A trio of sinister Santas torment a group of homeless people that are celebrating Christmas in an empty courtroom.
As a concept, Good Tidings ticks every box for what should be a simple, effective and scary festive slasher. It is set during Christmas, it features a host of appropriately dressed Santa killers and a heap of victims ready to meet their grisly end. It even has a wicked Christmas score, laced with a menacing use of traditional bells that put a dramatic twist on the typical sound of holiday tunes. However, the individual parts of the film culminate into a feature that is poorly paced, clichéd and extremely tedious. What we are delivered is frustrating, because it misses the opportunity to be a fun, gory slasher and instead focuses too heavily on the film’s emotive side. A balance between the heartfelt and the horror would have increased the film’s enjoyment, ensuring the touching storyline would be met with gruesome gore. Unfortunately, Good Tidings becomes smothered by its own heart, missing what it takes to craft a creative, memorable Christmas horror film.
Good Tidings gets off to a great start as it sets in motion a chain of events that suggest a violent, bloody massacre is about to ensue. A man is gruesomely decapitated by three men who look like they’ve escaped from a lunatic asylum; these are our killer Santas! It all goes downhill from there. Firstly, Good Tidings will not convince you that it is actually Christmas. Aside from the men dressed as Santa Claus, there is nothing else to suggest that it is this time of year. It’s a simple criticism, but when you’re shooting a scene in a residential area and there’s not a single Christmas tree, light or a simple strand of tinsel to be seen, you’re doing something very wrong. The lack of Christmas cheer – and eventually fear – hinders Good Tidings’ attempts to be a modern holiday horror, because the reality of Christmas is never truly captured.
Adding to this is the film’s constant grey and dreary choice of colour palette. Again, it’s Christmas! Give us some festive red or green lighting, won’t you? I get it. As the film progresses, you’ll see that this isn’t a film that is trying to rival Black Christmas or Silent Night, Deadly Night. It’s more serious than that. The film looks grey to reflect the feelings of the characters, who are all dealing with different, but equally tormenting, emotional pain and strife. The real torment comes not from the slashers ruining their Christmas, but from their situations. The film wears its depth as proudly as the killers in their Santa suits, with heavy-handed dialogue like, “We’ve all got things locked away that need feeding,” and “We’re being punished for dragging ourselves up from the dirt”. A personal favourite line of mine is, “Get out there and see the world, with new eyes and a new mind.” Good Tidings slathers on the heart-breaking lines thickly, but the only tears that escaped my eyes came when I realised there was still another 20 minutes of this clichéd nonsense to go.
The story revolves around an ex-war veteran who is now living on the streets, so the political undertones are not too difficult to grasp. Played confidently by Alan Mulhall, Sam is struggling with the death of his daughter and is clearly harbouring a few demons from his time in the army. He’s looking for redemption and a reason to live, so falling into the role of a hero gives him the perfect opportunity to find his worth and overcome the depression that is bringing him down. It’s not an original character arc, nor one that is particularly interesting, furthering rendering Good Tidings as, at best, mediocre.
When the killings start happening they are, admittedly, pretty good. The problem is that there’s not enough of it. The pacing is painfully slow, with many scenes resulting in absolutely nothing as the Santa killers patrol the corridors looking for their victims and others are filled with the clunky aforementioned dialogue. With a little more energy, Good Tidings could have been a short and sweet 80-minute cat-and-mouse thriller and that would have not been a bad thing. Instead, we have an ironic 100 minutes of very little that wears increasingly thin and will have you begging for the end credits.
One of the best things about Christmas is the alternative film joys. Gremlins, Jack Frost and the recent Krampus and Red Christmas are all excellent horror films to get you in the festive mood. So, give those a watch and avoid this dire holiday horror that feels more like an extended and dramatic Christmas special of Eastenders than a feature film.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)