For some reason, it never hit me until today that The Skull Scale should also be part of the actual reviews. Duh. If you’re not familiar, that’s my thirteen-skull version of a rating system (details of which can be found on the Neverending Movie List).
Anyway. Evil Santa–Christmas Evil, Silent Night Deadly Night, Sint. The evil/demonic/psycho Santa angle has been done and done (and done best, in my opinion, by the Rare Exports shorts).
Still, the trailer for Good Tidings got my attention. It had a Strangers feel that I kinda dig (to clarify, I liked The Strangers just fine, but didn’t find it really great, or even particularly scary. Ils covered similar ground far better).
Furthermore, I do love survival horror, and the synopsis I read says Good Tidings involves a homeless veteran, Sam, who has to tap into “a side of himself once thought buried.” Maybe just a little touch of First Blood? Maybe Ruckus meets Machete? I’m interested.
Sam acts as the guardian of a group of homeless people who have taken up residence in an abandoned courthouse. He regularly scrounges for food and sometimes brings others into the fold. Enter the three bad guys.
We’ve met them in the opening scene where they’ve killed some guy in a Santa suit then discover, conveniently, three Santa suits in the guy’s car. It’s not clear where these guys came from or why their faces are covered. Two are wrapped in post-operative looking gauze. One wears a very Friday The 13th Part 2 looking hood and what appears to be a hospital gown.
There’s a to-be-expected (in fact predictable) amount of violence and gore, but either I’ve become incredibly desensitized, or it’s ultimately a bit underwhelming, or both. The low budget is evident in the rubber severed heads and orangey jets of blood.
Sam has a few lines here and there that hint at some kind of Rambo-esque military training. At one point, he remarks that, “Sometimes a single man in the right position can be as effective as an army.” It’s a great setup for vengeance, but we never see any of this play out.
The big surprise is that it’s not Sam, but Roxy, a recovering heroin addict who Sam looks at as a daughter figure, who becomes by far the most interesting, well developed character of all. She’s observant, quick, and has highly reliable survival instincts.
Sadly, the movie also demonizes mental illness. Michael Myers was a different time, but the asylum escapee aspect of the first Halloween movie doesn’t age well. And Norman Bates was at least based loosely on Ed Gein. But by 2016, the grunting or maniacally cackling slasher doesn’t hold up. It becomes the mental illness equivalent of trans/homophobia.
Sadly, like your tedious aunt who always gives you a boring sweater for christmas (as opposed to your favorite: the fun, drunk, weird aunt with a bottle of cheap shiraz and a pack of Tarot cards), Good Tidings doesn’t give us much that we like or want.