Good Tidings Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by XLrator Media
Directed by Stuart W. Bedford
Written by Stuart W. Bedford, Giovanni Gentile and Stu Jopia
2016, 99 minutes, Not yet rated.
VOD Release on 6th December 2016
Alan Mulhall as Sam Baker
Claire Crossland as Roxy Muller
Julia Walsh as Mona O'Connor
Colin Murtagh as Frank Roland
Jonny Hirst as Jon Latham
Stu Jopia as Curly
The traumatised axe-wielding lunatic of Silent Night, Deadly Night. The plastic-masked flamethrower beast of its remake. Ian McShane in series two of American Horror Story. Bill Goldberg in Santa’s Slay. And now, a triumvirate of terrors in the low-budget British feature Good Tidings. What’s better than a serial killer Santa Claus? Why, three, of course!
Good Tidings may be strapped for cash, but doesn’t skimp on its Santa Clauses, bringing in not one but three of the bastards to wreak all manner of ho-ho-horrors upon their would-be victims. And those victims, for once, are not pretty young teenagers or bickering families, but a homeless shelter on Christmas Day. And not a government sanctioned one, either: occupying a listed, abandoned Law Court, our hobo heroes are taking what comfort and joy they can amongst their own company, away from the cold streets and unforgiving populace. Into this ramshackle harmony breaks the three serial killer Santas, locking the doors and pulling no punches. It’s Die Hard meets 31 meets Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Giving the film its Die Hard element is its ex-army hero, a man so formidable that the film has to do everything it can to keep him apart from its Santas. Imagine if John McClane had met Hans Gruber straight off the bat; Die Hard wouldn’t have lasted five minutes either. Thankfully, there’s plenty of axe (and sharpened candy cane) fodder to keep the Santas busy during the interim period. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Good Tidings is its high body count and fast pace – most films of this scale and budget pad their action out massively, meandering between one aimless filler sequence to the next, all interminable shouting (because yelling equals drama, right?) and unsexy nudity sequences. That this isn’t the case here is the best Christmas gift of all – there are only so many mumbling drawn-out slasher movies one can take in a year, Santa or no Santa.
The doors locked in their wake, the Father Christmases (Fathers Christmas?) waste little time in getting to business. Beheadings, stabbings, impalement and a good hard poking are all part of this advent calendar of atrocities, the pace nippy and the tone appropriately chilly. That low budget means you shouldn’t expect state-of-the-art gore effects or visuals, but it does the job just fine nevertheless. If anything, the film’s cheap and scruffy aesthetic only adds to the story – a level of realism and discomfort that bigger budget releases (found footage aside) find it difficult to capture. Regional accents and all (and the heavy Liverpool dialect is unusual to find in TV and movies these days), there’s an incidental, grubby authenticity that mainstream horror will never capture. It’s the same thing that makes The Texas Chain Saw Massacre the greatest horror film of all time. Minus the Liverpudlian accents, obviously.
There are, as a result, some unavoidable flaws. Stiff acting, flat action and occasionally unconvincing gore and violence tend to dull the film’s edge, while Alan Mulhall is slightly miscast as the badass lead. Smart and economical as the story is, it will do nothing to win over those who tend to avoid horror at the lowest budget end of the spectrum.
Which is a shame, because, warts and all, it’s the best Christmas horror film I’ve seen since last year’s Krampus. In a field that is now mostly dominated by Krampus rip-offs, its three Santas are a breath of fresh air. I don’t know about comfort, but Good Tidings certainly brings this Christmas horror fan plenty of joy.