J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Red Christmas: Bah Humbug

There is something sinfully transgressive about Christmas horror movies, such as Silent Night, Bloody Night; Silent Night, Deadly Night; and Silent Night, Zombie Night, but they are maybe not so brilliantly original when it comes to titles. In any case, it is weirdly compelling to watch slasher violence during what is supposed to be a family holiday. Unfortunately, Craig Anderson does not know when to stop. Instead of mere yuletide gore, he delivers an absolutist pro-abortion access message early and often in Red Christmas (trailer here), which opens tonight in New York.

Apparently, this film is set in Mississippi, New South Wales, where twentysome years ago, there was a nasty bombing at an abortion clinic. As fate would have it, the recently widowed Diane had just finished her procedure when the bomb went off, resulting in utter bedlam. However, it turns out her fetus-baby-lump of tissue-sacred human life was not sufficiently aborted. The mad bomber would adopt the woeful Cletus, who will come looking for his birth mother after the death of his surrogate father.

Naturally, Cletus turns up just as Diane is about to open presents with her stoner second husband Joe and her obnoxious, entitled grown children. The Bible-thumping, cloak-wearing Cletus is out for either revenge and/or acceptance from his mother. Frankly, he is probably has grounds to feel resentful, given the presumed effects of the procedure on his long-term development, but he is a fundamentalist, so that is evil enough for Anderson.

Have you ever been to a Christmas party where some loudmouth won’t shut up about Trump, Obama, W., or whoever? You know how everyone just agrees with him hoping he’ll let it rest, but he can tell it isn’t sincere, so he gets even more belligerent? This film is that guy. Seriously, just by making a Christmas slasher movie, you’re already sort of desecrating one of the most sacred days in the Christian calendar. To then proceed to imply all Evangelicals are deformed homicidal maniacs is just kind of rude. It also interrupts the tension and jump scares for countless interludes of eye-rolling.

Despite all that, it is always nice to see Dee Wallace [Stone] back in another horror movie. She is terrific as the no-nonsense Diane, but it doesn’t make sense that she would have raised such self-centered, un-self-aware children. Regardless, she develops some likably lived-in chemistry with Geoff Morrell as the wryly laidback Joe.

Just on a purely logical level, it makes no sense Diane’s entire assembled family cannot overwhelm the admittedly large-of-frame Cletus, especially considering he is supposedly living with Down Syndrome (yet another icky plot point). Compared to this film, the Natasha Henstridge horror flick The Black Room is model of subtlety and restraint. Not recommended, Red Christmas screens tonight and tomorrow night (8/25 & 8/26) in New York, at the IFC Center.

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