GOOD TIDINGS (2016)

Good Tidings.jpg

Studio:       XLrator Media
Director:    Stuart W. Bedford
Writer:       Stu Jopia, Stuart W. Bedford, Giovanni Gentile
Producer:  Stuart W. Bedford, Giovanni Gentile, Stu Jopia
Stars:     Alan Mulhall, Claire Crossland, Julia Walsh, Garry McMahon, Jonny Hirst, Marcella Hazell, Stu Jopia, Giovanni Gentile, Liam W. Ashcroft

Review Score:


Summary:

A homeless veteran fights to save a group of squatters when their shelter is besieged by three killers in Santa costumes.


Synopsis:     

Review:

A married military man once upon a time, Sam Baker now scrounges for scraps by diving in dumpsters.  Although conditioned to be cautious, Sam shows some Christmas compassion toward fellow vagrant Jon, inviting the bearded stranger back to a vacant government building where like-minded squatters have built their own makeshift community shelter.

The holidays here are as happy as they can be for recovering junkies and hard luck cases fallen on hard times.  Sam¡¯s cagey friend Roxy, married couple Mona and Paul, and an assortment of others from broken families with broken dreams have made a place where the homeless can comfort each other in a space as forgotten as they are.  It isn¡¯t perfect, but it is home.

Enter Larry, Curly, and Moe.  Not the Three Stooges, but a trio of giggling serial killers fresh from an insane asylum in fluttering frocks and bandaged faces.  Costuming themselves in Santa Claus suits and creepy masks, Larry, Curly, and Moe take a trip to the shelter to celebrate the season how psychopaths do.  Doors are barred and the killer Clauses start swinging blades as derelict denizens panic and heads literally roll.  Sam and the others must summon more than seasonal spirit if they are to survive the slaughter wrought by three silent Santas whose only objective is mass murder.

Selling itself as a yuletide-set slasher, ¡°Good Tidings¡± is ¡°Assault on Precinct 13¡± meets ¡°The Strangers¡± with a hero from ¡°First Blood¡± and ¡°Die Hard¡± against sadistic maniacs as envisioned by Eli Roth with Rob Zombie.  To be clear, ¡°Good Tidings¡± hits those notes only in concept, not in quality.

More than one article mentions the movie¡¯s intentional humor and streak of satire.  Wherever this black comedy and social commentary supposedly is, it hides well, because I saw neither.

Homeless heroes are introduced with origins and behavior painting them as honest, caring people.  Once exposition is over, character development tanks run dry and everyone fills in as fodder for the sinister St. Nicks.  If ¡°Good Tidings¡± is going for some sort of statement about sympathy for street people, that message is muddled in their interchangeability with any other disenfranchised collective.  The building could be populated by federal employees pulling overtime for the holidays and you wouldn¡¯t feel for them any more or any less.

The three Santas, who never speak, are motiveless killers.  That¡¯s fine and dandy for a breezy movie such as ¡°Halloween¡± where suspense can be king for 80 minutes.  Except ¡°Good Tidings¡± runs for 100.  That¡¯s an overlong time to spend with mystery men when there is no actual mystery and the recycled setup of capture/escape, capture/escape, capture/escape doesn¡¯t have intensity to be interesting for over an hour and a half.  Without anything to add to who these men might be, reusing wheezy laughter as their only clear characteristic becomes annoyingly bothersome.

It¡¯s evident that director Stuart W. Bedford and his team had access to a particular location and built their project from there, instead of starting from a focused script powered by personality and story.  Bedford might have masked the movie¡¯s microbudget nature better too.  But any drive to go straight for the jugular with a serious streak of horror/crime is constantly undermined by an urge to indulge in B-movie gimmickry.

For instance, severed heads are unmistakably rubber props, and not particularly good ones.  Yet the movie insists on scenes of the killers playing kickball with one and repeatedly jamming another into someone¡¯s face in close-up.  If you¡¯re not going for strict camp, don¡¯t linger on things that don¡¯t work just for momentary amusement.  It cheapens the overall movie and completely murders any momentum that might create mood.

The score is a bizarre mix of aggressive synth and Christmas carols reimagined as nursery music for Satan¡¯s baby.  There is some competent camerawork, but weird edits like misplaced fades to black jumble the rhythm.  Routinely odd choices are almost offbeat enough to be disorienting without seeming outright unprofessional.  But the full feel isn¡¯t wholly in synch.  Instead of stylistic, the presentation comes across as haphazardly disjointed.

¡°Good Tidings¡± is a straightforward slice-and-dice siege movie.  I don¡¯t consider it to be bad, even though it is cheap, trashy, and violent, intentionally for all three and unintentionally for the latter two.  The film has good intentions to be a spiritual successor to exploitation-era thrillers.  It merely lacks the filmmaking finesses to pull it off.

Review Score:  40