequence.
Toss this atop my list for movies I will return to first as the season demands, much preferabe to anything Charlie Brown/ Peanut related. Don’t even get me started on that drunken hooter looking Lapland resuding, sleigh yanking, quadraped.
Catch a viewing of this when you’re able. Without reservation I’m giving this the Cult seal of approval. One of these days I’ll get one made just for that purpose.
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