OZPLOITATION, CONTROVERSY, AND SUBVERTING TROPES - INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR CRAIG ANDERSON

Santa Claus from hell

Santa Claus from hell

Christmas is - for many - a time in which one celebrates and gives thanks for any and all the positive components which enrich their lives, a time to surround yourself with friends, family, and lots and lots of presents. And yes, while that time is actually a few months away, that doesn't mean we can't get into the spirit of things a little early. In the case of this horror hound, I'm super thankful for the opportunities that running a horror website has provided me in the form of exposure to films I'd have otherwise never known existed. Specifically, all the gruesomely fabulous horror being produced by the talented crazies down under. Cat Sick Blues, The Loved Ones, Wake In Fright, Snowtown, Hounds of Love - all of them - first time viewings - introduced to us in some capacity, through our association with Thirteenth Floor. And now, we have yet another boundary pushing genre film in Craig Anderson's Red Christmas, a film that tackles the topic of abortion in the most unabashedly balls-to-the-wall way possible; we talk with Craig about it and more in what was a very insightful interview with the talented writer/director.


Craig, please tell us a little bit about your experience in the industry leading up to Red Christmas, and what ultimately lead you to tackle a horror film like this.

In Australia I make a lot of comedy television. I work as a director/producer and occasionally an actor and love it. But I’ve always loved horror films, so I decided to ‘follow my hear’ as they say and make a horror film.

 

Does your background in comedy allow you to approach the horror genre in a unique way? How'd that translate specifically to the direction of Red Christmas?

Absolutely. One thing I’ve learnt through comedy is that there are many easy jokes. Jokes based on stereotypes, tropes and ‘acceptable humor’. Horror is the same. So many horror films claim to be tackling taboo issues and deal with edgy material, but the reality is that they are only doing what is socially acceptable. I wanted to tackle a subject that wasn’t often done in horror.

 

Press release information on the film refers to it as an "anti-abortion" horror. Is your film really taking a hard stance on the subject, or you do you feel that it's more left to the interpretation of each individual viewer?

It’s definitely up to individual interpretation. I was inspired by the Tony Kaye documentary Lake of Fire, which attempts to present the multitude of arguments surrounding reproductive rights. I wanted to present multiple arguments, based on which character the audience chooses to follow. Of course, if you identify with the aborted fetus guy then you’re going to see the anti-abortion angle. It’s surprising how often horror audiences associate with the cloaked guy who’s killing everyone.

It's no secret that abortion is a hot button topic. Were you ever worried about potential blow-back concerning how it's approached in your film?

Not really. One thing I’ve learnt from the world of comedy is that people love to speak at length about the appropriateness of art and culture. So I’m ready for it. I did feel ethically obliged to point out the potential for controversy to all cast and crew. Fortunately, they all agreed after reading the script.

 

Red Christmas has as a very striking visual design that seems influenced by multiple genre films. Are there specific ones which had a hand in determining it's direction aesthetically?

The first half is inspired by the absolute comforting beauty of Nancy Myers and Nora Ephron films. The second half is inspired by a Christmas cartoon from the 1950’s that I was fascinated by when I was a kid. It features two little chipmunks who live in a Christmas tree and each branch they go to has a different color. Of course, a lot of people assume it’s inspired by the Giallo films of the seventies, which I also totally love.

 

What was the casting process like? Did you already have specific artists in mind when writing the script?

I’d work with a lot of comedic actors in Australia and so some of the roles are even written with them in mind. In particular Gerard Odwyer who is an artist with an intellectual disability, whom I’d worked with for years. When it came to casting the central character played by Dee Wallace, I knew that I wanted a woman who had been in horror films during the 70/80’s, as I thought it would be a great chance to show a cyclical journey of the ‘final girl’ trope which is usually performed by a teenage.

Just how awesome was it working with Dee Wallace? Was she your first choice for the role?

I approached a handful of women who are considered scream queens and got quite a few responses, primarily because there are not many kick-arse roles for women of a certain age. But Dee was by far the most responsive and capable. After the first skype call I knew she was the one. I even asked her to come on board as a producer because of her absolute expertise in the industry. Working with her was fantastic because she provided a direct line to so many great directors and films and was able to translate those experiences to help solve problems on our very low-budget production.

 

The whole cast seemed like a riotous bunch, they definitely demonstrated great chemistry. Any fun in-service stories you can share with us?

LOL. It was a riot and was just like hanging out at summer camp. We shot it in 11 days so there was not much sleeping, tons of pressure and tons of drinking. Because most of the cast were comedians there was also a lot of joking and improvising on set. Australia’s ABC also paid for a documentary crew to document the whole process and that film is coming out in October this year. Ironically the 2-man documentary crew had more money then our entire movie.

 

We love Australian horror / thriller films (Wake in Fright, Cat Sick Blues, Hounds of Love), and Red Christmas was no exception; more people should watch them. Any personal favorites you'd like to recommend?

Thank you and I absolutely agree. If you haven’t seen the documentary Not Quite Hollywood it’s an excellent gateway into the wild and wacky world of Ozploitation. Horror films I’d also recommend include- Patrick, Razorback, Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Loved Ones, The Babadook, Wolf Creek, Undead, Wyrmwood, Thirst and Bad Boy Bubby.

What have you got in store for us next?

Following along the strand of ‘inappropriateness’ I’ve written an action comedy about terrorism called Blue Terror, which I’m sure no studio would ever want to make. Within the Horror genre, I’ve written an unofficial sequel to Red Christmas called Coffin Birth, which deals with misogyny on college campuses. I’m also shopping around a film based on the Korean urban myth of The Elevator Game.