Extremely frustrated with the lack of respect from snot nose kids and the monotonous, round-the-loopy-loop that is his life existence, Duke, the carousel unicorn, has finally had enough the moment after a fat kid mounts him for a ride, smacks him like a giddy-up horse, and wiping his snot onto Duke’s glossy wooden eyeballs. The latter being the final straw that broke the unicorn’s back. Duke breaks free from the amusement park ride in search for a better quality of life when he happens to discover that killing makes him feel good, real good. With a newfound purpose, Duke vows to hunt down and end that fat brat, slaughtering anyone and everyone in his path of carnival-esque carnage that leads the unicorn not to water, but to a house party where the kid stuffs his chubby face full of cake and other goodies while his older sister and her friends order pizza and hit hard the alcohol as they discuss a love and hate for a popular kids show, My Tiny Unicorn. When Duke shows up at the front door, his statue-like presence is a big party hit amongst unicorn show fanatics who are unsuspecting of his murderous desires. The only person capable of stopping the mayhem is the amusement park mascot, a jovial warden cowboy named Cowboy Cool with his trusty, evil unicorn stopping six-shooter.
Step right up! Step right up! Behold and be amazed by the stupendous and the downright bonkers horror-comedy, “CarousHELL,” about a killer carousel unicorn from big top maestro, writer-director Steve Rudzinski. The “Everyone Must Die!” filmmaker helms a satirical slasher co-written by Aleen Isley in her first credited treatment. “CarousHELL,” a whimsical play on carousel and hell if you somehow couldn’t figure that out, inexplicably sprints with the inanimate killer concept that visually livens an old “Family Guy” wisecrack about the latest Stephen King novel being about a killer lamp! Instead of a bright bulb shining blood red and using the electrical cord as a noose, Rudzinski and Isley explore the macabre qualities of an inorganic unicorn by extending its cache of weapons beyond the obvious long, pointy horn to also being able to wield a machete without opposable thumbs, sharp shoot with a bow-and-arrow with hooves, and even have the capability to kill with ninja stars despite the sloping shoulder conformation. Impressive…
Rudzinski also co-stars as Joe, a diehard pizza delivery guy and passionate dog lover who is desperately trying to earn money for his ill-stricken four legged friend. Rudzinski, sustaining both roles as a director and a performer, solicitously molding Joe as an oblivious nice guy just looking to do his job and even though he’s a bit of an impatient spaz, Joe’s not the biggest spaz swimming in the character pool. Rudzinski could be considered the lead male in the one of many boisterous roles of “CarousHELL” who certainly manages to get the girl without having to lift an finger. That girl being the self-indulgent Laurie, big sister to the unicorn pissing off brother. With her face glued to her social media phone and being a spoiled brat herself, Laurie has little-to-no attachments to anything: she’s not tied down to one boy, weighs social media clicks heavily in life, and finds disrespect the choice of attitude even toward her pole–strapping stripper of a MILF mother. Pittsburgh, PA born Sé Marie (“Cryptids”) does bitchy well, finding a nice niche to nest in with this harebrained, but light-hearted slasher with bite. Joe and Laurie have excessive personalities, but nothing can top Preston who sets the field bar. The house party co-host starts off as a complete douchebag complete with popped collar and an unquenchable thirst for bare chests and the introduction of Chris Proud really makes a first impression in a truly unbearable, over-the-top role, but believe it or not, Preston is one of the few characters of the film to have what could be construed as an arch storyline. Preston, by the end, transforms into a likable character with penchant expertise for the My Tiny Unicorn universe (a spoof toward Hasboro’s “My Little Pony”) and is the only character to perceive the first hand danger from the infiltrating and evil unicorn from hell. Duke is hands down the best scribed character of the entire film. Voiced by veteran voice actor, Steve Rimpici, Duke can literally stand inanimate and still be a vital part of the story. The versatile Rimpici is like the movie trailer voiceover guy with an uncanny Duke Nukem-type voice who has movie credits including the Dustin Mills’ directed features, “The Puppet Monster Massacre” and “Easter Casket,” as well as stints in video games such as “Red Dead Redemption” and “Mafia III.” The cast rounds out with Sarah Brunner, P.J. Gaynard, Judy H.R. Kirby, Josh Miller (“Amityville” No Escape”), Teague Shaw, Haley Madison (“Haunted House on Sorority Row”), Cindy Fernandez-Nixon, Shawn Shelpman (“Red Christmas”), Corella Waring and Michael Mawhinney.
With a film like “CarousHELL,” killer special effects need to be a must as marketing an inanimate villain will be hard sell. Yeah, “CarousHELL” has catchy dialogue, witty enough banter, and gratuitous and non-gratuitous nudity. There’s even multi-positional sex with the unicorn. Thanks for that searing image Steve Rudzinski and Haley Madison! However, a slasher requires good kill moments and the special effects work by Cody Ruch meets the demand with a brutal that include a beautiful gored unicorn horn kill to the neck, a double impale followed by a goopy string entrails, and an Ronald Lacy melting scene with charring laser eyes! Even with a high body count and delectable moments of insanity at it’s peak, “CarousHELL” will undeniably find a general audience outside the scope of genre fans who will understand the context behind fashioning a unicorn slasher, those who are just easily entertained, and maybe a slither of fans of westerns.
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing delivers the hell raising attraction, “CarousHELL,” onto DVD home video presented region free, unrated, and in widescreen format. The digitally shot video has a pleasing standard of quality. A few moments of brief aliasing but nothing to specifically note that matters. The dual-channel audio was the most disconcerting issue that’s affecting the release. More so with the exaggeration of performances with the screaming and the screeching, the feedback distortion is pesky and jarring. Dialogue is prevalent and forefront, but lacks range and depth and so the verbal tracks tend to blend together. The bonus features are a welcoming site with a commentary track, cast interviews that explain how the film came to fruition and that better explains what the “CarousHELL” they were thinking when creating this fun flick, a few deleted scenes that explain the disappearance of minor characters, bloopers, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. Just like “JAWS” did with ocean, “CarousHELL” will cause hesitation when deliberating if riding a unicorn will endanger your mortality. “CarousHELL” is fun, campy, and a whole bunch of nonsense that has our full 100% support in the horror community.
On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!
“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.
When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.
Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!