RED CHRISTMAS **** Australia 2016 Dir: Craig Anderson. 82 mins
A bold hybrid of retro-80’s festive slasher, satirical Christmas family drama and button-pushing issues. Widowed matriarch Dee Wallace reunites with her large family at Christmas, a gathering that activates and enhances existing family tensions fuelled further by grief and religion. The arrival of a cloaked, black-clad stranger named Cletus, clutching an envelope with the legend “Mother” and sporting obscured facial deformities, represents an all too corporeal ghost from Wallace’s past and coincides with a splashy series of murders.
“Some pro-life piece of shit preaching on Christmas Day…” Director Anderson superbly captures the bitterness and enduring grudges that proliferate around Christmas, as petty arguments over meringue alternate with a sense of growing threat. The initial arrival of the bizarre-acting, bandaged Cletus reflects the tonal juggling of the film as a whole, treading a fine line between coal black humour and serious, uncomfortable drama. The film’s allegiance to early 80’s slashers is reflected by the deliberately outré death sequences, with an umbrella kill paying homage to SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. The drama succeeds thanks to the impassioned performances by the typically excellent Wallace and by Gerard Odwyer as her grown-up son, a rare unpatronising celluloid portrait of a Down’s Syndrome character, and also the most sympathetic and funniest protagonist in the film. Meanwhile, Sam Campbell makes for a unique, pitiful killer.
Review by Steven West