Review: Red Christmas (Fantasia 2016)

This Fantasia Film Festival entry from Australian filmmaker Craig Anderson is a truly unique, but not wholly successful, entry in the stalk and slash genre. Red Christmas is most interesting because the stalk and slash elements were the least successful parts of this offbeat, yet sometimes thought provoking.

Genre icon, Dee Wallace, has a Christmas gathering with her family, which consists of her peanut allergic daughter, her pregnant nymphoniac daughter, her pot head husband, her bible thumping daughter with her peeping tom minister husband, her drunk boyfriend and her down syndrome son. Quite a cast of characters. Along comes Cletus, who brings up some family history, which ultimately disrupts this already dysfunctional family gathering, as they are forced to fight for their lives against a past that has come back to haunt them.

There are some positive and negatives to Red Christmas. It is so offbeat and odd that the pluses and minuses stand out more, since the film as a whole really doesn’t mesh. First off, Dee Wallace, who also produces, is very good as the matriarch who fights to protect her family against a villain whom she may have created. Another positive is Gerard O’Dwyer, who plays Jerry, her down syndrome son. His role does not overshadow the other players and his disability is used as a minor plot point, but it does not stop him from being one of the only characters we root for in a film consisting of mostly unlikable characters.

I also had a lot of problems with the killer of the film, Cletus. The outfit he wore and the voice used made it seem like we were watching someone in an amateur high school production of The Elephant Man. Even though I felt sympathy for his character at times, the amateur portrayal of him was a minus for me. Oddly, I felt that the killings in the film were some of the weaker aspects of the film. I really wanted these decidedly unsympathetic characters to meet their fates through their own prejudices and mistakes; not from Cletus’s misguided anger. This is one of the only slasher films where I wish the slasher did not slash. Maybe I’m looking into all this too much, but you need to see this so you can understand my points without me getting too spoilerish here.

This film goes into weird territory and is worth a discussion after regarding the questionable moral choices made by some of the characters and how those choices ultimately affected everyone in the film. The biggest issue here is the budgetary limitations, or what seems to be budgetary limitations, because I have no research indicating how much this cost to film. The filmmaker has something to say, but could have used more money to say it. It seemed to be done on the cheap, with some serious lighting issues causing some key death scenes to be too dark- a problem that plagues even the biggest budget films.

Overall, I would say check this film out. It does have a lot of issues due to budgetary restrictions and a bizarrely directed villain. But controversial themes and offbeat handling of situations was unconventional at times and refreshing. This is an interesting failure, which is more than I can say for most of the shit out there.

2 1/2 out of 5 Zombie Heads

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