Red Christmas (2016)

Rating: C-

Dir: Craig Anderson
Star: Dee Wallace, Gerald Odwyer, Sam Campbell, Sarah Bishop

We got interested in this after watching the documentary about its making, Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare. This was a salutary lesson on the perils of B-movie making, with just about everything which could go wrong, doing so. Notably, it seems as if, despite a number of festival appearances (including FantAsia in Montreal) and being sold in a wide range of territories, Anderson still ended a long way short of covering the costs he incurred. He was last heard of, still trying to pay back the loan his brother gave him. It should be required viewing for anyone contemplating making a professional film, as proof that passion will take you only so far. On the other hand, Dee Wallace = real trouper.

Truth be told, it’s rather more interesting that Red Christmas. Certainly, the documentary offers better character arcs, and more surprises. Can’t argue the concept here is crazy though. A woman has an abortion, but her foetus survives and is rescued by a priest. 20 years later, after the priest dies, the hideously-deformed creature, called Cletus (Campbell) returns home to be re-united with his mother, Diane (Wallace) – and ask some extremely awkward questions. It’s the festive season, and she has gathered her bickering family about her, for what she wants to be the best Christmas ever. A knock on the door, and the unexpected visitor on the other side, will certainly mean it’s one none of the family will forget. If, that is, they live long enough to need to remember it.

The pacing here is the main problem, and it may have been a mistake to start with the rescue of the abortion. For we then get into a long period of watching the various family members argue with each other, which is about as much fun as watching your own family argue over Christmas dinner, while waiting to get to the presents. There are the obvious clashes among the offspring, e.g. between the holy roller daughter and the pothead, and it gets tedious pretty quickly. The only interesting twist is the presence of Jerry (Odwyer), a son with Downs Syndrome – the reason Diane aborted Cletus was for the same reason, and that makes for a novel dynamic; there’s a scene between Jerry and Diane that actually has emotional punch, in sharp contract to the rest. The film never quite manages to take any kind of stance on the obvious moral issues here; however, it is a horror film, so I’m fine with that.

Things do improve a bit when Cletus shows up, and goes on his rampage. Though I’m not sure how, after he cuts the power, all the Christmas lights in and around the house are still on. I don’t think many people have a back-up generator for their tree… Anyway, there is one glorious bit of gore where someone’s head falls back onto a blender. Their eyeballs gradually fill up with blood before it spurts out like a water fountain. I am fairly sure that’s not how anatomy works, but I can still only applaud the spirit. However, much of the remaining splatter is not particularly impressive, and there’s little sense of escalation before a rather nihilistic ending. This is not a present particularly worth unwrapping.