Holiday Halloween Scene: Red Christmas (2016) & A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

I’m pretty bummed that went through whatever changes they did because that means I can’t parlay my weird predilection for watching new Christmas horror films into cash. However, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing this yearly tradition. This year, I’ve checked out some classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and Gremlins, but also a few newer entries.

First off, I watched an Australian horror film called Red Christmas by writer-director Craig Anderson. I heard them talk about this one on the last episode of Shock Waves (#76 if you’re curious) with co-host — and my former editor — Rebekah McKendry saying it was bad and guest Brian Collins of Horror Movie A Day fame saying he kind of liked it.

Since it’s streaming on Netflix, I figured I’d give it a look, but I went in knowing one important factor. And that’s that this one revolves around an intended abortion baby somehow surviving and returning for revenge. I think that’s an important story point to know going in because the film starts with the wherefores, hows and whys of all that. So, if that’s something that will instantly turn you off, don’t bother. If not, though, you might be in for a surprising treat.

As it is, this plays out a bit like You’re Next at Christmastime. You’ve got a family all coming together for one last Christmas in the family house, which is on the market after the dad died sometime in the past decade or so. Things are already stressed out on a family drama scale when a strange, cloaked figure shows up and reminds the mom of the abortion she had two decades ago. They toss this stranger out and then murder starts happening.

I was actually pretty impressed with this film. It looks good, I thought Dee Wallace — the mom from E.T. — did a spot-on job in her role as the mother trying to keep most of her children alive and even the more ludicrous gore scenes looked good, like when the killer uses an axe on someone and it goes from the top of theirs skull straight through. I’ve chopped wood before. It sucks. That ain’t happening.

Also, I understand I’m the last person who should be talking about representation, but this film not only features an older female “final girl” if you will, but also a man with Down syndrome who not only features prominently in the story, but also gets to play the hero for a portion.

Look, I’m not saying Red Christmas is a pure holiday horror classic, but I do think it’s worth a watch if you’re even vaguely interested in this review. I was actually surprised when I saw that a doc had been made about the making-of this film called Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare because this one didn’t feel that low budget and I thought it was pretty solid.

From there, I watched A Christmas Horror Story, which I actually checked out for the first time last year. This anthology from directors Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan can also be found on Netflix.

I can see why plenty of people haven’t watched this one because it looks like one of many Krampus projects without much substance. However, to my eye, it’s actually right in line with Trick R Treat, though not quite that good and without the solid budget or cast of that film. However, instead of telling one full story and then moving on with characters weaving in and out, this one mixes the stories together all at once.

In one we follow parents as they deal with the fact that their son had been replaced by a changeling while they cut down a Christmas tree in the woods. Another featured a kind of zombie outbreak amongst the elves at the North Pole. You’ve also got the rich family coming to understand the true meaning of Krampus and a group of young paranormal investigators dealing with a haunted old asylum. Oh, and William Shatner helps tie it all together as a local DJ.

Of the batch, I found the changeling story the most compelling. I’m sure part of that is because it’s about an evil kid in the house and the lengths the parents have to go to, but also because the kid — Orion John — is so darn good in that role as is Olunike Adeliyi who played his mom. As it happened, I also listened to all of Lore this year, so the whole changeling thing was in my head even more this year than last. With that in mind, John completely nails the creepiness of the role which goes totally bananas towards the end of the film.

Speaking of which, I’m impressed with how the movie was put together. I love Trick R Treat, think it’s actually one of the best horror films of the past few decades, but I appreciate that this film took a different approach by building each of the segments to a crescendo, effectively, at the same time. I’d completely forgotten about the twist ending which was super impressive this time around. Definitely give this one a watch if you’re in the mood for something dark!


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