With the Halloween season behind us — ok for us it’s always Halloween — we’re about to hit the year-end holiday season and that means Christmas is just around the corner. Just because it’s the season to be merry doesn’t mean the horror has to stop. I love Christmas-themed horror films and fortunately we have some classics we can always count on — Black Christmas, Christmas Evil, Silent Night Deadly Night — but I’m always eager to find more to add to my holiday rotation. I’m happy to say Red Christmas is one to place under your tree (And Patrick Cooper agrees).
It’s Christmas in Australia and Diane (Dee Wallace) is thrilled to have her entire family back together for the first time in years. While Diane couldn’t be happier to have the whole family back together it is a bit bittersweet. It’s been years since her husband died and now she’s living in the family home all alone. Tired of being left alone in a big empty house she has sold the house and plans to travel Europe. She makes this announcement to her family and it doesn’t go over too well.
Despite the family not being completely on board with the new news from mom, they manage to enjoy a pretty standard family Christmas together. There’s laughing and crying and fighting and it’s everything you’d expect when large family reunites for the holidays.
Things start to take a turn when a mysterious cloaked figure knocks at the door. This figure speaks in a strange voice that is a bit difficult to understand but with him, he carries a letter that he says is for his mother. We quickly learn that many years prior Diane paid a visit to an abortion clinic that was attacked by pro-lifers. The baby she tried to abort miraculously lived. Diane thinks the person in the clock is a pro-lifer coming to protest at her home, but it doesn’t take long before she realizes this is her aborted child and he’s coming back to get vengeance.
Red Christmas has a completely bonkers plot and I love every second of it. Cletus (Sam Campbell), the name of the aborted child, just wants to be loved by his mother. When he realizes that he’s not going to get that love he has no problem brutally slaying all over his “siblings.” Red Christmas quickly turns into a gory splatter-fest that is reminiscent of many slasher classics.
Color is a key factor in the film’s style. Not only are there gallons of bright red blood that splatter across almost every frame of this flick, but the glow of Christmas lights is used to great effect. The use of vivid reds, pinks, purples, blues, and greens is straight out of the Dario Argento handbook. Even if you don’t care for the film there’s a lot of visual styles to catch your eye.
That being said, not all the visual elements work. There are some strange shots that lack a clear focus. The film attempts to do a number of over the shoulder shots with the audience placed behind a character that is talking and it doesn’t work a lot of the time. It’s a fairly standard shot present in a lot of films but something here just feels off.
One other aspect of Red Christmas I had a tough time wrapping my head around while watching was trying to determine if the film’s writer/director, Craig Anderson, had a specific political message he was trying to convey. Depending on how you view the film it could come off as a bit pro-life in certain scenes. Ultimately I determined that that likely wasn’t the case and the Blu-ray special features confirmed this.
Speaking of special features the Blu-ray has a number of them. There’s a commentary with Anderson and then a few different interviews, the longest of which is 20 minutes and it’s Anderson interviewing Wallace. This interview is a joy to watch and Anderson mentions that some people have felt the film is a bit pro-life, but he and Wallace both agree that wasn’t the intent and if anything it is more pro-choice. Wallace goes on to talk a bit about her career and why she took this role, which is largely because she wanted to see if she still had it. It being the ability to be a kick-ass mom that takes charge and saves her family. She most certainly does have it.
Red Christmas isn’t perfect but it’s damn good. Light up the fireplace, get yourself some hot chocolate and cuddle up with this one.
Red Christmas is now available on Blu-ray from Artsploitation.