Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Red Christmas, or: Family Is a Blessing

Let the month of Christmas horror continue!  But maybe not with this film unless you’re up for…a rather confusing mixed bag.

The Film:

Red Christmas

The Premise:

A family’s Christmas together is cut short when a stranger appears on their doorstep with a mysterious letter…and an axe (naturally).

The Ramble:

From the get-go, our story is framed by the abortion debate as protesters clash outside of an abortion clinic.  An aborted fetus raises a bloody hand, alive…?  And, to the shock of no one, a key player in the events that unfold 20 years later.

The chaos of Christmas at home takes center stage now, as Diane gathers together her family for the doomed “best Christmas ever.”  This will be the last year in the family home in the Australian countryside, as Diane is selling the home in favor of a jaunt to Europe.  After her husband’s death from cancer, Diane has decided to do something for herself.  Diane’s children have differing opinions about this decision, which will become clear.

A family gathered in a large living room sits around in silence.
It’s all fun and games until…actually, it’s never fun and games.

The grown children at home for the holidays include an adopted daughter heading off to college soon, the token party girl (who is very pregnant), the uptight conservative Christian daughter, and Jerry, the only one of her children whose name I can remember.  Jerry, who has Down’s syndrome, will move to assisted living after the house is sold and seems pretty ok with this.  Also in town is Diane’s brother Joe, playing the role of the drunk uncle, and the spouses of the two oldest daughters.

Diane decides to put some of her money towards fertility treatments for the conservative daughter, who refuses.  Though she’d like to have a child, she believes God will help in that department.  Hey, if it worked for Mary I guess…

When the family all gathers, arguments inevitably arise about the house, sharing what they are most grateful for, and whether to say a prayer (good old Uncle Joe suggests a prayer to his god, medical marijuana).

The family quarrel is mercifully interrupted when a stranger dressed in a dark robe rings the doorbell.  He arrives with an envelope for his mother, which Diane suggests he hold onto.  Making what is likely the worst decision of her life, Diane invites the stranger inside to warm up.  She even gives him a present, though regrets this about 1 minute later when he insists on reading the letter to his mother.  His letter is highly critical of an abortion that happened 20 years ago…provoking an intense reaction from Diane.

A woman guides a stranger wearing a dark robe that covers their face into her home.
Good things always happen when you let strangers with dark hoods into your house.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, you might wonder.  Is the stranger…oh fuck it, you already know this.  Yes, the stranger is exactly who you think he is, aka the miraculously living fetus Diane aborted 20 years ago.  The baby had Down’s syndrome and would have arrived as Diane’s husband was undergoing chemotherapy, which proved too much for her to handle…though she has kept this secret from everyone in the family.

Before he can finish reading the letter, the family insists the stranger leave the house and never return.  They even add insult to injury by throwing his gift at him and threatening him with the rifle that I imagine all Australians have hidden somewhere in every room.

A woman with a firepoker looks out from her house, illuminated in blue by Christmas lights.
If you want to kill a presumed dead fetus the right way, you have to do it yourself.

Almost immediately, the family is back to that great Christmas tradition of getting into pointless arguments.  This distracts them from the first murder of one of their own.  When they discover the body, it does bring the family together, however briefly.  The family (mostly Diane, TBH) concocts several plans, one of which involves an abysmally bad response from law enforcement officers.

It becomes all too easy for the murderer to pick off members of the family one by one.  When all is said and done, which side of the family will survive?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

There are some successful moments in this film, but overall it’s quite a mess.  The tone is very uneven, at times almost a horror comedy, and at other times incredibly dark and low-budget gory.  Pointless family arguments are on the nose but feel out of place here with the grisly murders.  It’s also really difficult to care about 90% of the characters because they’re cookie cutter family stereotypes and they make THE worst horror movie decisions ever.  Diane is the exception to this as she proves herself to be quite a badass.  Too bad everyone else in the family is so incompetent.

I got a lot of mixed messages from this film too.  It was trying to be a bit more philosophical than your average slasher flick, but at a certain point just sort of gave up on conveying any sort of message.  When we finally see the murderer, he’s disfigured in an unexpected way that seems to be making a point about Down’s syndrome…but at the same time not really making sense.

Also, where the fuck was local law enforcement in all of this???  It takes about an hour for the cops to arrive with ONE officer who (spoiler) doesn’t live for very long or help in any way.  Surely this is not the way reports of armed murderers are handled in Australia unless the Australian version of law enforcement is just giving everyone a rifle and wishing them the best of luck?

Would my blog wife marry into this family or let them all meet the business end of an axe?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, a Heartwarming Story about Sticking It to the Man

Yet another edition of Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab!  This week’s film is Christa’s pick, which I wholeheartedly endorse, Lizzie Borden Took an AxCheck out Christa’s review on her blog.

The Film:

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

The Premise:

Lizzie Borden, played by Christina Ricci, is on trial for the ax murders of her father and stepmother.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

One of the first outfits we see Lizzie wearing is essentially something Christina Ricci wears in Penelope. So basically I expected this movie to be Penelope but with murder, and I was not disappointed.

