I wasn’t hugely impressed by Craig Anderson’s Australian slasher Red Christmas, but it certainly wasn’t an epic badfilm in vein of Birdemic or The Room … and this making-of doc, which follows Anderson’s struggle to get the film made, doesn’t have the car crash feel of Demon Lover Diary, American Movie or Despite the Gods. The chubby, salt-and-pepper-bearded, desperately cheery and compulsively self-deprecating Anderson comes across as a character – he’s putting the film together while recovering from a medically-necessary adult circumcision, and has a supportive but eccentric family – but he’s got a raft of Australian TV credits and a lot of industry contacts which put him one up on the outsider filmmakers of Demon Lover Diary or American Movie. And, in contrast to other collapsing film docus, his cast and crew are dedicated and professional, with imported American star Dee Wallace acting in undivalike manner by doing the washing-up on set and not complaining about being taken to McDonald’s. Anderson’s chatty Dad, who picks Wallace up from the airport and hams up a bit part in the film, may be a bit embrassaing to his son, but isn’t a real problem … and the brother who lends money for the budget isn’t unreasonable (though he is plainly wary) and seems relatively likely to get paid back.
Just as the most interesting character in Red Christmas is matriarch Wallace’s Downs Syndrome son, the liveliest presence here is Downs Syndrome actor Gerard Odwyer, a personal friend Anderson has built the script around – and who expresses his mixed feelings about the opportunity. Documentarian Gary Doust plainly listens to Anderson as he confides in the camera about his many doubts, but doesn’t ask questions. A lot of ground is covered thanks to Anderson’s habit of owning up to his own problems, but no one puts him on the spot about the most controversial aspects of his monster movie, in which a foetus survives an abortion attempt and grows up to be a hooded creature which slaughters his family over the holidays. Quite apart from the issue of whether this can be taken as an anti-abortion tract dressed up as a horror film, Anderson isn’t grilled about whether his own feelings about his family – he seems to regard himself as the tolerated foulup who has to cadge loans from relatives who have ‘done the right thing’ and lived proper, monied lives and perhaps identifies with the outcast avenger of his script – have informed the movie he’s making.
The most interesting stretch of Horror Movie comes after the film is completed, as Anderson goes through the struggle of taking it to festivals (after arranging a weird, not unsuccessful preview on a cruise liner) and landing international sales – with dollar signs in his eyes as he hears about the deals done for The Babadook and Deathgasm, and mounting despair as he realises he hasn’t made that sort of Australian horror film and might well have poured all his efforts into something foreign distributors don’t want. There’s a happy ending, of sorts. And, hey, not only did Red Christmas score a FrightFest slot in 2016, so did this movie a year on.