By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Dee Wallace memorably tangled with werewolves in THE HOWLING and a rabid St. Bernard in CUJO, but she’s never been in as hairy a situation as she is in RED CHRISTMAS. The actress sat down with RUE MORGUE to talk up the Australian-made black-comic shocker, out today on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from Artsploitation Films.
Written and directed by Craig Anderson (who discusses the movie here), RED CHRISTMAS stars Wallace, who was also a producer, as Diane, a woman who once had an abortion that went awry. The fetus survived, and grew up to be a disfigured man who returns years later to terrorize Diane and her family during a Yuletide get-together at a big country house. Amidst a good deal of outrageous humor involving some touchy subjects, Diane enacts a straight-faced survival scenario as she tries to save her brood. RUE MORGUE spoke with Wallace right after RED CHRISTMAS’ international premiere at last year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
How would you describe your role in the middle of all the insanity in RED CHRISTMAS?
I play the loving mother with a lot of life who loves the holiday—not a great stretch for me [laughs], ’cause I love Christmas. I remember getting the script and saying, “Oh my gosh, it’s a Christmas film!” and then, “Oh my God, it’s this kind of Christmas film…” [Laughs] Diane has a lot more fun energy in the beginning of the movie, and a lot more focused, hysterical energy as it goes on.
THE HOWLING also has a lot of comedic elements; how did your experience on RED CHRISTMAS compare to that one?
Both experiences were incredibly fun for me, and challenging, but I don’t look at the comedy in RED CHRISTMAS in the same way we used it in THE HOWLING. If there’s any kind of comedy in RED CHRISTMAS, it would be slice-of-life, which is real—those quirky things that go on between families that you can kind of smile about if you’re an outsider watching it. The humor in THE HOWLING was chosen and directed to kind of throw you off, so that we could bring you back into the horror of it, and I think we use comedy in RED CHRISTMAS in a very different way.
Had you made a movie in Australia before?
I had, years and years and years ago, and it was a Christmas movie! It was called MIRACLE DOWN UNDER in America, but in Australia, the title was BUSHFIRE MOON. I guess people in America didn’t get that, but they know we call Australia Down Under, so they released it as MIRACLE DOWN UNDER. I love Australia, and I love the people there.
How was it working with your Australian co-stars?
Well, I felt a little like an outsider, working with these actors that I found out are incredibly well-known in Australia and beyond. They have their own shows, Geoff Morrell is one of the most prolific and well-known actors in Australia, so I was thinking, “Gosh, I’ve really got to be on my A-game here!” But one of the most endearing things about doing this film was that every single one of those actors would do anything for Craig. He’s so talented, and he was always there for us. And then he had starred in our co-producer Bryan Moses’ movie [THE TAIL JOB]. It was that kind of family support thing, where everyone had mutual respect and admiration. It was beautiful to work in.
Any fun memories from the shoot?
Yes, we had a contest amongst all of us to see who could kill the most flies [laughs]! We were shooting in a home, and we had to open it up a lot to bring equipment in and out, and there were just a lot of flies. And of course, in your most intense scenes, they would decide that they wanted to be in the scene with you, right in front of your eyes. So it actually became a huge amount of fun on the set; it seemed like we were killing flies right and left. And I won!
Also, I got locked in the bathroom in my camper. The handle on the door fell off, and I have claustrophobia. So after a few minutes, I started screaming, “Help, someone help me!” I think it was 15 minutes before someone finally came to get me out. Craig’s dad, who I love to death—he drove me and picked me up a lot and took care of me—was right outside the door, but he just thought I was rehearsing [laughs], with all the screaming I was doing, because we were shooting this really big scene that day.
After all the different movies you’ve done, does horror still have a special appeal to you?
I love horror. I love the emotion, I love the ride, I love the challenge that it gives you. And I think the biggest challenge in horror is to play the fear and trying to escape, but stay honest, you know? Horror begs you to step over that line as an actor, and I think the more honest you can be, and yet go through the most horrific reactions you can give the audience, so that they can experience it through you—that’s the challenge, and I love it. I love to play arcs, and horror films give you that.