by Hope Madden
A holiday celebration of bad taste, Aussie writer/director Craig Anderson’s Red Christmas is a yuletide grab bag of solid performances, provocative subject matter, lazy scripting and gore.
Horror icon and E.T. mom Dee Wallace (who also produces) stars as Diane, the matriarch of a big Australian family gathering for the last holiday at their family home. With all the kids grown, Diane is selling off her large country estate and taking some time for herself.
But first—the best Christmas ever!
She’s joined by a set of squabbling adult children and their spouses, a pot-head uncle, and a stranger bedecked in dirty bandages, black robes and the reek of urine.
That last guest will be trouble.
Anderson has a lot on his mind about family, birth, death, murder, choice and basically every other noun you can associate with abortion. He is neither subtle nor judgmental, honestly, with carnage and questions piling up on both sides of the issue.
His film weaves between the splatter comedy stylings of a young Peter Jackson and the nonsensical decision making of any 80s slasher.
“You stay here while I go do something stupid, leaving you entirely defenseless for no logical reason,” says everyone at one point or another.
A great deal about Red Christmas is grotesque yet intriguing. At least as much of it is tedious and hair-brained.
Wallace delivers, regardless of Diane’s routinely questionable decisions in the face of ax-wielding danger. She masters that maternal support-and-shepherd-and-chastise behavior that allows Diane to feel recognizable and human, no matter the increasingly horrific circumstances.
Each member of the cast finds dimension in thinly drawn characters, and the relationships among them feel well-worn.
Whether clever or distasteful, Anderson manages to dispatch characters in manners grossly suited to the subject matter. So, bravo there, I guess.
Not that you see a great deal of the dismemberment—Anderson’s reliance on red and green filters ensures you see very little of anything. His framing and use of sound focus more on reaction and spillage, really, but his is not a film for the squeamish.
I’m not sure who it is for. Red Christmas offers a peculiar, sloppy bit of macabre that manages to be more memorable than it is enjoyable.