I think that there is a very good movie hiding beneath the nonsense and absurdity that is Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas.” I want to say that I appreciated it’s willingness to just certain taboos, but in the end I could never figure out if the film was an indictment on the pro choice movement, an indictment of the pro life movement, or maybe just an altogether mushy mélange of nonsense meant to dismiss both sides of the argument. I didn’t know and I really couldn’t care less, because “Red Christmas” has some very strong performances backing it up. It’s just sad that it’s a mean spirited, ugly, tedious, and altogether tonally confused home invasion horror film.
Dee Wallace is Diane, the matriarch of a dysfunctional family that is spending their Christmas in an estate in the outback. As the bickering and tensions rise among the trio of sisters in the family, a cloaked bandage wrapped man named Cletus appears, anxious to talk to Diane. Horrified by his appearance, Cletus reads aloud a letter that is meant for Diane and insinuates that she is his mother. When he’s aggressively thrown out, Cletus returns hours later prepare to enact revenge on everyone in the house. Despite his inability to move around much, Cletus ends up being an inexplicably swift and cold blooded killer who begins slaughtering the family members one by one.
Rather than simply hide out for the night, or retreat to their cars, Cletus corners them for some reason and murders them in some over the top methods. The whole intention of delivering something of a tragic tale of a woman who aborted her child, only for him to survive and return for vengeance is undermined by the film’s tongue in cheek tone. I was never sure what the movie intended and who it was exactly meant for. Bodies are split in half, people are murdered with umbrellas, and there’s even a silly sequence involving a food processor. Writer Anderson mixes a bunch of unevenly developed characters, insinuating certain plot elements that are never realized and remain fairly unresolved.
From the religiously devout brother in law with obvious homosexual tendencies, to youngest brother Gerry, a man with down syndrome who ends up being more important to the film than we realize only for Anderson to later dump it. It’s played as a mystery for most of the film as to who Cletus is, and it’s just a poor execution. There’s not a lot of explanation as to why he’s so violent and super strong as it’s only injected because the movie needs a villain, and once the second half introduces itself, the script weakly flips the characters on their heads. The direction is solid and Dee Wallace and Gerald Odwyer give strong turns, “Red Christmas” is just a nasty, unpleasant, poorly constructed, and confused movie I was anxious to see end.