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On Red Christmas

“It is a horror film but some people at other festivals it has gotten into have started to describe it as a horror comedy. It’s about a woman who’s retired and has grown up children who’ve all come home on Christmas Day and during their Christmas present opening ceremony something bizarre happens – there’s a knock on the door, a man in a cloak enters and that’s where things go bad.”

On the film’s comic edge

“I’m a big fan of comedy and most of the things I’ve done in Australia as a Director have been comedies and I just love laughing at things and I think it’s an awesome way of communicating ideas. There’s a sort of a limit to what comedy can deal with though, its excellent at dealing with small things, social interactions but there’s a point where comedy needs to step aside and let horror come in. What the guy in the cloak ends up doing in the film is bringing such a horrible idea that it doesn’t get dealt well with comedy and that’s where genres like horror and science fiction take up the stuff that’s so horrible we normally put it in dreams.”

On the man in the cloak, his similarity to other horror villains and what sets him apart

“I love slasher films from the 80s, that was a genre of horror where you introduce a cast, you introduce a theme and it all gets dealt with by people dying. It’s a really bizarre way of communicating a story but I love it, it’s something Shakespearean tragedies also do – they introduce something and people die and that’s how lessons get taught. I like that my bad guy comes in and isn’t there just to be an ominous figure that kills people but instead politely introduces himself and sits down and has a cup of tea. I’ve tried to cast him so he’s not malevolent, he’s not an evil person he’s a misunderstood person like some sort of Greek tragedy and when you find out what that misunderstanding is you could go both ways in being on his side but at the same time he’s killing people so it’s a bit sad. There’s a great film called ‘Cujo’ about a dog who has rabies and it’s a gut-wrenching film because the only reason this dog is trying to kill this woman and her son stuck in the car is because the dog has rabies. Before that, you’ve met the dog, he’s really polite and it’s a family dog and the little boy loves him so it’s a really conflicting film because circumstances made him into a villain.”

On the conundrum modern horror films have faced with the advent of cell phones and the novel way its addressed in the film

“It’s always tacky when someone says ‘aw you’re not going to get reception out here mate’ or ‘nah the clouds have come over’ – some really ridiculous thing about mobile phone reception not working is in just about every modern horror film now where you realise the phones aren’t going to work and I thought I’d just explicitly show why the phones were not about to work in my film.”

On the local cast and production

“I have worked a lot in comedy television, mostly on ABC, so I’ve been lucky enough to work with some excellent Australian actors – Geoff Morrell is an Australian actor who is also a very serious, historical figure in acting in Australia, he was in Cloud Street and heaps of films from the 80s and 90s – he’s in the film and most of the cast have been comedians. The villain is played by an up and coming new comedian called Sam Campbell who is crazy and keeps winning awards for comedy in Melbourne and Sydney and then there’s Bjorn Stewart who I worked with on black comedy, there’s an actress called Janis McGavin who I’ve worked with for sketch shows on the ABC and another actress called Sarah Bishop who is fantastic and one of the members of Skitbox and they became big viral smash hits recently for a thing they did called Activewear – she’s in the Activewear video-clip which is a song parody of the fad of wearing Activewear yoga pants out in public when you’re not actually doing anything active.”

On mixing horror and comedy

“I think the body is moved by those two genres in that in fear you can jump and have a response in the body when something loud happens in the cinema or you start to feel tense because you’ve associated with a character, you don’t want them to get hurt so you can feel fear and I think the same thing happens with horror comedy but I think the trick with horror comedy is that you can open a door with the humour and the body responds to the jokes in it and you smile a lot and then whilst the body is vulnerable from laughter and the good vibes associated with laughter that’s when I start to insert some horrible feelings. I sound like some sort of crazed psychopath filmmaker but that’s kind of my intention in that that’s what the body does.”

On the point of view shots

“I love point of view shots I think it’s an element of cinema, being able to be inside the eyes of a character, its exclusive to cinema but it’s becoming a virtual reality thing as well but I love the feeling and the questions it raises when you are point of view and you may be the villain, but at some point you also become the protagonist in my film. There’s been a great history of point of view shots in cinema including ‘Peeping Tom’ – the first time it was used in the 60s, which put you inside, it raised questions because you’re inside the villain and it continued in the 80s with Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees – these bad guys standing outside looking through bushes and you were inside of them. It raises interesting questions because it asks are you responsible and in a way you are, because you’re watching the film, you are the viewer of the film, you helped to generate it.”

On the Sydney Film Festival premiere

“I’m very excited – I’m very exhausted to be honest as well – I am so happy to have finished it – and it’s also my first film – it’s gotten into a number of other big international horror festivals, genre festivals.“

“So a lot of pressure and a lot of excitement. We open on the 11th at Newtown Dendy and then it’s on one more time on the 17th and I’m just excited to show an audience and to see how people respond.”

Red Christmas is premiering on Saturday June 11 at the Sydney Film Festival at 8:30pm at Dendy Newtown and is screening again at 8:15pm on Friday June 17 at Event Cinemas George St – for tickets head to the Festival website

Glen Falkenstein on 2ser