This week, “The Suckling” has a “Red Christmas” as we dare to explore the darkly depressing and indescribably weird world of abortion horror.
The Cine-Files is a film journal where I review and rate the movies I’m watching on a color scale, inspired by my love of Sour Patch Kids candy — green for the worst films, orange for average films, red for the great films, and blue for the absolute best of the best.
At least one good thing you could say about bad horror movies is how bravely they approach controversial topics, such as abortion. Here are two repulsive examples.
Red Christmas (2o16, directed by Craig Anderson)
It takes someone with good character to put their principles to the test. And to endure punishment, as well. I viciously defend all horror movies as being important and credible art. Then I watch movies like this. Let me forewarn you: there will be SPOILERS in both reviews. Because all the miserable goopy shit in them need to be explained in order to give them a fair review.
Red Christmas is an Australian movie, so we get to enjoy their accents, which I love. It’s about a troubled family on Christmas day, and the matriarch, played by Dee Wallace, is doing everything she can to make it a happy holiday. Everyone has an Aussie accent except her. If there is a reason for that, I missed it. So, suspension of disbelief. Ok, I’m cool with that. It’s an essential frame of mind for many horror movies.
The sisters are off-the-charts hostile to one another and rabidly argue. They have a brother with Down Syndrome (played by Gerard Odwyer) who helps Dee and tries to make the best of it. The major problem I have with this movie is how depressing it is. I don’t mean bittersweet, tuggy-heartstring depressing.
Red Christmas wants to fucking suffocate you in emotional angst and misery. None of the characters are in a good place psychologically, and the toxicity of the household fucking dripped from the corners of my television screen. Even the Downs brother occasionally loses his patience and screams for everyone to shut the fuck up. Those moments, I must admit, are extremely uncomfortable.
I don’t remember all their names, and there’s no way I’m looking them all up. So, there are two sisters, one is a holy roller with some kind of preacher for a husband (boyfriend?). The other sister is a somewhat free spirit with a hipster boyfriend (husband?) and a baby belly ready to burst. Then there’s the “punk rock” sister. She is the youngest and . . . wait for it . . . hottest sister.
Much fuss is made about her peanut allergy (as in “hint-hint this is how she dies”), but it never goes anywhere. Then there’s the Down brother, played by Gerard Odwyer. He must be given props, because he has to stand there and listen to them all. Yes, because he really has Down Syndrome, and yes, because he has to stand there and listen to them all. There’s an uncle too, but he doesn’t do much except look like a greasy, out-of-place truck driver.
Apologies for skipping around. The setup for this whole thing is at the very beginning. Twenty years ago a young girl is in the process of having an abortion when someone bombs the clinic. But of course the fetus survives and now looks like a Voorhees. Sorry for that digression.
A tall and hooded stranger comes to visit the happy fam on Christmas day, but he freaks them the fuck out. They try to be welcoming and nice, until he says he’s the thriving mutant abortion Dee Wallace had twenty years ago. He is thrown out of the house, literally, and stumbles around in the woods, weeping from loneliness and rejection. Positive fucking cinema here.
Mom was keeping the abortion a secret, obviously. The movie continues with more fighting. Many arguments got so nasty I was concerned free-spirit sister was going to miscarry. Hot punk sister goes outside for a break from the festivities, and she’s the first victim of mutant-abortion-Voorhees man. She gets a Wrong Turn 2/Terrifier. But we only see her legs. After discovering the body, the family mourn uncontrollably, completely uncorked, and panicking. All at the same time.
“Hide over here with me!”
“Fuck you I’m not hiding with you!”
“Go the fuck over there!”
“Don’t tell me where the fuck to go, I’ll go where I want!”
“Oh fuck where did she go?”
“Fuck you, you never loved her anyway!”
“Fuck you, how can you say that?!”
“Is the killer still out there?”
Dee tries to keep it together, but to no avail. At this point I got bored with it, and very disturbed by how grim and miserable it all was. Even after the killer started killing (HELLO, that’s when the fun is supposed to start), there was still an overcast cloud of mean-spirited depression. I logged on to Facebook and disconnected from the movie a bit. Not that I was expecting Facebook to be a real source of positivity either, the fucking negative thoughtzi sewer that it is.
From what I could tell, it is eventually revealed that the reason Dee aborted the baby twenty years ago was because it wasn’t going to be a normal child, so she didn’t want to bring it into the world. Well, this completely sets Gerard off into a rage, and he corners her with a shotgun and screams about how she didn’t want him and doesn’t love him and thinks he’s a freak.