Lizzie lives with her sister, stepmother, and overbearing, borderline obsessive-compulsive father. At one point she’s humming to herself while ironing, and he reminds her “I’ve asked you not to make noise while I’m in this room.” Way to be an 1800s dick, Mr. Borden (there are a lot of those in this movie).

It seems Lizzie’s main hobbies are watching dudes, making crazy eyes at everyone, and shoplifting.

“I’ve always wanted more,” Lizzie says as she checks herself out with a new dress in front of a mirror. All essential elements of a Lifetime movie are officially present.

A woman in a dress shop holds up a silky purple dress in the mirror.

Lizzie’s already considering all angles, as she tells her friend about the shady dudes her father refuses to pay for their sub-par labor. Maybe something terrible will happen at the house, like murder, though obviously not committed by me, Lizzie Borden, LOL.

After Lizzie’s father discovers she has stolen a mirror from the dress shop, he forbids her from attending a party that night. Don’t worry, Lizzie, you SHALL go to the ball, aka den of sin.

A note about the music of this film: it’s so hilariously anachronistic, but it completely works in the way it does for Moulin Rouge. Lizzie’s breakin’ all the rules, so she always gets rebellious rock ‘n roll to accompany everything she does.

Overnight, there is a robbery at the Borden residence: their pet(?) pigeons are dead, and some of the stepmother’s jewelry is missing. Prime suspect? Lizzie. Always Lizzie.

This leads to a big fight between Lizzie and her father; essentially, she’s ungrateful, he’s a Nazi.

The next day, Lizzie is acting super sketchy and messing around with shit in the basement. She tells the maid that her stepmother left to visit a sick friend. Later, Lizzie screams as she discovers her father dead with his face bashed in.

A man with his face bashed in lies on the floor.
Photos are always 1000x creepier in black and white.

When questioned, Lizzie says she was in the barn looking for her fishing tackle at the time, then ate three pears (all of this, of course, while making crazy eyes). There is a stain on her dress, which Lizzie explains is an old stain from stew.

The other dude whose job I don’t really understand, blonde 1800s asshole, is suspicious.

Cut to Lizzie and her sister, Emma, attending the funeral (with this gospel/jazzy song that is kind of close to being a dance track). The funeral is interrupted as the bodies are exhumed for the investigation.

The police/lawyers/1800s people whose job descriptions I don’t understand question Lizzie, asking her to bring in the dress for further examination. So, of course, she burns it.

The blonde 1800s asshole is convinced Lizzie did it and points out “Insane asylums are full of insane women.” FUCK YOU TOO, 1800S DUDE.

When Lizzie is interrogated, she snaps a little bit and reveals she didn’t think of her stepmother as a mother.

Shortly after, Lizzie is formally charged with murder and arrested.

There are several pieces of evidence against Lizzie, though none of them make a whole lot of sense: Lizzie never gave her father gifts, she went in to the drug store/apothecary a few days before and asked about rat poison, and skulls! In court! Just because!

On the other hand, Emma claims she told Lizzie to burn the dress because it was old, and there were also those sketchy dudes who were disgruntled that Mr. Borden never paid them.

In the end, Lizzie is found not guilty, and she makes crazy eyes at the 1800s blonde dude to triumphant rock music.

A woman walks by a crowd of men, glaring off into the distance.
The signature “fuck you, motherfucker” crazy stare.

At this celebratory party, Lizzie is getting super affectionate with one of her lady friends, so IDK if Lifetime is implying Lizzie Borden was a lesbian. I’m going with a yes because it explains why Emma freaks out about Lizzie’s life of sin/invitation of attention/lack of real friends. In response, Lizzie tells Emma that she did, in fact, commit the murders. Emma leaves, NEVER TO RETURN.

Then they go for a bit of Psycho ending here because we get skulls/Lizzie’s bloody face complete with crazy eye stare.


The Critique:

You guys, if 1. I had cable and 2. I didn’t have to work, I would almost certainly stay at home watching Lifetime movies all day. I just don’t get tired of movies about women getting fed up with your bullshit, men, and snapping.

I loved this particular LMN offering because at times it felt like watching the angry feminist Drunk History, so it was kind of perfect.  Next dude I see is getting punched.

Also a million Pink Panther Heads for Christina Ricci making crazy/sexy eyes all the fucking time while wandering around in a nightgown.

A young woman sits at a dining table, looking intensely at a teacup.
I will fuck you UP, teacup.

Christa is prob tired of me saying this, but it was like my childhood dream of seeing Wednesday Addams grow up and commit unspeakable crimes was fulfilled.

Apparently the spin-off TV series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles started airing on April 5th. Why am I currently doing anything that isn’t watching that show?

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I LOVED the beginning, but I do admit the second half, which focused on the trial, started to drag. Less talking, more ax-murdering.  IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY.

See what Christa thinks here!