Red Christmas (2016)

‘Twas the night of Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring … except for that aborted fetus who answers to the name of Cletus.

Twenty years ago, Diane (Dee Wallace, The Howling) chose to terminate a pregnancy. In the chaos of the clinic being bombed during her procedure, she and the doctors didn’t realize the remnant in the biohazard bucket wasn’t exactly DOA. Now, with Diane widowed and turning 60, she is grateful to have all of her adult children assembled for Christmas Day … well, the four she knew of, that is. Then, fifth wheel Cletus — wrapped in gauze, clad in a black cloak and hauling a pink suitcase — decides to crash the party.

He just wants to be loved — is that so wrong? Technically, no, but when they kick him out of the house, his retaliation spree of gory murder is something upon which society frowns.

Arriving gift-wrapped for gorehounds, Red Christmas is written and directed by Australian comedian Craig Anderson, but initial streaks of dysfunction aside, it is not a film to be categorized as funny. In fact, it is a bit of an odd bird — in a good way. For one thing, one of Diane’s kids is a Shakespeare-quoting young man with Down syndrome (Gerard Odwyer), a trait not only unexploited, but also vital to the plot. Unsurprisingly, Wallace gives a nail-strong performance, whipping into Angry Mama mode (à la Cujo) when push comes to shove and stab; on the unexpected side, the deaths portrayed come attached with a tangible, tragic sense of loss.

The seasonal slasher obviously has more on its mind than shedding blood, although that is done in explicitly gruesome bits. The interesting thing is trying to determine at first where Anderson’s politics reside, because pro-life viewers can side with Cletus (Sam Campbell) as he takes revenge on his mother’s actions, yet pro-choice viewers could see the film as an indictment of the hypocrisy of pro-life extremists who take “eye for an eye” to heart. As the cast narrows, Red Christmas’ true intentions become clear, yet if you need the message spelled out after all the spillage, the credits end with recommendations with further reading and viewing, including the black comedies Citizen Ruth and Obvious Child. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

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