Red Christmas: A Humbug of Christmas Horror

Aussie horror export, Red Christmas, came and went in 2016 with minimal buzz. It was briefly on my radar two years ago, but when it wasn’t initially available here, the Christmas horror movie was quickly forgotten. But ’tis the season, for the third day of our 12 Days of Christmas Carnage, I finally give Red Christmas a watch. Though its official synopsis promises a straightforward home invasion movie, Red Christmas delivers something very different.


On Christmas Day, Mary brings her dysfunctional family together to celebrate the holidays. But the family festivities are unexpectedly interrupted when a heavily bandaged man, Cletus, shows up on the doorstep. As Clestus’ behaviour becomes increasingly strange, Mary has him thrown out of her house. Cletus returns later in the night, onleashing a brutal onslaught on Mary’s family. To save her children, Mary must now confront an agonizing decision she made 20 years earlier. 

Red Christmas A Tonally Inconsistent Mess

Red Christmas isn’t a just a bad movie. It’s a memorably bad movie. No matter how hard you try, you won’t forget it. Craig Anderson pulls triple duty serving as director, producer, and writer. One can’t help but wonder if Anderson wouldn’t have been better served having someone reign him in occasionally. 

Red Christmas suffers from wild shifts in tone. 

There are a lot of things wrong with Red Christmas. First and foremost, the movie suffers from wild shifts in tone. Recent Kiwi horror efforts like Housebound and Deathgasm deftly balanced humour and horror. In Red Christmas, the horror is laughable and the humour is horrific. Some of this is an issue of timing. At odd times, Anderson introduces what I’m assuming was intended to be very dark humour. As a result, everything about the movie feels more awkward than tense or witty. Much of the problem lies in execution. Even when the timing feels right, everything about the movie feels wrong. 

An Offensively Stupid Movie

Arguably, horror movies should be transgressive or subversive. Some of the best horror films have pushed, or outright, erased moral boundaries. But there’s a fine line between transgressive and just offensively stupid. Anderson and Red Christmas stumble into the latter category. Though Anderson may claim he intended otherwise, the movie plays out like a pro-choice abortion movie. To be clear, I am not criticizing the filmmaker for potentially adopting a particular view. The problems lies in the execution. Red Christmas opens with an abortion clinic bombing where a fetus believed to have been aborted reaches out to the bomber. Yes, you read that correctly. That opening pretty much sets the tone for what follows.
Red Christmas is executed in such a way as to border on being tasteless and offensive.

Anderson clearly intended Cletus, the movie’s killer, to have Down’s Syndrome, like his estranged brother. Setting that aside, as compared to other slasher villains, Cletus is neither menacing nor tragically sympathetic. For the most part, Anderson’s killer leaves you feeling uncomfortable and questioning the filmmaker’s intent. When Cletus asks his mother, ‘Why do you keep killing your children?”, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, or turn the movie off. Maybe Anderson intended something different but intentions are often irrelevant. Red Christmas is executed in such a way as to border on being tasteless and offensive.

Poor Dee Wallace Deserves Better

There are a lot of things wrong with Red Christmas, but the performances aren’t among the problems. Genre favourite Dee Wallace rises above the material, and turns in a performance much better than what Red Christmas deserves. In fact, Wallace seems far more invested in this character than her more recent appearance in Death House. At times, Wallace seems to be acting in an entirely different movie. And that’s intended as a compliment.

Not much else about Red Christmas registers. There are no scares of which to speak. Not even the occasional cheap jump scare. Like the movie’s tone, the death scenes are all over the map in terms of quality. There are a couple of well-executed, colourful kills that boast some innovative practical effects. Comparatively, other kills are unimaginative or almost incomprehensible in how Anderson films them.

Red Christmas Should Come With a Gift Receipt

Almost everything about Red Christmas is wildly inconsistent. About the only thing you can be assured of with this turkey is that you’re not likely to be entertained. You won’t be scared, and you won’t laugh, at least not intentionally. And the movie’s persistent flirtation with offensive and tasteless subtext further removes the potential or laughing at the movie. Red Christmas doesn’t come with a gift receipt so my recommendation is to just avoid it.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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