Red Letter Day Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Epic Pictures | DREAD
Written and directed by Cameron Macgowan
2019, 73 minutee, Rated R
Released on November 1st, 2019
Dawn Van de Schoot as Melanie Edwards
Hailey Foss as Madison Edwards
Kaeleb Zain Gartner as Timothy Edwards
Roger LeBlanc as Luther Addams
Arielle Rombough as Alice Huang
Michael Tan as Lewis Huang
Red Letter Day immediately immerses the viewer in its world. A man checks his mail to find a titular envelope and is shortly killed by a neighbor who then drags him into the house and dispassionately hoses the blood from his porch. Cut to the Edwards family, mother Melanie and teen children Tim and Madison, as they are settling into a suburban Canadian cul-de-sac. Dad is a deadbeat and out of the picture, and the family makes plans as they realize that they all have a rare Friday off together. Plans are cut short as they get their red letters with a picture of someone and instructions that they must kill that person before that person kills them. The police offer no assistance, and a check online reveals that the letters have been sent from a masked online group called The Unknown. The family chooses to ignore the missive, until they no longer have a choice.
Inevitably, Red Letter Day will be compared to, if not referred to, as The Canadian Purge. While there are warranted similarities, the film does enough to stand on its own. Writer/director Cameron Macgowan makes his feature debut, and it’s a suitable endeavor. While the writing at times enters the realm of explaining more than showing, and the dialogue can sometimes slide into standard TV drama boilerplate, the characters are believable, and the audience is readily able to stay in the plot with little to take them out of it. There is one exception to this, as no one likes the movie Ghost Ship enough to buy, let alone hang, a poster of it in their home. The effects and acting are well done, especially for a lower budget horror film, with the standout being a character having his lower jaw split in two by a meat tenderizer. In all, he hits much more than he misses.
The acting, like the effects, are much better than moviegoers will find in similarly budgeted fare. The family as a whole feels like a family, as the chemistry between the actors comes through to the screen. Dawn van de Schoot in particular shines in her role as a single mother in an impossible scenario, trying to protect her own. A lesser actress would have bungled some key scenes, especially when Melanie tensely stands off against her friend, who is the person in her Red Letter. Kaeleb Zain Gertner plays a younger teen mama’s boy well, while Hailey Foss embodies the rebellious older teen daughter well enough that she quickly because tiresome, but that is as written. Any mentions of portrayals being slightly off are cleverly covered with the fact that those characters are written to be that way, so it’s a toss-up on whether it is due to the actor or the script.
The only real complaint is that the motivations for the events, the group called The Unknown setting up a social experiment as a denouncement of social media and the reliance of the masses on it, comes off as preachy and a bit shoehorned. It can be said that the television show Mr. Robot did it better, but even then, most of the diatribes and angsty “truths” are eye rolling at best and idiotic at worst. In all, Red Letter Day delivers a fun and interesting movie to watch, thanks to a good cast and decent direction.
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