GOOD TIDINGS (2016)
Starring Alan Mulhall, Julia Walsh and Claire Crossland
Directed by Stuart W. Bedford
Written by Stuart W. Bedford, Giovanni Gentile and Stu Jopia
“A homeless war veteran with a checkered past must rely on a side of himself once thought buried when he and his companions are targeted by three vicious psychopaths wearing Santa costumes on Christmas Day”.
**Apologies in advance for the terrible Xmas puns contained in this review, you have been warned**
Aside from Halloween, Christmas is the holiday season used most in the horror genre. Is it the constant colour red? The fact that we’re celebrating the birth of the most popular cult leader in the history of the earth? Or is it the fact that it’s all about adults telling their kids it’s absolutely fine a fat guy in a beard is breaking and entering your home while they sleep, and they better be good or else? Either way, I agree. I love the presents, I love the turkey, but there’s something sinister about the season to be jolly.
And it’s created some chilling Christmas crackers too. From Silent Night, Deadly Night to Black Christmas, from the very first A Christmas Carol to Bill Murray classic Scrooged, there have been some quality Yuletide horror flicks. But recently there have been a lot of duff ones, mainly revolving around the Krampus. Honestly. Check them out on the DVD shelves when they are no doubt re-released this December. Or don’t. Because they’re mostly dreck unfortunately.
Which is why it gives me great pleasure to say that Good Tidings is definitely, indisputably one of the better ones in recent years. And it’s BRITISH! Look at us, at it again with the top horror.
Sam (Mulhall) is a stoic war veteran who is surviving on the streets of Liverpool on Christmas Day in an abandoned court with a rag tag group of vagrants. Everything is jolly enough as they make the best with what little they have, until the three of the most insane Saint Nick’s ever to grace the big-screen lock them inside and begin gleefully hunting them all one by one. It seems it no longer matters who’s naughty and who’s nice. As one character states, they’re just cattle, to be slaughtered. But Sam isn’t going down without a fight.
There’s so much for horror fans to love in Good Tidings.
Stuart W. Bedford directs with a keen eye, and together with a witty script makes damn well sure that every scene is either filled with Christmas spirit or buckets of blood. Aided ably by cinematographer Shane de Almeida, he creates some truly iconic frames, and he a great handle on the atmosphere and tension. Add to that some nice and nasty practical FX and a wonderful score by Liam W. Ashcroft that alternates between grind house synth, and a paganist twist on well known Christmas songs that is truly haunting, and you have a very polished package!
The performances are also well above what you expect for a low-budget offering like this. Mulhall had me on the fence at first with his brooding tough guy style, but as the film went on he completely won me over, and was a refreshing change to the usual final girl type we get in slasher films. Claire Crossland was lovely and sympathetic as an ex-heroin addict, and Julia Walsh as the momma bear of the homeless was actually quite heartbreaking. As for our trio of Santas, imagine if the lurching, cackling inbreds from Wrong Turn stumbled upon some Santa gear and you wouldn’t be far off. Brutal, unapologetic and quite mischievous, they were a hoot.
There are faults along the way. Some of the direction seemed limited by the location and space, CGI blood poked its ugly nose in occasionally, the pacing could have been punchier and some of the dialogue was distractingly “Hollywood”. Also, the score on occasion segued into a funky pop synth that was well-intentioned but didn’t hit the right notes for me. But none of this was enough to warrant a lump of coal.
Fun, gripping, often exciting and always entertaining, Good Tidings is the right kind of low-budget horror. Now, what are you waiting for? Put it on your Christmas list!