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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 07.28.16] Australia horror

Ever since 1974's excellent Black Christmas, the yuletide season has been a staple of horror cinema, often appearing as the backdrop for slasher films. During the slasher-saturated 1980s, you could count on at least one Christmas-themed gore-fest every year. Things slowed down a bit from the 1990s onward, but with this year's Red Christmas serving up buckets of blood, is it safe to say that the sub-genre has returned to form? Not exactly, since the festive season only serves as a means to gathering the victims together in one place.

Red Christmas starts amid protests outside of an abortion clinic with a voice-over about how it is a huge issue on both sides of the debate. Inside the clinic, a woman is in the midst of having an abortion when a protester's bomb goes off. In all the chaos that ensues, the bomber sees her half dead fetus and takes it with him to raise as his own. It is now twenty years later and Diane (genre icon Dee Wallace, The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo) is having her adult children and extended family over for a final Christmas celebration at the family home before selling it. Just as they're sitting down to open gifts, a mysterious cloaked and bandaged man named Cletus arrives wanting to read them – Diane specifically - a letter titled Mother. As the letter begins to divulge that Cletus is Diane's abortion grown up, she goes into a rage and throws him out of her house, accusing him of being a protester who has gone too far. Naturally, this doesn't sit too well with Cletus, who we know from a previous scene has some anger issues.

It's at this point that the slashing begins, as Cletus is determined to earn his mother's love in the most absurd way ever.

While there are many gruesome and creative killings to please the bloodthirsty gorehounds that Red Christmas will surely be marketed to, there are plenty of (intentional) laughs to be had as well.

With a blistering performance from Wallace, and strong acting all around – especially Gerard O'Dwyer as Jerry, Diane's Down Syndrome-afflicted son - this is a really fun movie that belies its low budget for the most part. And at its center is a frank presentation of reproductive issues – besides the subject of abortion, daughter Ginny is nine months pregnant while her sister Suzy has been trying for years to have a baby with her preacher husband and is dead-set against going about it in any non-natural way.

So yes, Red Christmas is an entertaining horror flick full of murder and mayhem, but make no mistake: what veteran Aussie TV actor/director Craig Anderson has done with his feature debut is introduce what is possibly the single most divisive topic in society today into a slasher film, with both sides of the discussion given equal weight. A slasher with a social conscience, if you will.

Recommended Release: A Christmas Horror Story

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