Red Christmas (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

redchristmasA mother wants to have the best Christmas ever with her family.  During the traditional day, tensions come to a boiling point when a stranger shows up at their door and wants to kill them all.  This sets the mother on a warpath to protect her brood.

This Australian horror film is written and directed by Craig Anderson who starts by building a family with lots of issues and strife between its members.  Most of their issues are the same as a lot of families while others are more unique.  This family cares for each other against these odds and when all hell breaks loose, their bonds are tested.  The writing here develops this family well and then brings some original kills to the table but the characters are not the most likable so it’s hard to root for them.  This is all well directed for most of the film so the few issues seen here and there are not entirely awful, but the film lacks a bit in fun.  Sadly, the killer’s motivation feels a bit preachy at times, making his condition a bit of a case of one too many things in the story.  The way the killer is portrayed is unfortunately a bit grating and not really menacing.

The cast does ok with the material but it’s hard to tell if their characters were written that way or if they were directed to do this or if the way they act leads to this, but almost all the characters come off as unlikable and just disagreeable, selfish people.  From the looks of things, it seems to be a combination of the three with other factors added to those.  Knowing that Dee Wallace can play mother so well, her performance here is not as expected which may be due to putting too much hope on her.  She is good, but some angles of her character are so dislikable, it’s hard to look over those.  The rest of the cast being less familiar, they did not have as much expectations put on them, yes they still come off as dislikable to despicable as well.

As Red Christmas is a slasher, the kills and their effects are of high importance.  The kills here are good with some original ones.  However, the effects are decent at best with some pieces being not so good to just bad.  The make-up and prosthetics on the killer look a bit like Toxie, with a low budget look and even somewhat of a family resemblance.  Also an odd choice is how the kill set pieces are shot.  In some cases, the lighting makes it hard to see what is going; on while in other cases, the shaky cam is nauseating, making the viewer look away and miss out on the scene.

This film has a lot of potential, but does not go for it.  It has good ideas for kills with effect that are just not good enough to support those ideas.  The characters are not people the viewers can get attached to.  The killer is one of those that could have been good but his background and reason to kill make him hard to get into or behind.  This reviewer wanted to love this as the last few years have given us so many good holiday themed horror movies, but even after giving Red Christmas as much slack as possible, it’s not a movie that can be considered good.  A few good scenes here and there do not a great movie make.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.