Fantasia Film Festival Movie Review: RED CHRISTMAS (2016)

There are many bad things that can happen on any given day, but nothing seems to be more upsetting than when you receive devastating news on Christmas, especially when it involves a 20-year secret that you’ve been keeping from you family.  In Craig Anderson’s latest film, RED CHRISTMAS, he tackles the complex, and often volatile, subject of abortion in conjunction with a family on the verge of destroying each other with the added element of a serial killer on Christmas Day.  Though this film wasn’t one of my favorites from the Fantasia Film Festival, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was some major things about this film that I thoroughly enjoyed.

RED CHRISTMAS stars legendary actress Dee Wallace (E.T.), David Collins (“The Upside Down Show”), Janis McGavin (SCOOBY-DOO), Sarah Bishop (CRUSHED), Gerard Odwyer (BE MY BROTHER), Geoff Morrell (NED KELLY) and Sam Campbell (LOOKING BACK).  Dee Wallace shows off her acting chops as the head of the household and mother to 4 children who have all grown up in very opposing directions in Australia.  The film starts off with a flashback to 20 years earlier where we get to see riots at an abortion clinic which result in a horrific act of violence by an extremist vigilante.  Fast forward to today where we see a family celebrating Christmas and we are left to believe that the actions of the past are going to rear their ugly head in the present.  Even though I was confused on how everyone was related at first, it didn’t deter me from beliving the tension that was forming within the family.  One of the better aspects of this film; however, also one of it’s downfalls, is the action.  Holidays have a way of bringing out the worst in people and in this particular case it was no exception.  One of my favorite characters in this film was Jerry, played by Gerard Odwyer, who was the heart and soul of the film and it made me happy to see a character being played by an actor with Down’s Syndrome.  I was rooting for him throughout the entirety of the movie and I liked that Jerry was able to interject humor with fun one-liners to help break up all the carnage that was happening throughout.  Unfortunately, the one person that really should have shined but was unbearable to watch, was the killer Cletus.  His character was someone who, though an adult, almost had a child-like nature and need of acceptance.  I understand what the director was trying to achieve but the execution was one that was painful to watch.  I found myself annoyed and impatient with the development of his story and I think his portrayal is one of the biggest downfalls of this film.

Though some of the acting left little to be desired, the kill scenes made up for that by being over-the-top, ridiculous, bloody, and hysterical.  Whether it was someone being split in two by an axe or someone getting their head caught in a bear trap, the kills were what really made this film enjoyable to watch.  Another aspect of the film that I took a liking too was the lighting and colors.  Each room of the house  was lit up to look like a color you would see on a Christmas tree and this made my little artist heart jump alive.  I loved how the shadows played off of the walls in tones of pink, purple, green, and blue along with the juxtaposition between the joyful colors and the horror awaiting our characters.  I think that director Chris Anderson was smart in doing this as it resulted in being one of my absolute favorite parts of RED CHRISTMAS.

Overall, I didn’t hate this film but I didn’t love it either.  I think with a little more work and a heavy focus on reimaging Cletus this could be a solid horror film.  When it came to the story, I give credit to Anderson for tackling a subject that many people have extremely strong views on but I feel like at times it became too much of a PSA for pro-life which could result in people not wanting to see it.  RED CHRISTMAS had a lot of potential, especially since there was an extremely talented cast, but ultimately it fell flat.  I would be interested in hearing other people’s views on this film, so if you end up watching it make sure you let me know what your final thoughts are.

Shannon McGrew
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