Red Christmas full movie review - Almost the Worst Christmas Horror Film Ever Made
A mother (Dee Wallace) must protect her family on Christmas Day from a demented stranger (Sam Campbell) who is hell-bent on tearing them apart.
The 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival has been shattering my expectations, and not always in a good way. Two of the best surprises have been Geoff Redknap's "The Unseen" and the conspiracy-themed "Man Underground". But then we have the proverbial stinkers. Takashi Miike added a dud to otherwise illustrious career with "Terraformars". And then there is "Red Christmas".
First of all, I'm a big fan of Christmas-themed horror films. Not all are winners ("Silent Night, Deadly Night II") but almost all are at least entertaining. And "Red Christmas" has Dee Wallace both starring and producing, which is good thing ? she's been a genre icon for over three decades thanks to "E.T." and "The Hills Have Eyes", among others. But somehow these two strengths just don't carry the picture.
And then there are secondary considerations. I also love slasher films, and you have to appreciate the design that went into Cletus. He is certainly one of the most refreshing killers we've seen in years, with no comparison in recent memory. And the idea of having an abortion clinic theme was very wise, and it makes you realize how much this is an untapped area for horror. There was John Carpenter's "Pro-Life" (2006), but no other comes to mind. So these were some of the few strong points.
But the shortcomings just far outweigh the positives that everyone brought to the table. The dialogue seemed poorly scripted and delivered, the pregnant woman looked like she was literally holding up a beach ball under her dress. Everyone makes poor decisions; and while poor decisions are common in slasher films, these may be among the worst. The lighting ? what is up with the neon lighting? I presume it is supposed to be Christmas lights, but it doesn't look like them (and how are they working if the power is out?). And let's not get started on the stereotypical, one-dimensional closeted Christian pastor.
And one of the biggest downfalls is making the film a Christmas story. There is a bit of Christmas-related plot (the giving of gifts), but this is rather irrelevant to the story at large. Cletus could have shown up on any day of the year and it would have been just as well. The setting of Australia also seems wrong for Christmas, because an important part of Christmas horror is snow. I suppose that might be unfair to Australians because it more or less means they can't make Christmas horror films? but I think my point is really that if you're going for a Christmas theme, really make it somehow recognizable or important to the plot. Instead, it seems like this was just pandering, trying to capitalize on a title that is similar to "Black Christmas"? and this one isn't even as good as the "Black Christmas" remake.
I may be coming down unusually hard on the film. "Red Christmas" is better than many of the low-budget horror films that flood the market these days. And I have to give them credit for the practical effects; some are rough, but I'd rather see a bad practical effect than bad CGI. What really disappointed me was how this film made the cut for Fantasia. With the dozens of top-notch world premieres, it's a shame when something like this slips through. Critic Matt Donato really sums it up when he says the movie "falls short of being the next killer yuletide classic." Yep. Expect it to die a quiet death on video store shelves.