Eye For Film >> Movies >> Red Christmas (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Christmas is a time for family, or so it's said. That can be tough enough at the best of times - enough to make you want to run away and watch horror films like this one to escape the forced festive spirit - but for one Australian family, it's about to get a lot worse. It's not just the bitching between two daughters who disapprove of each other's lifestyles, the awkwardness around religious differences, or the various buried secrets - it's also the hooded stranger whose arrival and prompt rejection turns a carefully planned celebration into a bloodbath.
The violence to come is heralded by an opening scene that at first seems disconnected: the bombing of an abortion clinic almost two decades earlier. Caught up in this, matriarch Diane (Dee Wallace) has buried her trauma deep, but now it's coming back to haunt her. A veteran scream queen who made her name with Cujo and Critters (and a role in E.T.), Wallace makes a tremendous lead, unleashing a force of personality hitherto unseen. The violence becomes necessary to balance this, because despite competent work from all her co-stars, nothing comes close to matching her.
We're in slasher territory, as you may have guessed, with a festive twist to some of the deaths and plenty of tinsel and Santa hats, but the family setting gives this a lot more depth, allowing for complex relationships that make the interaction of the terrorised characters much more interesting than that of the usual screaming teenagers. There are numerous pithy social observations and there's some great dialogue (not just reliant on witty one-liners). Crucially, all of the characters have more going on than just the superficial traits we notice about them first. The plot plays with themes around the Nativity, birth and what it means to be a mother, with a sharp eye for the burden of caring which it is assumed will fall on women, but the characters are not just there to serve it.
There's some challenging stuff here, and not all viewers will be comfortable with the idea of a villain who has Down syndrome, but it's certainly a step up from such characters existing purely as objects of pity, and his arc fits neatly into that of many a villain before him. He too gets a measure of complexity and is not unsympathetic. Crucially, he's also not the only character with Down syndrome in the film (making it a real rarity), with the two as distinct as any of the other characters, and both have contributions to make to the plot.
The politics of abortion will also make this difficult viewing for some, though overall Red Christmas provides much more in the way of balanced perspective and nuance than many a serious drama on the subject. It's leavened with comedy which gets very dark in places but also brings on slapstick when it's needed. The action scenes are well handled within the limited spaces afforded by the house, and it holds the attention well throughout, even during the slower stretches. There are better slasher films out there when it comes to special effects, but Red Christmas does enough to keep the gore fans happy. This is definitely no turkey.Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2017