• Red Christmas

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: October 5th, 2017.
    Director: Craig Anderson
    Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGavin, David Collins
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Craig Anderson, Red Christmas is set in Australia where a woman named Diane (Dee Wallace) is doing everything in her power to ensure that the upcoming holiday spent with her… quirky family goes off without a hitch. They all get together at the big old family home out in the remote Outback on Christmas Eve, looking forward to a good time despite some family drama. As Diane intends to sell the home to finance some travel, this is intended to be a last hurrah of sorts. Her husband Joe (Geoff Morrell) is there as is their Downs’ Syndrome afflicted son Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), their daughter Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and her minister husband Peter (David Collins), pregnant daughter Ginny (Janis McGavin) and her husband Scott (Bjorn Stewart) and last but not least, their adopted daughter Hope (Deelia Meriel).

    Thanks take a strange turn when a strange, deformed man named Cletus (Sam Campbell) clad in a long black cloak knocks on the door. At first they feel sorry for the guy and let him in – it is Christmas after all - but soon enough, his strong extremist religious beliefs bubble up to the surface and he starts ranting about abortion. At this point, the family is understandably uncomfortable and Diane asks him to leave, but he’s not having any of it and he shows up again later that same night. At this point she realizes she’s going to have to defend her family from the increasingly manic intruder sets about getting revenge for something that ties into the collective past he shares with Diane.

    As much a twisted black comedy as it is a horror or slasher picture, Red Christmas is pretty entertaining stuff. You’ll be able to figure out the twist in the film early on, the opening scene involving the bombing of an abortion clinic makes it pretty clear. Though that aspect of the story is not particularly well hidden, but it does tie into the story in interesting ways. Is there a message here? Not really, at least it doesn’t seem that way. The abortion theme is used interestingly here but by the time we get to the end of the movie there’s been so much chaos and carnage that you don’t ever get the impression that this is meant to have a particularly serious political bent to it.

    The performances are pretty solid. While the supporting cast all do a fine job of making their characters memorable enough, it’s really Dee Wallace who holds all of this together. Anyone familiar with her work on classics like Cujo, E.T., and The Howling can attest to the fact that she’s a fine actress. Here she really is head and shoulders above the rest, making Diane the best part of the film. Good on her! Special mention also needs to go to Gerard Odwyer, who really does have Downs’ Syndrome in real life, for his work as Jerry. He’s a blast to watch here and you really get the impression he was having a good time on this shoot. Sam Campbell also does nice work as Cletus, cutting a pretty imposing frame and looking very much like the grim reaper himself, what with his long black cloak and mostly hidden face.

    The movie is frequently bathed in primary lighting which gives it an interesting look likely inspired by Bava or Argento, but it never reaches the heights that their better known pictures do. The camerawork in the picture could have been better, there are times when the cinematography just isn’t all that impressive, but otherwise the production values are pretty decent. The gore effects are not only plentiful but completely over the top and look to have been done using pretty much entirely practical effects work – always a plus.


    Umbrella Entertainment offers up Red Christmas on DVD in an anamorphic widescreen presentation that’s framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. As this was shot digitally there’s obviously no print damage to note or grain to discuss. Detail isn’t as solid here as it would be on a Blu-ray but this is a perfectly fine standard definition offering. Colors are nicely reproduced and black levels are solid. There are some minor compression artifacts here and there but otherwise, nothing to complain about, the movie looks just fine.

    The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is also fine. The surround channels are used almost exclusively for the score more than anything else, with the dialogue mostly up front in the mix but it works. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are fine. Optional English subtitles are offered up here as well. A lossless track would have made certain scenes more effective, but what’s here sounds fine.

    Extras, which differ a bit from the Artsploitation Films Blu-ray release reviewed here, start off with a director’s commentary courtesy of Craig Anderson. He speaks quite thoroughly about what went into creating the picture, writing the script, where some of the ideas for the story came from, some of the themes that the picture deals with, working with the cast and crew assembled for the film and lots more.

    From there, we get a two part behind the scenes featurette, the first part running fifteen minutes and the second running thirteen minutes. There’s lots of on-set footage here showing the director at work and the cast doing their things. There’s some interesting footage showing off the effects work as well. In addition to that we get a lot of candid interviews with various participants, some axe throwing practice footage, lots of footage of Ms. Wallace being as charming as ever and more.

    Up next is a ten minute interview with actor Gerald O’Dwyer, again conducted by Anderson with help from Sam Campbell. O’Dwyer, who has Downs’ Syndrome, answers questions about his work on the film posed to him by various cast and crew members. Outside of that we get a single deleted scene, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Red Christmas is an entertaining mix of gory horror and twisted black comedy directed with a fair amount of style and featuring a seriously good performance from the top billed Dee Wallace. The Australian DVD release from Umbrella Entertainment offers a fine standard definition presentation.