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David Opie

After making her cinematic debut in the original Stepford Wives movie, industry legend Dee Wallace has proved herself to be the ultimate scream queen time and time again. Over the course of 40+ years, Wallace has appeared in countless horror classics, including the likes of Cujo, The Howling, and The Hills Have Eyes, just to name a few.

In between winning Daytime Emmy Awards and stealing the spotlight in guest TV appearances, Wallace took some time out to talk to us about her controversial new Australian horror Red Christmas, also revealing some surprising tidbits about her scream queen legacy along the way.

Have Yourself A Bloody Little Christmas

In Red Christmas, writer-director Craig Anderson flips the traditional slasher movie on its head, using the festive setting as an excuse to delve into uncomfortable family dynamics that explore controversial territory. Sure, the killers in horror movies are usually close to the victims in some way, yet never before has a scream queen been attacked by their long-lost child that they tried but failed to abort decades earlier.

Given that abortion continues to be a sensitive issue in today's political climate, it's commendable that a horror legend such as Dee Wallace would avoid playing it safe, instead tackling the staples of the genre through this contentious, real-life context. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why Wallace committed to the role of Diane in the first place:

"You know, there are really good horror films like 'Cujo' that have a statement to make, but ['Red Christmas'] was way, way beyond what most films do. I thought Craig [Anderson] was so brave to do this. He explored several different sides of the issue, from the mother's decision about why she chose to do it, to the baby's decision about being abandoned and what that did to him for the rest of his life... how the kids react, there are so many social statements going on here. I just went 'oh my gosh, what an original film; I have to do this.'"

Red Christmas is a remarkable combination of exploitation filmmaking and issue-based horror that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. It's rare to identify so resolutely with both the "monster" and its potential victims, but here, Anderson draws out poignant performances from the entire family — in between the gruesome deaths and flashes of neon Christmas lights, of course. Unsurprisingly though, it's Wallace who anchors the film, transforming what could have been a caricatured mother on the verge of hysteria into another empowering scream queen, one who deserves a place alongside Dee's most iconic roles.

Red Christmas [Credit: Douglas Burdorff Via Artsploitation Films]
Red Christmas [Credit: Douglas Burdorff Via Artsploitation Films]

Much of this is down to Wallace's dedication. After all, the horror legend may now be 68, but Wallace still gives younger scream queens a run for their money. After telling us that she was initially unsure of committing to the more physical aspects of the role, Wallace explained to us how things immediately changed upon arriving on set:

"When I read the script, I thought 'I don't know if I can do it anymore, but I'm sure going to try.' But we'd get down there and I'd go 'Oh Craig, wouldn't it be great if I could crawl in through the front door and take a roll and start shooting from the floor?' And he looked at me and went, 'Are you willing to do that Dee, because I don't have a stunt girl for it?' 'Yeah, yeah let me give it a shot,' so I came out with a couple of bruises."

It's no wonder that Wallace was treated for exhaustion following her work on Cujo if this dedication is anything to go by — although the star does explain to us that the working conditions in Australia were far more balanced than what's she's typically encountered in the US. In fact, the Red Christmas cast and crew felt more like "a big family" to Wallace and this is clear in the chemistry that the family of characters share, even in the face of adversity.

Will Dee Wallace Appear In The Cujo 'Remake'?

Cujo [Credit: Warner Bros.]
Cujo [Credit: Warner Bros.]

It's fitting that Cujo star Dee Wallace returned to horror in 2017 given that more Stephen King adaptations are in development than ever before. However, despite the success of IT and Mr. Mercedes, it's Wallace's star turn as Donna Trenton in Cujo that remains one of the most beloved performances drawn from these books. In fact, King still sings Cujo's praises today, even stating that Wallace deserved an Academy Award nomination for her part in the fight against the Big Bernard.

Unsurprisingly then, a Cujo reimagining is now in the works, but neither fans nor Wallace herself seem particularly impressed by the new approach that's supposedly being taken:

"It's not a remake. It's another film called 'Cujo.' I can't believe Stephen [King] is going to legally let them do this. They're using the letters, but it stands for some military operation."

The acronym of this new C.U.J.O. will stand for “Canine Unit Joint Operations,” yet aside from that, little is known still about this updated version of the Stephen King classic. However this plays out though, Wallace won't be involved:

"Interested? No, I think they've already done it."

Despite this distaste, the idea of a possible Cujo remake hasn't deterred Wallace from appearing in other Stephen King adaptations in the future. Not only does she cite Cujo as her favorite movie that she's ever made, but Wallace also revealed the unique way that she would like to tackle another one of the author's stories:

"Look, I would love to do a wonderful Stephen King story about a mother and her daughter. My daughter Gabrielle [Stone] is an actress and we're looking for projects. We actually have a project written for us right now."

Check out how Stephen King's adaptations are connected in the clip below:

With that being said though, Wallace admits that if she were to star in another adaptation, she wishes that producer Daniel H. Blatt could join her. The producer worked with Wallace on Cujo and The Howling, but unfortunately died back in 2013. Discussing the work she did with Blatt and director Joe Dante, Wallace explained how:

"They brought up the level of everything we did with 'Cujo' and 'The Howling'... They take what's on the page and the possibility and make it ever so much greater through their creativity. Boy, would I love to get a whole group of these people together. Wow, what a movie we would have!"

What's Next For The Iconic Scream Queen?

The Howling [Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures]
The Howling [Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures]

Given that the genre is renowned for resurrecting popular franchises from yesteryear, Wallace revealed to us that there's one particular movie of hers that she would love to revisit one day:

"They've done lots of sequels of 'The Howling.' I would love to do a better sequel if we ever went back to do it."

This might surprise fans given the fate of her character Karen White at the end of the first film. However, Wallace suggested a way round this that holds real potential:

"So many of the people are gone now. I think it would have to be an entirely different story taking place with a different cast."

Since Wallace first starred in the werewolf-infested world of The Howling, seven sequels have been developed, including a comic book that continued directly on from the events of the first film. However, in 2015, it was announced that a remake of the original movie was in the works. While little has been heard on this front since, we could certainly imagine Wallace taking a cameo role at the very least, paying homage to her original turn as Karen White.

If Red Christmas proved anything, it's that Wallace still has the lungs needed for this kind of role, screaming her heart out in the faces of werewolves and murderous children alike. Given her iconic status as one of the most famous scream queens out there, we asked Wallace how she taps into this fear on set:

"It's all based on energy. When you get your energy really, really high, you just let yourself rip. You don't monitor yourself or watch your performance. You just go, 'Hey, I'm going to let it all out there.' I've always had the ability. Even when I was a little girl, I could see the monster in the closet, much to my mother's great dismay. I've always had a really vivid imagination. Because of my childhood, my emotional life has always been really available to me, and I love using it. Some people just really want to walk away from that 'not feeling good' place. For me, it's almost therapy in a weird way. I love it. I look for roles that have big arcs like that, like 'The Frighteners' and 'Cujo,' 'The Howling' and 'Red Christmas.'"

With this ability to lose herself so completely in a role, it's no wonder that Wallace has created such a timeless legacy with her work. Whether the remake or the next installment of stars Wallace or not, her plucky performance in Red Christmas will stand as yet another reminder of the scream queen's lasting appeal.

Dee Wallace will appear next on our screens in a new season of the Amazon Prime series Just Add Magic, but anyone who's followed her work since the beginning already fell under her spell decades ago.

What's your favorite Dee Wallace role? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!


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