Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Review: "Red Christmas" (2017)

Director: Craig Anderson
Year: 2017
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

A mother is forced to fight for the lives of her family during their Christmas get together when a cloaked stranger shows up claiming to be someone from her past. After being shooed away, this person comes back and goes on a murdering rampage.

Nothing says Christmas like an abortion debate. This sensitive subject is the foundation of the film "Red Christmas." It starts out with protests surrounding an abortion clinic followed by a terrorist attack on the building by radical pro-lifers... which is a little ironic if you ask us, someone claiming to be pro-life while murdering people. But hey, that's just us. Not exactly a standard schmaltzy Christmas plot, right?
Not exactly what you'd expect from a Christmas movie. (Image provided by Artsploitation Films, photo by Douglas Burgdorff)
This Australian holiday horror flick is written and directed by Craig Anderson, who uses this rather taboo political subject to create a horror-themed abortion debate set around yuletide cheer. The film stars Dee Wallace, who is best known for her role in "E.T.," but has also starred in numerous horror classics like "Cujo" and "The Howling." Here, she plays Diane, the matriarch of a somewhat dysfunctional family having their last Christmas get together in their family home. It is a typical family gathering complete with domestic dramas, squabbling siblings, and conflicting ideas. All of this stops, however, when a cloaked stranger named Cletus shows up at their front doorstep. He claims to be someone from Diane's past. Being polite, she invites him in, until his true intentions are revealed. When she casts him out of their home, Cletus goes on a murdering rampage, picking off the family members one by one.
When a stranger calls. (Image provided by Artsploitation Films, photo by Douglas Burgdorff)
"Red Christmas" is a fairly conventional slasher style horror film despite its premise. There's a bit of a twist as it is centered around the abortion debate in what some may consider the crudest way possible. Anderson doesn't go deep into a lot of detail past the first few minutes, which simply set up the rest of the story in this holiday horror. There is a little tension at times, but this isn't the type of movie steeped in "edge of your seat" thrills and heart-pounding terror. It doesn't rely on unnecessary jump scares, which we always welcome. This is more of a gore-driven flick that has a couple of creative death scenes featuring odd objects like bear traps and blenders (hey, Bear Traps and Blenders would be a good band name!), as well as a couple of tried and true kills featuring an ax to the head. The practical effects are excellently made and are very, very bloody.
Dee Wallace as matriarch Diane, locked and loaded.. (Image provided by Artsploitation Films, photo by Douglas Burgdorff)
Dee Wallace gives a good performance as a mother trying her best to keep her family from fighting during their Christmas celebration. It is clear she has always had her work cut out for her with her children Ginny (Janis McGavin), Suzy (Sara Bishop), and Jerry (Gerard Odwyer). Ginny and Suzy have seemingly always had a sibling rivalry, and now that they are adults, there is a huge clash of morals between the entire family and Suzy, who is extremely religious, as is her husband Joe (David Collins), who is a preacher. Jerry is the youngest of the siblings and has down syndrome. He is the liveliest of the kids, quick to put a smile on everyone's face, but he would also be the most hurt if his mother's secret ever got out.
A family brought together by death. (Image provided by Artsploitation Films, photo by Douglas Burgdorff)
Some of the cinematography is a bit weird. It feels like cinematographer Douglas James Burgdorff was instructed to keep the lighting interesting. Because of this, many of the scenes are backlit in the hot pinks and neon greens of Christmas decorations, or the deep reds and flashing bright blues of a cop car driving by outside. These colors serve as the only luminescence in multiple shots. Many of the shots are also filmed at strange angles to keep the flow spruced up, and while some viewers may find this annoying, we mostly enjoyed it because it's an obvious attempt to make it feel more artistic and less one-dimensional.
Deck the halls. (Image provided by Artsploitation Films, photo by Douglas Burgdorff)
Overall, "Red Christmas" is a fun and entertaining low-budget horror romp provided you're not easily offended. It's not a movie everyone will love because of its delicate subject matter, but we had a really good time watching it.

"Red Christmas" will be available nationwide October 17th, 2017 on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more.
My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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