Let the month of Christmas horror continue! But maybe not with this film unless you’re up for…a rather confusing mixed bag.
A family’s Christmas together is cut short when a stranger appears on their doorstep with a mysterious letter…and an axe (naturally).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?