Starring horror legend Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, Critters) RED CHRISTMAS takes place on Christmas Day, at the home of a family in rural Australia. The American mother has invited all of her adult children to spend one last Christmas in the family home before she sells up and sets off on a trip around the world. Their festivities are interrupted by an unexpected guest; a robed stranger with a message. As the mysterious man begins to spout religious verse it doesn't take long to realise that he is, in fact, the mother's aborted foetus from many years ago, who was salvaged and raised by a religious fundamentalist. And so the scene is set for a gnarly slasher film that boasts an array of grisly deaths, and gleefully flirts with religious doctrine.
The movie gets off to a shaky start whereby the production's paltry budget is exposed by the unnecessary daytime setting, and the story struggles to resonate in its real location (as opposed to a contained studio environment). Fortunately the script is tight and the performances are good, and these earlier moments are easily overlooked when director Craig Anderson turns off the lights, embraces the night and unleashes hell upon his characters. That moment when darkness falls is a welcome relief as the house suddenly becomes a surreal chamber of horrors, full of colour and confusion.
The cast is good, and despite a few caricature characters amongst the flock, the family dynamics are well written and strong. Wallace does a wonderful job as the family matriarch, and offers a performance that is beyond the worth of such a small movie. She invests a great deal of emotion to her role, and presents the audience with a multilayered character who is unaware of her own capabilities. The cast supporting her is impressive, too, with the likes of Geoff Morrell (Rogue, Oscar & Lucinda), Sarah Bishop (Crushed) and David Collins (The Umbilical Brothers) all giving measures performances. They are also joined by Gerard Odwyer, an actor with down syndrome whose on-screen presence not only brings a huge amount of joy to the film, but also provides an important vulnerability to the unfolding events.
Craig Anderson is better known to some people as a comedy writer and actor, having worked on television programs like Black Comedy, Double the First and Review with Miles Barlow... and yet his flair for horror, as demonstrated in RED CHRISTMAS, suggests that he has a seat at the genre table whenever he so chooses. With the know-how from his production designer Emily Borghi, Anderson has turned an actual house location into a nightmarish slaughterhouse. All of the rooms are lit with a saturation of reds and greens, and with fog-covered surroundings, decorative lighting and police lights the night time exteriors accompany the mayhem with an added surrealism.
And of course RED CHRISTMAS is chock-full of deliciously inventive kills, gratuitous gore and one of the most peculiar villains you're likely to see on screen for quite a while. His name is “Cletus” and he's one hell of an abnormal guy. His introduction leaves a lot to be desired, which takes place in those unfortunate opening daylight scenes, but as the cloak of darkness falls, and his motives become apparent he adopts a strangely sympathetic nature, forcing the viewer to decide whether they want to hug the guy or lop his head off.
Each year we are given new festive horror treats, and RED CHRISTMAS is certainly one of the more memorable. It might not boast the same production value of other recent titles such as Krampus or Rare Exports, but it shares the same visceral inventiveness as movies like Silent Night and Black X-Mas. So turn off the lights, relish its festively vibrant colours, and lap up all of its wonderfully grotesque goodness.
RED CHRISTMAS IS NOW AVAILABLE TO RENT OR BUY AT UMBRELLA ENTERTAINMENT.