Thursday, 1 September 2016



At first glance this would appear to be a pretty standard horror comedy in which a long-buried secret resurfaces to rip apart a dysfunctional family and leave everyone bloodily killed. However, it's much more problematic than that: some frankly mysterious narrative choices take the film into Troma bad taste territory, and the film's moral/political message sits awkwardly with the cheery splatter and bickering family sitcom.

Beginning with TV news footage after an attack on an abortion clinic by pro-life extremists, Red Christmas sees kindly matriarch Dee Wallace gathering her brood together for the holiday season before she sells the house and sets off on a long-dreamed tour of Europe, to the shock of her supposedly adult offspring. They include a son with Down Syndrome, a heavily pregnant daughter and a starchy Christian married to a pervy vicar. Just as they're about to unwrap their gifts, a masked and robed stranger appears on the doorstep claiming to be previously unheard-of brother Cletus - and when they throw him out, he returns for senselessly bloody vengeance on the mother who has abandoned him twice...

The use of Down Syndrome as a cheap plot device is tasteless and ill-advised: aside from the fact that it forces the non-Down actor playing Cletus to adopt the vocal mannerisms (Jerry is played by award-winning Down Dyndrome actor Gerard Odwyer), his big unmasking reveals him as a pathetic bug-eyed grotesque that frankly looks like a John Buechler make-up job from a 1980s Empire Pictures release. The pervy vicar (peeking at a sex act in the toilet, pleasuring himself in the wardrobe) is the source of easy comedy, and the contrast between the two older sisters (one easy-going, drinking and indulging in herbal weed, the other preachy and bitter through frustration over her childlessness) could have been enjoyable, but the viciousness of the kills and the appalling bad taste turn the movie into something that doesn't seem to know what it's supposed to be. Moments amuse, but it leaves a sour taste.


No comments: