Horror legend Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, E.T., Cujo, Critters) stars as the stressed-out mother of a squabbling family, gathered together in a remote Outback estate on Christmas Eve. When a mysterious, deformed young man named Cletus appears at their door, things soon change from petty insults to bloody, imaginatively orchestrated violence as Wallace attempts to protect her family from the vengeful intruder. The film deliriously infuses comedy, dark family secrets with outlandish gore and adds the always controversial subject of abortion in its blood-stained mix.
'Tis the season for snow and lights and presents and... buckets of blood as filmmaker Craig Anderson delivers body parts roasting on an open fire with Red Christmas, a movie that stars movie icon Dee Wallace (Cujo, The Howling, E.T.). I have to admit, I'm a giant candy cane sucker for holiday-themed horror movies, especially ones that come with the Christmas theme. With Red Christmas though, Anderson had a little more to say than just someone killing people on Christmas in a mask. In fact, there are several political and social elements here that play too on the nose for my taste, but also give the story and characters an original feel.
Dee Wallace plays the head-of-the-house to her rather big family, consisting of her husband, her four grown children, and their respective spouses. All of them come together for Christmas to eat and yell at each other over petty differences while Dee tries to make everyone happy. Rather early on in the film, a mysterious masked stranger appears at the door, only to be invited in, then almost immediately kicked out, harshly, for only speaking his mind. What's on his mind, you ask? Abortion and revenge. More on that in a second. After this masked man is cast out, the guts and blood start flowing as everyone starts losing heads, appendages, and more, while Dee tries to save the day.
You've seen most of this all before, but the story and characters make this indie horror holiday flick work. Back to that abortion topic. The first images of the film are people protesting over the topic of abortion in slow motion, and this theme plays a major role in the film throughout as family secrets are exposed. Some films would explore this subject as an underlying tone, but this one is here, front and center, even though it never seems preachy. There are some more topics that come up, but why spoil all the fun here. You'll just have to watch it.
The performances are good enough for a low budget horror film, but Dee Wallace just owns this role and is phenomenal every time she's on screen, which is most of the film. You could tell she had a good time here and thought this film had a good message. The blood and guts flow often and, coming from a big horror fan, the death scenes are decent. Anderson uses a bunch of holiday colored filters on the camera, so there are a lot of red and blue tinted scenes, which fit the atmosphere. Of course, being low budget, some things don't make a lick of sense, but if holiday horror is your scene, you'll want to check this one out.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Red Christmas comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Artsploitation and is Region A Locked. There is no insert or digital download here. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case.
Red Christmas comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.25:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot digitally and is extremely colorful. Anderson used a ton of filters on his camera lens that gives a lot of the scenes a very red, green, purple, and yellow tint. You can tell he's a fan of Dario Argento in this realm. When those filters are applied, some of the detail is lost and things can get soft. In other cases with natural lighting or regular studio lighting, the detail is sharp and vivid.
Wrinkles, makeup effects, and individual hairs look excellent in close-ups, and all of the blood splatter and gory guts can be distinguished quite easily. Going back to the color scheme, when not draped in filters, the colors are bright and bold, even in the darker sequences that showcase red blood and all of the Christmas lights. Black levels are consistently deep and the skin tones look natural too. There were no major issues with noise or banding, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. It's a loud track, but mostly front heavy, which is not what you want for a horror movie. You want those surrounds to make you think the killer is right behind you. That's not the case here. Sound effects are turned up and sound realistic, but they don't have a whole lot of dynamics to them.
Crescendos pack a punch for cheap scares and, when traps or kill scenes take place, the sound effects really do make the effort, but often fall short. There is some added heft with bass, but it's all fairly low key. The ambient noises of nature and other people screaming are there, but it's soft and in the rear speakers. Other than those ambient noises, the rears don't produce much sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and free of all pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
Red Christmas isn't anything new in the horror department, as we've seen the same masked killer in many other films before it, stalk its victims one by one with buckets of blood. What sets this movie apart from the rest are the "in your face" themes of abortion and other sensitive subjects that pop up along with way. It doesn't hide what it is at its core and that's respectable. Plus, it gives original character motivations that we haven't seen before. There's some good gore and a magnificent performance from Dee Wallace. The video looks good, but the audio track could have been improved. There are some cute, decent extras, that are worth watching as well. I'm going to recommend this one, because when you combine horror, blood, and Christmas, you have a movie that you'll watch every year and be satisfied.