Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
Ah, Christmas. It's a time for joy, giving, and, if you're like me, a time to sit down and watch holiday movies. Home Alone? Yes, please. The Santa Clause? Hell yeah. Frosty the Snowman? Is it even Christmas without him? However, as a horror fan, I always love to sit down and watch a good ol' Christmas horror film. Why? I guess I'm just weird like that. This year, I decided to sit down and watch the 2016 Australian film, Red Christmas. Needless to say, I now have a bitter taste in my mouth.
SPOILERS LAY AHEAD.
Red Christmas feels more like political propaganda than it does a film. Why? Well, one of its themes––its heaviest theme, in fact––is abortion. Specifically, how abortion is very very bad. Now, almost every film has an underlining theme, but Red Christmas shoves this theme in your face and then some. My views on this heavily controversial topic don't matter here, and what I'm about to say should not be taken as me denouncing or attacking believers of a certain stance. Okay, here it goes: this film annoyingly makes it clear that they heavily disagree with abortions, so much so that the killer is a failed abortion, now older, coming back to enact revenge on his mother, the woman who wanted him dead. He then proceeds to kill the entire family, who were all mostly innocent. In the end, the mother who had the abortion years prior explains why she went through with it (which I will get into later), ends up accidentally shooting and killing her son with down-syndrome, and then kills herself while also killing the killer. It's honestly a very dark film, but the heavy emphasis on abortions and how bad they are really took me out of the film. Hell, the film opens with shots of a rally against abortion, pushing their belief from the very beginning.
But how does this film work as, well, a horror film?
Since I've pretty much explained the plot already, where else is there to begin than with the characters? Let me just list them all off very briefly.
First, we have the mother, Diane, played by Dee Wallace of E.T., Cujo, and The Howling fame. Next, we have Joe, Diane's newest husband who gives zero shits about a lot of things. Then we have her children: Ginny, Suzy, and Jerry. Ginny is married to Scott and is pregnant, Suzy is either married or dating Peter, a priest who is most definitely gay and has the hots for Scott (that plot point doesn't really go anywhere), and Jerry, a guy with down-syndrome who happens to be my favorite character because he felt more real than all of them.
As I said, Ginny is pregnant, but still smokes and drinks. In the end, she has her baby but dies. I guess that's what you get for smoking and drinking while pregnant.
Diane has kept her abortion a secret among everyone, especially Jerry, instead claiming it was a miscarriage. Later in the film, Jerry finds out why she aborted her child and he gets pissed. Diane feels bad, but then accidentally shoots him, thinking he was the killer. Whoops.
I could talk about these characters for hours, but the point I really want to get across is that these characters are insanely dumb. When a killing spree starts and all of the characters know about it right away, it’s hard for them to be smart. Why? Because if they’re smart, they’re going to easily avoid being killed. “We know this guy could be in the house… let’s split up!” “Uh oh, he’s using ladders to climb into the house. I’m gonna go outside by myself and take down the ladders.” “We have a car! But I’m gonna go drive it… alone!” These characters make insanely poor decisions when they know that there is only one killer. The worst part is that more than half the cast of characters were capable of taking down the one killer, but they never stuck together long enough to even try. They didn't even think of the idea! Here's another thing: they finally call the cops and tell them that there has been a murder. So, who shows up? One damn cop.
Look, I get it. If the characters were smart, there would be less death and the movie wouldn’t be near as entertaining. However, the characters are so stupid that I am taken out of the film every time they do a stupid thing. How do you work around that? Don’t let the entire cast of characters know that a killer is on the loose. Or, make the characters and the killer equally as smart. Yes, it sucks to go back and rewrite. But I think the script needed a bit more work in order to keep the characters from making insanely stupid decisions.
With most horror films, the killer makes the movie. If the killer sucks, what's the point of watching the film? Well, in this case... the killer isn't great. See that image above? Yep, that's him.
Now, let's go back to when I was talking about the mother's confession. She had an abortion, but the child survived to become this sadistic deformity. Why did she have the abortion? She learned that the child had down-syndrome, and since she already had one kid with down-syndrome, she really didn't want to handle another. Okay, I can say that that is a very f**ked up decision in my opinion, but I've never been in a position like that, so I can't really say much.
The killer, as a child, was then picked up by a random guy who found him––a guy who also disagreed with abortions and ended up bombing an abortion clinic––and given a black robe and wrappings to hide his deformity. Now, years later (I think it's 20 but I'm not entirely sure), he returns to his mother but is thrown away because she wants to forget the past. Well, that pisses him off and he goes on a killing spree. That's his motivation. It's shitty motivation, really, but I guess we can just write it off as him not being all there in the head.
But I don't want to write it off. He wasn't a good antagonist, plain and simple.
If this film does anything right, it's with its gore. Practical effects are almost always the way to go, and the film utilizes these effects extremely well. There are some insane kills in this film, and while they do come out of nowhere and are caused by––you guessed it––stupid decisions, they still managed to surprise me.
The picture above is my proof.
Red Christmas tries very hard to be a smart, political horror film that brings attention to the what-seems-like-never-ending abortion debate. Instead, its heavy focus on that idea manages to make this film feel more like intense propaganda rather than horror. The killer's motivation is lacking, as well the characters' own thinking, and that makes the film very hard to watch at times. Its gore may be the only redeeming quality. If you're trying to decide on what Christmas horror movie to watch, I would say to skip this one entirely. Instead, you could watch Krampus. Or You Better Watch Out. Or the original Black Christmas. And heck, if you're afraid of snowmen, Frosty the Snowman is a good choice, too.
I'm going to give Red Christmas a 2.5/10.
Now, as always, stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy, and have a very merry Christmas.
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 21, 2020:
Good review. Interesting,