Why Have’t You Seen It: Red


First of all, and most importantly, this is NOT the movie about the old people who are assassins. No, that movie got enough attention. This is a movie from 2008 based on a Jack Ketchum novel of the same name. If you are anything like me, you shudder slightly when you hear the name Jack Ketchum, because you know his stuff (like The Woman, starring my lovely friend, Pollyanna McIntosh) is unsettling, intense, and often musters many emotions in its readers and viewers. While Red definitely lacks some of the brutality of his other films (like The Girl Next Door), it packs an even harder emotional punch, because the deeper you get down the rabbit hole, the darker it gets. While you guys know I love revenge movies (shoutout to Dead Man’s Shoes), Red may appear a revenge movie on the surface, but do not mistake it for one. This is not a movie about revenge. It is a movie about justice, and there is a difference between the two. If you do not know the difference when the movie begins, you will by the end. And again, for those concerned, I will not spoil the film at all for you, rest assured.

Red is a story about an old man and his dog, Red, who is also very much his best friend. I think, considering this is Ketchum, you can already see where this is going. Avery Ludlow (played by the ever-amazing Brian Cox) was given a dog named Red by his late wife, just before she passed on. Avery and Red are the closest of friends, and they have their daily rituals. One of the things they love to do is go to the local fishing hole and do a little fishing to pass the time on sunny days. One day, Avery is fishing with Red, the dog, laying down sleeping by his side. Some young hunters come through the brush, startling Red and Avery, but Avery is very kind and accommodating to these kids, telling them his advice for hunting and fishing. But this is a Ketchum, so this is where things get ugly, and the brunt of our story begins.


A dark and unforgettable tale about loss, redemption, and justice.

Even when it comes to horror films or thrillers, sometimes stuff happening to animals messes me up more than stuff happening to humans. I  know that might make me technically insane, but I don’t think I am alone in that. And for the most part, even fiction knows not to tread on that. Dead kids and dead animals, are things even horror movies often don’t touch. But you need to know, right now, and I am sorry for this, that these punk ass kids blow Red away, right in front of Avery. Anyone who has ever had a pet and loved it like a member of the family must know how upsetting this is. And as odd as it will sound, the film is classy with how it handles the violence, and we never really see Red in that state, which I was relieved about. Okay, once, near the end, but still, for a Ketchum novel, this is fairly mild. In visuals, anyway. When it comes to subject matter, though, be forewarned. It may not upset you, visually, but the subject matter will have you foaming at the mouth.

In the actual death of Red, you can feel Avery’s pain and loss, and just how massive that loss is. But that is not the worst part. The worst part comes in how everyone around Avery handles it. From the local police, to the towns folk, right down to the parents of the young hunters, there is complete disregard for Avery and what he went through. And it is slowly revealed to us that he went through a great deal more than we even knew. This man has had everything he ever loved taken from him, and Red was a sort of proverbial nail in the coffin. This leads me perfectly to my next point, which is the power of Brian Cox’s performance.


He will grab each one of your heart strings and pull them individually.

You will feel his loss. You will feel his rage. You will feel his sadness, and his growing feeling of helplessness as the mess just unfolds more and more around him. I really think Avery is one of the best performances I have ever seen. It is so subtle, so nuanced, that this does not feel like acting. It feels like you peaked into someone’s life and caught them on the worst possible day. But Cox also injects an odd sense of hope into all this. He never becomes a vigilante. Never goes for the vein. He just wants justice is all.

What you need to understand is, if you are imagining Avery losing his dog and turning into some mad man, you are far off. That is not this movie. What makes this all work is just how grounded and human Brian Cox portrays Avery as. Yes, this is a man who has been beaten down by life, but at no point does he reflect back a man who seems like he thinks the world owes him anything. He is just a man on a mission, and in this case, that mission is getting justice for his dog. He doesn’t even hunt them down to kill them. He simply finds the kids and hopes, in their hearts, they will be able to admit what they did and apologize for it. That is all. But obviously parents who enable kids who do such awful things are not good people, and once the war starts between all of them, the family only perpetuates the worst parts of by not doing the right thing. And only stacking more bad shit on top of the some of the good stuff they do.


And that, my friends, is a Jack Ketchum. Yes, kinda like the Pokemon kid.

And as much as you may be scared to see this, especially if you are animal lover, don’t be. It is not brutal, nor is it as nihilist as I may make it sound. To be honest, when all was said and done, and I sat there, MAYBE wiping my eyes a little bit, it hit me what I liked so much about Red. It was not a movie about loss. It was not a movie about revenge, or even its friendlier cousin, justice, like I so boldly stated earlier. No, this was a movie that was about new beginnings. About finding hope in the darkest of places. And if you do find yourself with tears in your eyes at the end of this movie, know tears are not born forth from sadness, but actually, they are tears of joy. Of hope for Avery, that the best of his world may yet be revealed.

For in our darkest hours, there is always the faintest glimmer of hope if you just know where to look. Speaking of hopeful places to look, go read my site.

