Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Craig Anderson's Red Christmas

of 9 viewers "Liked" "Red Christmas" (2016, Australia)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

Math Mage - "Cornual gore and serious drama does not work. Super mutant versus humorous dysfunctional family does not work either. Aborted fetus back for revenge (raised by a suicide bomber) does work." - 2 Stars

Speed Demon - "Red Christmas a pretty interesting slasher film. Haven't seen one this creative since Hatchet. Likable characters and a solid story. Super fun and the kills were off the hook. Even though they weren't gory and didn't show a lot, they were still impressive. Greatness all around. Definitely a must watch." - 4 Stars

Dabbles - "OMG this movie is so good! There are so many memorable things in this movie. I hope Red Christmas makes its rounds! Such a crazy movie!" - 5 Stars

Lord Battle - "In a world populated by SJW's, I find myself living in-between South Park seasons. What I mean is I'm constantly searching TV and Film for a voice that rings true. One that not only isn't afraid to speak candidly about things like gender and race but a voice that actually tries to push the topic into an uncomfortable space that allows us to explore, celebrate our differences and grow from the experience. Red Christmas lives in this uncomfortable space and it boldly goes where no man person has gone before." - 3.5 Stars

Huntress - "I've been very curious about Red Christmas since I heard about it from KillDozer; the limited cast and location piqued my interest, and the fact that it was also a modern day Christmas horror movie made it even better. Well the wait was definitely worth it, as it turned out to be a very original, fantasy coated yet somehow still realistic film. It nailed the "you don't choose your family" stress of the holidays while also making it entirely believable that this group of clashing personalities still cared about each other. When things start really falling apart for the family, we are introduced to one of the most controversial slashers I can think of. " - 3.5 Stars

The Great Hornito - "This was a surprisingly unique holiday horror movie. Red Christmas did a great job of building typical family holiday tension. It started off slow but when the ball started rolling, things got crazy and super creepy really fast. Dee Wallace was amazing as usual and the supporting cast didn't disappoint. Overall one to recommend for the holidays." - 4 Stars

KillDozer - "It's scary sitting down to watch a film that has a lot of buzz around it and even scarier when you think about the fact that Christmas Horror used to be a small but well loved genre gem that few would venture into but now has become a major selling point. Fortunately this film was written and directed by Craig Anderson, who happens to have one of the greatest collections of old and obscure VHS ever! Meaning what exactly you ask? Well it's a sure sign that he knows his stuff and the decisions made in creating this film were made out of love and not to cash in on Christmas horror hype. Another sign that we were in good hands with this movie is that it was produced by legendary actress Dee Wallace (Popcorn, Cujo, The Howling, E.T., Critters etc.) who also stars in the film. Knowing full well that this was not a major studio or big budget release, I was hoping to see a labor of love whose budgetary constraints only inspired creativity and genius and I was not let down. Everything from the lighting to the soundtrack showed a true respect for the subject matter and an interesting mash up of revenge and slasher with a hint of exploitation just for fun. The practical effects were creative as hell and very well played in all the right places. Dee Wallace and cast were spot on and as dysfunctional as you would want a Christmas gathering to be. Honestly Dee really takes the spotlight in this one and always manages to portray not only a loving mother with sincerity but a strong female lead as well. The writing is great and the film had plenty of dark comic moments that are entertaining but don't take away from the terrible reality taking place on screen. My only issue with Red Christmas was with a few action sequences with quick choppy editing that left me trying to piece together what just took place to make sure I saw what I think I saw (if that makes sense). This film deserved its spot on Fangoria's top ten most anticipated films of Fantasia Film Fest and I highly recommend it for all horror family holiday party screenings. I really look forward to seeing what Craig Anderson brings us next." - 4 stars (collection worthy and a new great holiday screening tradition)

The Impostor - "A Christmas horror film starring the great Dee Wallace, I'm all in. Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. Part of that is because I look forward to marathoning Christmas horror films like Gremlins, Black Christmas, and Silent Night Deadly night. Red Christmas will definitely be added to the list for years to come. Well acted, especially when it came to Dee Wallace. There was no dull moment that I can think of. Some pretty intense kills and practical effects were used perfectly. Last but not least the slasher Cletus is surprisingly well executed, from his appearance to his back story. Overall I'd recommend Red Christmas and I look forward to owning it in the near future." - 5 Stars

The Creature of the ComiCombs - "This movie was great. A refreshingly original slasher with a good cast to back it. Too many times I've found it difficult to feel anything for characters but that wasn't a problem here. I actually felt bummed out when some of the characters met their gruesome end. The gore was terrific and the story was enjoyable. Some of the edits were a bit confusing and I wanted to see some of the back story for our slasher, it would have added depth. This one was miles above several movies that we have seen in the theatre this year, I highly recommend it." - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

As a big fan of the holiday horror sub-genre, one of the things I ask myself with each new addition is why Christmas? What's the motivation behind including it? There are really two answers, the first being that it's important to the story, having a large impact on character motivations or simply tying into the mythology of the holiday. The other option is to raise the stakes, amping up the emotional investment by threatening not only the lives of the people involved, but the holiday as a whole... But some films that use this method aren't that thoughtful about it. In fact, many of the films that fall into the second category put no thought into it (Bloodbeat, ATM). Maniac Cop 2 is a good example of using X-mas as a technical choice; KillDozer asked William Lustig about why he decided to have his sequel set during Christmas, and we never would have guessed it was for lighting purposes (listen to the Q&A where he addressed this Here)!
I recently read a review of Red Christmas titled "Almost the Worst Christmas Horror Film Ever Made" and one of the reasons given as to why the film doesn't work is exactly what I've been trying to articulate...

"And one of the biggest downfalls is making the film a Christmas story. There is a bit of Christmas-related plot (the giving of gifts), but this is rather irrelevant to the story at large."
- gavin6942 (IMDB movie review)

I would normally agree with this assessment if it wasn't completely wrong in this situation. Red Christmas is a microcosm film. A microcosm film is one that gathers a group of characters that each represents a different part of a society, then puts them through a traumatic event so we can see how each of the small parts effects the whole (i.e. John Ford's Stage Coach). In Red Christmas we are introduced to a diverse family, one that has grown apart and whose relationships have changed. It feels like one thing that used to bring them together was tradition, although this was a bittersweet gathering as it will be the last one in their childhood home. With the house being sold, the "family" will have nothing to come back to next year. And as they bicker through Christmas Eve dinner, they are visited by the last of their family, who plays the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past and Future, acting as a curse meant to educate the adult children of their mother's secret past while also acting as a larger metaphor that embodies the struggle of living with our tougher decisions... But then again, Red Christmas may just be a "Post Cringe" grind-house film...

(KillDozer's interview with filmmaker Craig Anderson can be found here.)

- Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a residence for a screening on 8/4/2016
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.

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