See what I mean by negativity and misery?
But we must tell ourselves: this isn’t garbage. Red Christmas is art, and it’s important. Red Christmas matters to someone. I bet some people are very proud of their work. They should be. It was definitely made with passion.
It gets very gory. The kills are sick-as-fuck. But sadly, some aren’t very original. One kill is taken from Stitches (yeah, that kill . . . still an awesome kill to see, though). Another is taken from the Straw Dogs remake. The movie was lighted well, too. Watching all that melodramatic misery lit with gorgeous candy-colored Christmas lights was off-putting, though. That was odd. And I hope filming it didn’t emotionally scar Gerard too much.
The Suckling (1990, directed by Francis Terri)
Michael Gingold stars in this as the creature itself, so it’s probably legitimately bad karma to trash it too much. So, let’s start with a “when I was a wee lad” story.
Back when I was in my teens and still discovering the vast treasures of horror and exploitation, there was a magical place. A mecca. It was about three miles from my house, and it was called “The Square”. It was a fragmented, circle-shaped collection of stores, so where “The Square” came from I have no idea. Anyway, there was an amazing fancy-pants bookstore a few steps away from “The Square” called Tudor Books. It’s long gone now. This was back when Waldenbooks existed and Fangoria was, AHEM, affordable.
Tudor Books had a huge selection of imported movie magazines. Like Sight and Sound. Oh man, I felt like such an intellectual in high school. Skipping gym class and reading my Sight and Sound. Anyway, they had a UK horror magazine called Fear. It featured, among other things, regular reviews by Mark Kermode, who is now one of the most popular and respected film critics in England. And it also featured news about weird new movies. Movies like The Suckling.
The headline alone hooked me. “SUCKLING SEX SENSATION!” How does a teenage boy read that and not say “more please”?
There was a new indie out called The Suckling, and apparently it took the sensitive topic of abortion into the stratosphere of offensiveness. I forget if it was censored in England, or just outright banned. The article featured the coolest pictures. A girl holding a slimy monster fetus, and another of the full-grown creature. I never got to see it, though. Movies like The Suckling just didn’t secrete down into little crevice towns like mine. Fast forward to the era of the DVD. I finally got to see The Suckling when I ordered it from Diabolik DVD.
It didn’t live up to the hype and the sensational sex, that’s for sure. There actually wasn’t any sex in it. Except one sexy-ish part where a dominatrix breaks the fourth wall and strips to a non-diegetic melody from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. For the entire running time, The Suckling balances on a thin wire between fratboy-dumb and raunchy satire. I give it points for that. It isn’t a tone I’ve seen pulled off all that often.
What is The Suckling actually about? A young boy brings his knocked-up girlfriend to a dumpy house that is run by Big Mama as both an abortion clinic and a brothel. The prostitutes get pregnant, and Big Mama takes care of it. Then they get pregnant again, and the circle of life continues. The young girl protests to being involved in a delicate medical procedure in the middle of such filth (Big Mama can be seen cleaning stringy red chunks off a bent wire hanger). So she is drugged and Big Mama does it anyway.
An assistant is handed the fetus and flushes it down the toilet. Hey man, you asked for this! Anyway, the fetus is doused in toxic sludge as it crawls around in the sewer. Then it scoots back up through the pipes and pops out of the toilet, hungry for revenge. The creature itself is on-camera a lot, which is always a good thing. No hidey-hoo-boogedy-boo here. Even this depravity treats you like more of an intelligent adult than Blumhouse does.
The monster is a giant fleshy mass of tentacles, talons, and drooling teeth. And the eyes are gorgeous. It somehow manages to grow twice the size of a human being yet still crawl stealthily within the walls of the old house. The kills are ok. The big treat here is the creature itself and how hilariously crude, cruel, and crazed the movie is.
When the only one left alive is the young girl, the monster smiles at her sweetly, then runs at her. As it gets closer to her it begins to shrink back to the size of a fetus and crawls back into her vagina. You think that ending can’t possibly be topped? Think again.
We cut to the girl in an asylum. She sits on the floor and stares off into space. Two orderlies grab her and take her to an isolated corner, intending to rape her. Once the first orderly gets to it, a tentacle reaches out from her vagina and chokes him. Then a talon slithers out and impales him as the other inmates watch and laugh.
So what we have here are two movies about vengeance-starved aborted fetus mutants. What is my point? Nothing, really. Maybe put down the protest sign, go home, curl up, and watch a horror movie?