It's not particularly surprising that Philly-based indie distributor Artsploitation Films would get a gleam in its eye and pick up the directorial debut of Australian filmmaker Craig Anderson, the abortion-themed holiday slasher flick Red Christmas, a seriously weird ass flick that requires one to decide early on whether to take the film seriously in its social justice implications or to celebrate it for what it likely is intended to be - a seriously dark comedy with hints of humanity.
In the film, family matriarch Diana, played by the incompable Dee Wallace (E.T., The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, Cujo), is the stressed-out mother of a seriously squabbling clan gathered for Christmas Eve at their remote Outback estate. When a deformed stranger shows up at the front door, the family's tensions turn into hellish horror as this indescribable stranger doesn't take kindly to being spurned. With horror under the tree for Christmas Day, Diane must do whatever it takes to protect her family from this stranger whose presence will soon be understood.
Taken as a straightforward horror flick, Red Christmas would seem to be wildly uneven with an initial scene involving an abortion clinic that would seem to set the tone for some wildly dramatic horror borne out of religious fervor. However, Anderson doesn't really aim for the obvious here even if the story that ultimately unfolds sort of knocks you across the forehead with a "Wow, that was pretty obvious."
It's obvious, but it's not.
It's all held together by the marvelous Dee Wallace, a wildly popular actress on the indie horror scene who never really matched the fame she found with E.T. but also absolutely never lost her groove. Also a producer on the film, Wallace weaves together maternal spirit and kickass badassery to damn near perfection. She's sweet. She's loyal. And she can get seriously pissed off.
While the supporting players aren't quite up to Wallace's gold standard for indie horror, it's still a fine ensemble cast and there's some true gems here that I look forward to seeing in future projects. Sarah Bishop, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Fright Night Theatre Film Festival, is absolutely rocking as Suzy. Anderson also deserves kudos for casting the talented Gerard Odwyer, an actor with Down Syndrome, as Jerry, one of the squabbling siblings.
The truth is that once I decided in my mind that Red Christmas should be viewed through the lens of a darkly horrific comedy, or at least one with comic undertones, I fell right into the film's groove and had a complete blast with it. Red Christmas is pointed, twisted, gory and filled with a surprising amount of character development so that when everything unfolds you've pretty much established an opinion about everyone involved.
Red Christmas's horror plays out with a decidedly 80's bent with Anderson forsaking CGI in favor of good ole' fashion indie style kills that should please most fans of B-movie horror.
As someone who celebrates every Christmas Day with a horror film, and I have for years, I was practically filled with glee while watching Red Christmas, which may not be destined to be a holiday horror classic but deserves to be mentioned alongside any listing of holiday horror options for your own dysfunctional family Christmas celebrations.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic