Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RED CHRISTMAS (2016) (Umbrella DVD Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: 4 (PAL)
Rating: Unrated
Durataion: 78  Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Craig Anderson
Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGowan, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Gerald Odwyer, Sam Campbell 

Synopsis: Matriarch Diane (Dee Wallace) has invited her children to celebrate one last Christmas in their family home. Amid celebrations and domestic drama, they receive a visit from a mysterious stranger. Disfigured and cloaked, they feel sorry for him until they discover his extreme religious motives and anti abortion message. Diane orders him to leave unaware he is her son. Twenty years ago she had an abortion and on that day a religious zealot bombed the clinic. Her still-living foetus was taken and raised by the bomber. After being rejected by his mother once again when all he wanted was love, he seeks vengeance and kills the family who cast him out.

Australian director Craig Anderson's Red Christmas (2016) is a gleefully bloody abortion-themed Christmas slasher that you won't soon forget, opening with the bombing of an abortion clinic by pro-lifers, the explosion interrupts an abortion in progress, in the end the fetus is unceremoniously tossed into a bucket, where it still clings to life, as evidenced when a bloody hand emerges from the bucket, where it is rescued by a pro-lifer.

With that low-standard of taste established we move ahead twenty years to a Christmas gathering at the home of Diane (Dee Wallace, The Howling) with her children and in-laws gathered. We have her second husband Joe (Geoff Morrell, Rogue), the down-syndrome afflicted twenty-something Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), uptight daughter Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and her preacher hubby Peter (David Collins), plus the very pregnant, slightly stoned and super horny Ginny (Janis McGavin) and husband Scott (Bjorn Stewart), plus adopted daughter Hope (Deelia Meriel). The gathering is a typical xmas get together with the usual amount of family tensions, particularly from Virginia who is angered that her mother is on the cusp of selling their childhood home to go on a European vacation, and Suzy who has been struggling to have a child is resentful of her preggers sister Ginny - all pretty typical family/holiday stresses.

The difficult yuletide gathering is interrupted when stranger draped in a black cloak and covered in bandages shows up on the doorstep. In the spirit of the holiday Diane allows the stranger into her home, his introduces himself as Cletus (Sam Campbell). While seated in the living room Cletus begins to read a letter to the group in a muffled voice, it's a note addressed to his mother. The letter has religious overtones that touch on the subject of abortion, which immediately angers Diane, who angrily forces him to leave the home.

However, the cloaked stranger shows up later in the night and a proper bloodbath ensues with family members meeting their doom at the end of his ax. Red Christmas is a fairly standard low-budget holiday themed slasher with a strange abortion  theme, it doesn't pretend to have a great deal of mystery about it, but it is bathed in blood with plenty of low-budget gore, which is executed nicely with what looks to be mostly practical special effects. The killer draped in a Grim Reaper style hooded cloak makes a visually intriguing killer, and his origin story is unique., the whole thing feels very Troma-esque at times - you could have called this one The Aborted Avenger, especially when we catch a very brief glimpse of his deformed face!

Dee Wallace, bless her, still has the strength and presence she brought to her roles in Cujo (1983) andThe Howling(1981), chewing on the scenery as the matriarch trying desperately to stop the extinction her bloodline at the hands of the deformed abortion survivor - who may or may not be her son. The kills are well done and deliciously bloody, we have someone being sliced in-half the long way down, someone getting their brains scrambled by the blades of a blender, and an umbrella through the eye - the latex and blood kills are fun - even when the budget limitations show through from time to time.

The movie is drenched in red and green colored lighting, this is maybe the most retina-burning red movie since Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), the scene towards the final third are deeply lit by harsh colored lighting - despite having had the power cut - which gives the whole thing a surreal Christmas feeling, which is both stylish and perhaps a way to cover-up some of the low-budget issues of the film, but it does feel slightly overdone at a certain point. However, you cannot deny that this xmas slasher is bathed in more moody Christmas lighting than few films before it.

The movie is a fun black comedy, the kids of this family are down right annoying, with he exception of down's syndrome afflicted Jerry, who turns out to be a very capable adversary and protector, but his sisters and their hubbies are unsympathetic meat for the slasher grinder, these are not victims you mourn honestly, you cheer their demise. The mix of family dysfunction, pregnancy and abortion themes, special needs and bloody carnage make for an odd mixture, but I loved it.

The abortion theme seems to be played from both sides of the argument, on one hand if Wallace's character hadn't of had the abortion none of this would have happened, on the other hand, if the pro-lifer hadn't of rescued the deformed fetus from the waste bucket that too would have been the end of the story, I don't mind the ambiguity if that's what it is, this is a pretty straight ahead slasher, and the abortion theme is just another layer of exploitation to cut through.  

Special Features: 
- Feature-length commentary with writer-director Craig Anderson (20 min) and actor Gerard O'Dwyer 

- Behind the Scenes Part 1 (15 min) 
- Behind the scenes Part 2 (13 min) 
- An Interview with Gerard Odwyer - Craig Anderson and Actor Sam Campbell Speak with Actor Gerald Odwyer (10 min) 
- Deleted Scene (1 min) 
- Teaser Trailer (1 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

Dee Wallace shines in this yuletide bloodbath, it's great to see her still doing her thing in this fun and rather cynical abortion-themed slasher. While the movie is not a stone-cold Christmas terror classic along the lines of Black Christmas (1973) it is a fun dysfunctional family Christmas slasher with loads of gore, you should give this a turn in your Christmas horror-thon this year, you won't be disappointed.