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Red Christmas (2016)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/17/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/30/2017
Holiday-themed horror movies are nothing new. A killer Santa Claus appeared in 1972's Tales from the Crypt and Bob Clark's 1974 filmBlack Christmas is a classic. But, it was 1978's Halloween which jump-started the sub-genre and apparently convinced producers that any holiday could be turned into a scary movie. The absurd amount of movies which emerged from this trend eventually turned literally absurd, as it devolved into spoofs of the genre. While the deluge may have subsided, we still get the occasional entry, such as 2015's Krampus. Joining this group is the indie entry Red Christmas.
Matriarch Diane (Dee Wallace) has gathered her family at her secluded countryside home for Christmas eve. She is joined by her brother, Joe (Geoff Morrell), her son, Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), her daughters, Hope (Deelia Meriel) Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and Ginny (Janis McGavin), and the latter twos significant others, Scott (Bjorn Stewart) and Peter (David Collins). The holiday spirit is definitely not in the air, as the bickering and insults begin immediately, despite Diane's best efforts to keep things together. Things take a decidedly odd turn when a stranger (Sam Campbell) dressed in a grim reaper-esque cloak arrives at the front door. This strange individual insists that he's come with a message for his mother, which enrages the family, leading to the cloaked man being ejected from the house. However, his visit is not complete and he begins to hunt the family.
Red Christmas is an odd movie. Writer/Director Craig Anderson has worked for years in his native Australia as an actor and behind the camera on various comedies. This movie marks his first attempt at a feature film and (as far as I can tell) his initial stab at horror. He presents us with a project which immediately bites off more than it can chew. For starters, there are too many characters and with the film's relatively short running time, there is little opportunity for character development. Therefore, everyone here is a stereotype -- the religious zealot, the goth girl, the motherly mom. As we will discuss in a moment, the movie wallows in some cliches, but Anderson attempts to give the movie a serious tone...I think. I won't divulge who the stranger is or why he has crashed this Christmas party, but it could certainly be construed as a political statement, or as a juvenile attempt at being controversial. The movie remains oddly neutral in presenting this idea.
Those pieces aside, what we mainly get with Red Christmas is a mediocre slasher film. Once the characters are introduced and the stranger makes his initial appearance, the sun goes down and the movie becomes a standard stalk and slash movie. And given the sheer amount of characters, this means that we witness a lot of stalking and slashing. And given that most of these characters are unlikable, we simply wait for them each to be murdered. Anderson does make an attempt to deliver some creative kills -- although one must wonder were the bear trap came from -- and he utilizes some nice camera angles, but nothing can change the fact that we've seen this all before.
But, those things aside, we get to the film's true fatal flaw. I don't care how much Christmas spirit you have, if you live in the middle of nowhere, you don't let someone dressed as the Grim Reaper into your house. This isn't Monty Python. This moment which occurs at the end of the first act, pulled me completely out of the movie. It was bad enough watching spiteful people get killed, but it was worse feeling that they deserved it for opening the door for someone who is literally dressed like death. (And don't get me started on the early moment when the killer murders a completely unknown stranger in a scene which involves urine for some reason.) The central idea of Red Christmas could be interesting, but Anderson seems to do everything in his power to ruin it. If someone tries to give you Red Christmas this holiday season, ask them if they still have the receipt.
Red Christmas did not make me want to visit Australia for the holidays on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Artsploitation Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably the reds, but the image is somewhat during the latter half. The picture is a bit soft in some spots, but the depth looks fine. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 448 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track doesn't have the clarity and power of a lossless track, but it does deliver some nice stereo and surround effects. The "jump" moments allow the subwoofer to get involved.
The Red Christmas Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Craig Anderson. "Dee Wallace Speaks!" (20 minutes) is an interview conducted in August, 2017 by Anderson. It allows the actress to talk about her involvement in the film and her experiences with the production. "Interview with Gerald O'Dwyer" (10 minutes) has Anderson and actor Sam Campbell visiting actor O'Dwyer at his home and asking him about how he came to be in the movie. We get a 3-minute "Blooper Reel", as well as one DELETED SCENE which runs about 1 minute. The final extra is a "Craig Anderson Mini-Interview" (2 minutes) in which O'Dwyer asks the Director questions.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long