Another Christmas horror to mark this very special month. What makes you feel more Christmassy than witnessing horrific deaths at the hand of a disturbed antagonist in a Santa’s hat? Nothing, that’s what.
I do have to say I’m a little bit Crimbo/Horror-ed out now but that’s okay because Jill and I are going to skip down the Hallmark path next. So expect lots of cheddar and/or stressed female execs finally learning the true meaning of Christmas via the medium of lust for a seemingly inappropriate male colleague.
Until then, my pretties.
Red Christmas (2016)
A mother must protect her family on Christmas Day from a demented stranger who is hell-bent on tearing them apart.
We begin this twisted tale with a strange abortion clinic montage that is both confusing and distressing, let’s be honest. There’s a lot of Pro Life bullshit chanting going on on screen which culminates in a bomb going off in the hospital/clinic. All this whilst a termination is in full swing.
Fast forward to Christmas Day several years later and lovely matriarch Diane is enjoying an Australian Christmas with her family. Her brood appears to be comprised of both adopted and biological children which isn’t really explained as far as I can tell but is probably a device to make you see what a good person she is. And she is, don’t get me wrong.
Right away we meet Jerry, Diane’s Down’s Syndrome son who is hands down the best character in this piece. Jerry is a lot of fun, taking the mick out of his mum and it is clear the two share an unshakeable bond. Well, we’ll see about that, horror fans!
We also meet a heavily preggo daughter and her doofish partner, her Christian sister, her vicar husband and an artsy misfit who’s name I didn’t even catch. Note: Don’t get too attached to anybody, that’s my advice. The crew obviously have some issues with one another, while the pregnant daughter is very unhappy with Diane, who has put the grand house she lives in on the market and is due to go travelling around Europe just after the festive period.
Pregnant Daughter maintains that it’s a selfish thing to do but Diane argues that since the death of her husband (who we learn has passed after a long illness), she has every right to throw caution to the wind for once in her life. The woman has like 7000 children so cut her a break, bitch.
Anyway, in the midst of a full blown argument in which sides are quickly drawn, there’s a knock on the door. Diane answers it to a bandaged figure in black grim reaper robes. The stranger is extremely polite though, stating that he’s only looking for his mother. Diane takes pity on him as good people are wont to do and invites him in, much to the horror of her children – and on this one I’m kind of with them.
The children are really unfriendly to the guest, who seems hellbent on reading out a letter he’s written to his aforementioned mother. Eventually the family relent and the stranger does just that. It’s just a shame then that his letter is full of judgement about abortion then, really. Diane reacts rather heatedly and the stranger is soon ejected from the house. Diane is ruffled considerably, given that she has a pregnant daughter in the house and also miscarried a baby in her own past.
The family vow to get on with their day but sadly for them, our friend has other ideas and it appears, an agenda of his own. One by one the family are picked off violently, starting with my potential favourite, the rebel daughter. The motivation for all this murder also becomes clearer as Diane eventually confesses (to the vicar, no less) that she didn’t miscarry after all but chose to abort the baby.
Sadly, while discussing this with her son-in-law, she mentions that fact that the baby had Down’s Syndrome like her son Jerry and he overhears her. Jerry then believes that she had never wanted him either and freaks the f**k out. Diane’s reason for the abortion isn’t that cut and dry though and hinged on the fact her husband was ill and she didn’t know if he was going to make it.
Also, Cletus (the stranger) is actually the aborted foetus who wasn’t actually aborted because his termination was interrupted by a bomb way back when (and Diane was so out of it she didn’t know). BOOM! (Both literally and in the sense that this story has now come round full circle). As a result he is hideously deformed, hence the bandaged face and hood.
Following Diane’s revelation, Jerry finds himself empathising with Cletus, who shares the same condition as he has. This is quite moving actually, amidst all the carnage.
In the meantime, everyone’s dying by Cletus’ hand, Preggo Daughter’s in labour and it’s a bloodbath, man. Will Cletus get what he’s set out to gain from all this? Which isn’t that clear but I believe to be reassurance that his mother loves him after all.
When he is rejected once again, you can kind of predict how the rest of it turns out.
I’m a bit baffled about the science of this plot. Maybe it’s explained better than I remember in the film but surely, the chances of a foetus surviving, albeit deformed and sickly, would be dependant on the stage at which is was terminated/not terminated? In the introduction it seems Cletus was rescued from a surgical bin amidst the hub bub of the attack on the clinic? I can suspend my disbelief I guess but there are questions.
Otherwise, this film conveniently puts together a patchwork of beliefs within the family, blending religious views with liberal ones and that’s sort of interesting. I couldn’t work out if the film had a judgemental tone regarding abortion or not, and my instinct is no. It just throws a topic in the ring and lets the characters go at it. The fact there’s a religious element shakes things up a little bit and I guess ultimately Cletus is a somewhat sympathetic character, thus asking you to consider his position.
There’s a lot of guilt flying around Diane’s head too and seems unfair she should be made to feel this way after everything she has given to her family. Any woman for that matter.
I did read somewhere that this film was beautifully lit and this is a very true statement. It’s stunning to look at. Maybe it should have been a silent movie instead. Also, it’s worth noting that Dee Wallace, who plays Diane is superb. She’s got a real horror pedigree (The Frighteners/Cujo/E.Fucking.T!) and you can tell she’s a pro when it comes to defending her home and loved ones from something terrible.
Props too to Gerard Odywer who is great as Jerry. When the film started I was really impressed that his character had Down’s Syndrome but nobody was making a big deal of it. This changed of course as Cletus’ storyline evolved but I’m not mad at it. I really want to see more actors with disabilities/learning difficulties in the mainstream and this was a good start.
So my consensus is: this is a weird film that tries but doesn’t quite deliver.