We really like the Christmas horror movies at the Mind on Fire offices. Why? Maybe because it’s a break from the bright flashing lights, the carols, and the movies about families solving all their problems in one night. Maybe it’s because there’s really no season off limits to scares and frights. This year we introduce two newer movies into the Christmas horror catalog. One is decent, the other one crashed and burned on take off. (Spoilers ahead)
Better Watch Out begins by introducing us to Luke (Levi Miller, Pan) and his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge, The Visit). The first thing you’ll notice is that Ashley isn’t really any older than her charge. In fact, the two could be the same age. Is it enough to stop watching? Maybe not, but you can’t stop asking yourself “Why does Luke need a babysitter who’s the same age as he is?”
Better Watch Out starts out with potential. It could have been a movie about an awkward kid trying to make the moves on the girl he has had a crush on for years. The movie did attempt this, but then it went into home invasion territory. Home invasion movies are fine too, but it’s revealed rather quickly the home invasion is a ruse Luke set up with the help of his friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould, The Visit). From there the movie does
Luke’s plan the entire time was to kill Ashley and her boyfriends and therein lies the one big problem with the movie. The movie hinges on Luke’s parents, Robert (Patrick Warburton, The Tick) and Deandra Lerner (Virginia Madsen, Sideways), staying away from the house long enough for Luke to carry out his plan. How long is any party, Christmas or otherwise, that would allow a murder to be committed and a crime scene cleaned of evidence? Perhaps there would have been enough time to kill Ashley’s boyfriends and clean up all the evidence if everything had gone according to Luke’s original plan. However, nothing goes according to Luke’s plan.
Ashley fights back more than once and freeing herself from her duct tape bonds. When she’s not trying to break free we’re treated to Ashley telling Luke and Garrett the same thing over and over- Let me go, it’s not too late. When she does break free the chase is boring. Nothing beats a good killer-victim chase in horror movie, but it takes away from the precious time Luke needs to complete his plan. Ashley’s boyfriend, Ricky, also fights back which adds more time Luke has to make up somewhere. Don’t forget the totally unplanned murder of Garrett.
Let’s just say for a moment a teenage boy, even one as psychotic as Luke, could plan, stage, and execute a murder in one night there are still problems with the plan. There’s all the evidence Luke left in the house for investigators to find. For starters, Luke climbing into his window from the roof would have left footprints, foot prints the same size of Luke’s feet. Even if he managed to cover his footprints well enough to fool police the carpet leading into his bedroom is going to be wet.
So Luke’s whole plan is hogwash. He would have been caught even if Ashley hadn’t survived by duct taping her wound (really?). But what about the acting? Levi Miller can’t pull off the crazy the movie wanted you to feel. He does pull off the entitled brat thing pretty well. Entitled brat not getting his way is pretty much what this movie is about. He can’t the girl so he goes psycho. Millennials.
As horror movies go Better Watch Out fails to deliver any real jumps or scares. It’s really a horror movie set at Christmas. Better Watch Out is a reminder why faceless killers, monsters, Santa demons, and disfigured murders make the best killers in horror movies. Speaking of disfigured…
We wanted to like Red Christmas because of Dee Wallace. Wallace has some serious horror movie creds under her belt so we were excited to see her in a new horror movie. We wanted to like Red Christmas because the main baddy is named Cletus. Cletus! However, we can’t like Red Christmas because there is very little to like in Red Christmas.
Red Christmas starts with a flashback at an abortion clinic in Australia. A bomb goes off in the abortion clinic before the opening credits are finished. It’s revealed later in the movie after the blood and mayhem have commenced, Dianne (Dee Wallace) was having an abortion as the bomb exploded. Flash forward to the present and Diane is with her family ready to open Christmas day.
Red Christmas is a low budget horror movie. There’s nothing wrong with a low budget or independent horror movies. Some of our favorite horror movies have been from independent filmmakers. However, low budget and independent means you have to work a little harder making your movie. It doesn’t feel like anyone worked very hard on this movie.
The acting is cardboard at best. Wallace’s whole performance feels forced. The rest of the cast doesn’t help either. Is anyone even scared a maniac is picking off their family one by one? If they are it doesn’t come across on the screen. The effects are particularly bad and not in a goof Evil Dead kind of way. In one particular scene, pregnant Ginny’s stomach moves at an angle that gives it away as being a prop. Sure, we know the actress was probably not pregnant during filming, but at least attach the stomach more secure so we can at least keep our suspension of disbelief intact.
Red Christmas‘s one saving grace is Cletus kills. Like a lot of horror movies, the kills are over the top and bloody. There’ a death by blender scene that’s quite unique (Was that a Ninja blender or a Vitamix). Except it makes the movie more confusing. The movie is supposed to be serious, it was never set up as corny, but the fake gore and blood tell us the movie is supposed to be goofball fun. Which one is it?
This Christmas season didn’t bring the horrors and thrills like last year. Both movies missed the mark by a long shot. If you can only watch one go with Better Watch Out. At least in Better Watch Out you can see a reenactment of the paint can scene from Home Alone.