×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Red Christmas’

A mutant baby thought to have been aborted returns to spoil an Australian family's holiday gathering in this bad-taste exploitation offering.

With:
Dee Wallace, Geoff Morell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGavin, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Gerard O’Dwyer, Deelia Meriel, Sam “Bazooka” Campbell, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson.

Ozploitation weighs in on the abortion debate with “Red Christmas,” in which an unsuccessfully terminated and hideously deformed fetus returns two decades later to wreak havoc during his family’s already volatile Yuletide celebration. Starring and co-produced by horror icon Dee Wallace (the original “The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Howling” and “Cujo,” not to mention the more family-friendly “E.T.”), the film is an energetic, candy-colored romp through genre tropes that manages to take its subject matter seriously while poking fun at itself at the same time. Following a lusty debut at the Sydney Film Festival, the title will be a natural fit for genre gatherings and ancillary.

In her sprawling rural estate (the film was shot on location in the verdant Southern Highlands of New South Wales), widowed yet spirited matriarch Diane (Wallace) has managed the not-insignificant task of gathering her disparate offspring and their partners to a Christmas Day feast. Their mob includes Diane’s outspoken and very pregnant daughter Ginny (Janis McGavin) and her partner Scott (Bjorn Stewart); Ginny’s conservative and childless sister Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and her preacher husband Peter (David Collins); younger sister Hope (Deelia Meriel); Diane’s Down Syndrome-afflicted son, the Shakespeare quoting Jerry (Gerard Odwyer); and grumpy, pot-smoking uncle Joe (Geoff Morrell).

Their fete is interrupted by the arrival of the mysterious Cletus (Sam “Bazooka” Campbell), clad in dirty bandages and a black cloak, who has come with a letter to “Mother.” More out of politeness than anything else, Diane invites him in, only to realize his missive refers to the other Down Syndrome baby she aborted when her husband was dying of a brain tumor. Subsequently, she vehemently denies this to her family, saying, “Y’know, this is exactly why I don’t go to church anymore.” Cletus is unceremoniously thrown out of the house, but as night falls he has big plans for the mother who rejected him and the family he never knew.

While the gore is relatively restrained for this sort of thing, first-time writer-director Craig Anderson (of the Aussie TV satire “Double the Fist”) compensates with an imaginative flair for the dispatches that includes a “Straw Dogs”-inspired death by animal trap, impalement by umbrella, and the malicious use of a blender. Giving the film a distinctive visual sheen is the lighting design of Doug Bayne, which channels Joe Dante’s “It’s a Good Life” segment of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” with its neon glows produced by, in this case, the Christmas lights that festoon the inside of the house.

Wallace, who has built an off-screen career as a public speaker and self-help author, displays those qualities to good effect through the tough love and spunk of Diane (whose American accent is never explained). Collins, who is half of the popular comedy/mime duo the Umbilical Brothers (“The Upside Down Show,” seen on Nick Jr. stateside) is fine as the minister with backbone.

As with the best exploitation titles, it’s difficult to know when to take Anderson seriously: the distasteful (to some) subject matter is balanced by closing credits that helpfully suggest a clutch of websites on the abortion issue as well as list for further watching that includes Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth” and Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire.”

Film Review: 'Red Christmas'

Reviewed online, Sydney, Australia, June 18, 2016. (In Sydney Film Festival—Freak Me Out.) Running time: 81 MIN.

Production: (Australia) A CraigFX production. Produced by Craig Anderson, Belinda King, Bryan Moses, Dee Wallace. Executive producers, Brett Garten, Artie Laing.

Crew: Director, writer, editor: Craig Anderson. Camera (color, widescreen): Douglas James Burgdorff.

With: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGavin, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Gerard O’Dwyer, Deelia Meriel, Sam “Bazooka” Campbell, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson.

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content