REVIEW: Red Christmas
– By Dave Dubrow
There’s an old joke that goes something like, “If God can do anything, can He create a rock so heavy that even He couldn’t lift it?” Adapted to the cinema, the question becomes, “Can you make a slasher flick so bad that even Dee Wallace couldn’t save it?”
Yes. Yes, you can. RED CHRISTMAS is that movie.
There are such things as good slasher flicks. Maybe they’ve got some funny lines, some memorable kills, or a distinctly horrific antagonist. Perhaps you care about the victims before they’re murdered because they’re relatable in some way. It might just be that there’s some titillation, a flash of skin to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Unfortunately, Red Christmas has none of those things, leaving the viewer to regret the loss of time better spent at the dentist or scrubbing the mildew ring off of one’s toilet bowl.
The movie takes place in Australia on Christmas day, where a sixty-something mom brings her family together to celebrate the holiday. As happens all too often during the Yuletide season, the baby she aborted twenty years ago during an abortion clinic bombing has come to crash the party, and the typical slasher antics ensue. One of the movie’s most glaring failings is its tone: it attempted to be funny quite a lot, then the humor dried up in the last third, leaving one to wonder what those early attempts at garnering laughs were supposed to be about. Not only that, but in its terribly clumsy way it tried to address the issues of abortion, caring for the handicapped, and personal guilt, but bollixed them up into a terrible, unsympathetic mess.
In a film where everyone acts like complete jerks to each other, are we supposed to care when the characters are murdered one by one? It’s not easy to develop a sympathetic character, but it doesn’t absolve the screenwriter of the responsibility of trying. Otherwise we’re left with the unpleasant experience of watching bad people having awful things done to them, like in this film here. Scream queen Dee Wallace does yeoman’s (yeowoman’s?) work in her performance as the troubled matriarch of this clan of mean-spirited assholes, but she’s not in every scene and can’t single-handedly lift this movie into watchability.
Christianity, modern cinema’s favorite punching bag, gets a major workout in the film. You’ve got homicidally angry Bible-bashers protesting (and later bombing) an abortion clinic; a creepy, voyeuristic, masturbating priest son-in-law; and horrifically deformed slasher Cletus, who leaves vengeance-quoting Bible passages around to justify his murderous acts. When things go from terrible to appalling, the devout characters kneel and face the wall, mumbling prayers instead of helping family members in distress. This thematic cliché may be a draw for you, in which case you’re in for a treat: put on your Ricky Gervais Underoos and get watching.
To make the plot move forward, every character makes a number of decisions that could be charitably described as boneheaded, but by the time the third person’s murdered you’re left hoping that everyone else will just throw him or herself into the killer’s path to put you out of your misery. Modest spurts of fake blood, a small hatchet that somehow manages to split a standing person in two, and a penis-ripping-off bit round out the horror, ending with scenes of dead people’s feet.
Movies like Red Christmas really make you appreciate the classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night and the entire Friday the 13th oeuvre. We had it so good back then and we didn’t know it. So shed a tear for those bygone days of yesteryear, when the killers were scary, the murders were gory, and the co-eds were nubile. I fear we may never see those days again, and we are all poorer for it. Instead, for our sins, we’re left with Red Christmas.