Release Date(s)2017 (October 17, 2017)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
First-time director Craig Anderson brings us a slice of holiday slasher horror with Red Christmas. Fortunately, this isn’t just a cheap, by-the-numbers stocking stuffer with little more on its mind than the carnage, although there’s plenty of that. It not only tackles subjects like religion, abortion, and genetic disorder, but puts them right at the forefront, making them integral to the overall story and thematic drive of the film. In a tale of a somewhat fractured and inharmonious family gathering together for Christmas and receiving a homicidal visit from a cloaked figure claiming to be the mother’s (Dee Wallace’s) son, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize where the story is going and what it’s really about.
The most obvious positive aspect of the film is Dee Wallace, who unsurprisingly, carries the film, even through some of its lesser passages. Although the relationships between characters, specifically the two sisters, are difficult to weather so early on in the film, they actually serve a purpose in demonstrating the non-idyllic standard that Wallace’s character has been subjected to, possibly through her own actions. The kills themselves come quickly and the laugh-out-loud gore moments are few and far between, but the build up to the showdown between a mother and her estranged son (although estranged doesn’t quite cover it) is really the heart of the film. Darkly comedic and often overcoming more of its surface level qualities, Red Christmas is a low budget horror gut punch that’s a little rough around the edges, but solid in thematic narrative framing.
The Blu-ray presentation of Red Christmas is a strong one. Despite being a flat presentation due to the use of digital cinematography, it’s a colorful film with plenty of fine detail on display, thick black levels, and good texturing. It’s also a tad soft in places and lacks some definition, but overall, quite satisfying. The audio is presented on English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks. Despite the added speaker space in the multi-channel track, it’s mostly a front-heavy presentation with little to no rear speaker activity, so I recommend sticking with the traditional stereo audio. Dialogue comes through quite well, and while not overtly potent, the sound effects and score have some clarity and audible weight to them, including light LFE activity. In addition, there are also subtitles in English SDH, as well as a few extras. There’s an audio commentary with writer/director Craig Anderson; Dee Wallace Speaks!, a brief interview with the actress; an interview with actor Gerald O’Dwyer; a blooper reel; a single deleted scene; and a mini-interview with Craig Anderson. It’s worth noting that Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release included a couple of behind the scenes segments, as well as trailers for the film. Also, Craig Anderson’s 99-minute documentary about the making and release of the film Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare hasn’t been included either.
I can certainly understand folks putting on Red Christmas and not getting it initially. It’s definitely not the kind of film you want to watch as a fun holiday horror romp in the vein of Krampus. Instead, it can be deeply unsettling, which isn’t what your average horror fan is always in the mood for. However, if you can manage to stick with it, you’ll find that it has something worth saying, and any genre film that addresses these kinds of issues without remorse or managing to turn into a message of some kind that drowns out the narrative is all right by me.
- Tim Salmons