On November 27th, 2015, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado was targeted by a gunman, which led to the deaths of a police officer and two civilians, with a further four police officers and four civilians injured. During president-elect Donald Trump’s election campaign this year, he vowed to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision which legalized abortion in the United States by nominating pro-life justices to preside the Supreme Court, just months after stating he believed women should be punished for terminating a pregnancy. If you watched the debates between Hilary Clinton and the overgrown Oompa Loompa with a hair piece and short temper, “rip the baby out of the womb’’ is the unforgettable, graphical summation of his views.
Right now, as it’s always been, the issue of abortion is center stage in a war between conflicting ideologies in which there has been casualties, and even though it’s an Australian production, Red Christmas raises thought provoking questions about both sides of the debate in contemporary American politics. For Christian families, Christmas is the time of year when gifts are exchanged between loved ones in celebration of the birth of baby Jesus. In Craig Anderson’s home invasion slasher, it serves as the backdrop for a failed abortion attempt returning to get revenge on the family that abandoned him. It’s one of the most gloriously provocative Yuletide shockers in quite some time; a pitch-black comedy which revels in the genre’s more enjoyable components, like gruesome kills and a healthy dose of gallows humor, while providing some food for thought regarding a controversial issue should you choose to explore it.
Genre icon Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling) stars as Diane, a mother who just wants to celebrate Christmas with her dysfunctional family. Conflicts between the members are commonplace, family drama is typical at the end of the day. What she doesn’t expect, though, is her extreme right-wing aborted foetus, Cletus (Sam Campbell), cloaked in bandages, to arrive with an axe to grind. It turns out that maybe he wasn’t so aborted after all, and now her past decisions are about to haunt her.
Cletus represents the extreme conservative mindset pertaining to abortion, but Red Christmas is anything but preachy. In a political climate where constructive conversations about serious issues are regularly drowned out by opposing parties from the right and left shouting at each other, respect must be given to Anderson for considering all opinions and presenting them for the viewer to make up their own mind. However, there to an extent, Red Christmas is a movie some might perceive as trying to have his cake and eat it too due to the sheer outlandishness of its premise and its blood-drenched execution. Tonally it’s quite unbalanced; the integration of comedy, slasher elements and social commentary doesn’t always blend with ease. That said, Red Christmas gets its point across sufficiently and is bound to please genre aficionados looking for the next culturally topical slasher icon.
Watching this movie, I couldn’t help but Like Julien Maury’s and Alexandre Bustillo’s masterpiece Inside (2007), another holiday home invasion outing that will make you never want children. But, like Inside, Red Christmas uses the theme of child death to garner sympathy for both its protagonist and antagonist. In the former film, we sympathize with pregnant mother Sarah (Alysson Paradis) because she’s dealing with the death of her husband following a car crash, as well as the fear of bringing a child into the world without his support. Her attacker, La Femme (Béatrice Dalle), as cruel as her actions may be, simply wants to take Sarah’s baby as a replacement for the one she lost. In Red Christmas, we can sympathize with Diane because she believed she was doing the right thing, while we feel sorry for Cletus because… well he’s an abortion survivor who grew up under the guidance of a right-wing religious nut and just wants to be loved by the mother who abandoned him.
Furthermore, both films allude to the idea of resenting a pregnancy; in Inside, such ill-feeling is a by-product of mourning, but in Red Christmas it’s because the child would have been born with a disability. However, with Inside we eventually see Sarah embrace motherhood and do everything in her power to ensure the survival of her unborn baby; the same can’t be said for the matriarch in Red Christmas, who ultimately once again shuns the nightmare from her womb. Lastly, in both films, the death of – or in Red Christmas’ case, the attempted death of – a child is what motivates the slaughter. The point I’m trying to make? Inside and Red Christmas are the perfect double feature (at least thematically), as they are both explorations of the consequences of someone losing a child which just so happen to take place on a holiday which celebrates the holy birth.
Overall, Red Christmas is a highly entertaining throwback slasher with modern significance, and while it might not be the next holiday horror classic, it is an enjoyable entry in the canon of festive splatterfests. It explores a serious issue through in all its conflicting viewpoints, through the bloody lens of unabashed horror cinema – unapologetic, uncompromising and gloriously unhinged. It will rub some people the wrong way, but we need artists like Anderson right now to address these topics with this kind of demented vision.