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  1. I hardly ever get emotionally when a character dies in a movie, but, an animal… that can be difficult.
    It’s a normal response. It’s why people donate more to charities that involve animals or kids. Kids and animals generally have no idea what’s going on or why they’re being attacked. All they can understand is that someone is hurting them, which is really fucking depressing.

  2. Am I crazy to love the fact that Brian Cox was also in the other Red? I read your headline, saw Brian Cox, and was sure I somehow took the train into a parallel universe this morning.

    This movie sounds great, I’ll have to check it out. I love extended character pieces.

  3. You lost me at “Jack Ketchum”… That guy’s a hack taking real-life tragedies and just adding shit to be shocking.

    If Ketchum wrote a book about the Boston bombings, it would read like a transcript of Fox News’ coverage, but just before they shot up the boat a blind retarded child would crawl out and eat someone’s face.

    If Jack Ketchum Wrote a book about 9/11, it would just be a rote retelling of exactly what happened that day, but the terrorists would rape the planes and mutilate their genitals before they crashed into the buildings.

    Worse, they would film both movies with made-for-TV budgets and production values, and somehow squeeze C-list acting out of a few talented cast members.

    If this movie were a documentary previously made by a different studio, I’d expect this to be like a film school remake of the earlier film, with an added scene of Brian Cox being sodomized while they kill the dog.

    In short, no thank you… Dead Man’s Shoes was pretty solid, though.

  4. Steve,
    I respect that you feel that way, but you have no idea what you are missing out on here, and you are only limiting yourself by refusing to see it based on his other work. If you found out Van Gogh painted VANS before ceilings, would you think any less of the Sistine chapel?
    While I am by no means comparing talent of the two, I am making an example that would make most people react with:
    good point.
    But either way, I respect it, but remember, I SPECIFICALLY made the point in this piece that this is NOT one of those movies, but suit yourself. And glad you dug Dead Man’s Shoes. Lol.

  5. I probably owe it to you (and myself) to at least finish reading the article (especially with you being solid on your other recommendations over the time I’ve followed you)–I warn you, though… if you sucker me in, I start watching it, with a creeping sensation that I saw it before staring a young Ellen Page, and then ruined my day reading about the actual case, only to realize I’d sat through a half-assed retread of a real life tragedy with a rape scene and a blowtorch clitorectomy tacked on to be “shocking” (when it was already a HORRIBLE story), I’m going to be pretty upset with you.

    Especially if they sodomize Brian Cox.

  6. Girl Next Door was fucking horrifying and ultimately unsatisfying due to its utter lack of catharsis. I don’t like being depressed. I’m kind of with Steve on that one, although GND is admittedly powerful and has great performances in it. Other films based on Ketchum’s work have been significantly better watches, though, so Carreiro isn’t wrong. I don’t really want to wallow in pity porn, but since he’s the man with the horror plan I’ll give this one a go.

  7. Trust me, guys, you have my word that this will not “go there”. A straight forward story about justice, and honestly unlike anything he has ever done. And unlike any of his other works, this movie leaves you with a sweet blossom of hope in your chest as it ends, and that is what sold me on the entirety of the film.

  8. You’ve pretty much sold me on this one, Remy. I think my big issue with GND was that I realized halfway into it that I was familiar with the true story it was based on, and had seen the Ellen Paige movie based on it (which, oddly enough, felt the need to add a sexual aspect in one scene, too… why isn’t real horror enough for Hollywood sometimes?), so a third helping of that thoroughly depressing tale with the needless add-ons of the rape and blowtorch torture, and lacking the much cooler twist ending to the Ellen Page one just left me nauseous. I also thought the acting sucked, though, so there’s that… the flat delivery of things by the oldest boy and the kind of detatched thing the mom was going for just weren’t working for me. It just felt like a weak cash in on true events, and a few friends being totally into “what a soul crushing tale Ketchum had wove” just tainted it, and I was left having to repeatedly explain that the only flitter of creativity he brought to the story was the rape and blowtorch…

    The Woman was better in that it had the palate cleanse of the revenge angle, but, by that point, I was inappropriately laughing at how pointlessly over the top it was going with the “surprise” in the other pen and how very Rob Zombie the whole thing felt. That was depressing for an entirely different reason, as I was pumped to see the lady from Meg (Mel? May? The doll movie…) and Sick Girl in another film.

  9. This movie utterly killed me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic movie, but I was a wreck after watching it. Crying, shaking with rage, curled into a ball on the floor, all of that… at once. To this day, whenever I see the actor that played the kid in this movie who shoots the dog, I want to see him dead. And while that is a horrible thing to say about the guy, it also shows how good of a portrayal he did as this awful human being.

    Again, great movie, but I will never watch it again because it took me a week to get over it.

    This is also from the guy who cried at a scene from Ice Pirates where a momma and baby robot get run over by vehicles and the remaining robot just keeps crying “Momma? Baby? Momma? Baby?” I was 6 and horribly traumatized by that scene forever. I can laugh at stuff like Hostel but a shitty sci-fi movie starring Robert Urich will leave me in shambles.

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