‘Violent Night’ Review: Who Is This Killer Santa Movie For?

Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s drunk, hot and ready to go to war.

If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy Christmas movie, look elsewhere. violent night is what we deserve for arguing year after year about whether or not die hard It’s a Christmas movie. This fucking but festive movie is basically die hard but with Santa Claus as John McClane, a world-weary enforcer of justice, who is battling a gang of vicious thieves during a Christmas party that goes brutally off the rails.

But how does that play out? Well, let’s break it down.

It is violent night a Santa Slasher?

Credit: Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

For those caught off guard by the phrase, Santa Slasher is a horror subgenre in which Santa (or someone dressed as him) delivers murderous mayhem. We are talking about movies like Santa’s Slay, Silent Night Deadly Night, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and —best of the bunch— deadly games, which is basically Home alonebut with a shopping mall Santa turned serial killer.

violent night follows in his footsteps, focusing on a Santa Claus (Strange things’ David Harbor) killing people. But instead of rosy-cheeked children, feuding families, or troublesome parents, this Santa is solely dedicated to giving some thieving home invaders what they deserve. And it’s not a lump of coal. It’s a Christmas ornament stuck through the eye into the brain. After all, killing with festive weapons, like a sharp-edged candy cane, is part of the Santa Slasher bag.

In violent night, a gang of cranky caterers at the annual Lightstone family reunion secretly carry weapons and seasonal codenames like Peppermint, Jingle, Krampus and Scrooge (John Leguizamo as the film’s answer to Hans Gruber). They are plotting to rob the family’s vault of hundreds of millions of dollars. But it’s hard to feel too invested in these stakes because this clan is a grunt of shadowy Grinches.


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The Lightstone family is made up of barely sketchy caricatures of American opulence and excess: the foul-mouthed and domineering matriarch (National Lampoon’s Christmas Holidays Beverly D’Angelo), the money kisser (The Righteous Gemstones‘ Edi Patterson), the obnoxious teen influencer (Alexander Elliot), the guilt-stricken golden boy (Boys‘ Alex Hassell), and a comically arrogant aspiring movie star (Twilight Cam Gigandet doing a merciless parody of Mark Wahlberg).

With these poster children of greed as victims, you may be tempted to support the crooks. But among them is a sweet girl (Leah Brady), who believes in Santa and the restorative power of Christmas. Once she connects with Santa via walkie-talkie, the cranky Kris Kringle is determined to give her the gift of survival. And maybe his shitty family can share it: charity season and all.

It is violent night A family Christmas movie?

David Harbor as Santa Claus in

Credit: Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

While it has a heart of gold, underneath plenty of bloodshed, this is a Christmas comedy in the vein of the gross-out classic. scrooged but with a generous dose of action and violence. Which is to say: this R-rated movie is definitely not for kids. It begins with Santa drunk and belligerent in a bar, with a stomach ache over the state of the world. While this may be relatable—or wickedly funny—for adults, Santa’s disappointment might unnerve youngsters. And if that doesn’t work, your clumsy attempt to boot and recover just might!


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Beyond that, because Santa is fighting villains who threaten not only Christmas cheer but an adorable little boy as well, the red-suited warrior has a license to kill. Screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller feature much graphic violence, including fatal shootings, impalements, beheadings, war hammers, and explosions. Plus, the punchlines are often wrapped in flashy swear words, like when the not-so-nice grandma says, “Don’t shit in my mouth and tell me it’s chocolate cake.”

Basically, if your standard holiday season viewing favors movies like elf, a christmas tale, or the Rankin’/Bass collection, violent night it will pull your hair back and turn it white for good measure. But what if you’ve happily snuggled into the bloody lap of Santa Slashers? What if you’re a fan of Tommy Wirkola’s other horror comedies?

How violent night like a Tommy Wirkola movie?

Tommy Wirkola directs David Harbour.

Credit: Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

The Norwegian writer-director made his mark in 2009 with dead snow, a truly outrageous zombie movie about college friends whose ski vacation is wiped out when Nazi soldiers are resurrected. Four years later, Wirkola brought his brand of spooky comedy mayhem to a fairytale setting with Hansel and Gretel witch hunters, which memorably featured Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as armed avengers determined to overcome their childhood trauma by wiping out the sinister witches from the map.

Where dead snow He was rough and wild Hansel and Gretel it had the skill of an American studio, but it was a satisfyingly sick romp, full of absurd violence and unapologetically stupid jokes. When he came out I called him “the honey badger of the movies” (pulling a meme of the time), and though that joke has gotten old, the sentiment still rings true. But nothing could prepare me for the absolutely magnificent madness of 2014. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. A direct sequel to his bloody escape, this one is so staggeringly violent and twisted that I screamed in macabre, uncontrollable delight. And frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more bizarre-but-perfect ending in any genre.

So, with all the dizzying derangements of these Wirkola works dancing in my head like visions of sugar plums, I was looking forward to violent night. And I can confidently report that… it’s fine. For a star-studded American movie where Santa Claus kills people, it’s pretty shocking to enjoy scenes of festive homicide with a befitting nod to the mischievous Saint Nicholas. But for a Wirkola film, it feels tame. He’s given us more evil villains, more surprising deaths, and more chaotic and charismatic heroes before.

Though decked out in cleverly Christmassy weaponry, the fight choreography is a bit banal, unadorned by whistling frying pans and uninspired cinematography. However, one Home aloneThe inspired sequence stands out. There, Wirkola gleefully sets up the anticipation of what the pursuing enemies are about to face as they chase down the brave boy hero, and the reward is just as exciting as seeing a big glittery gift box with his name on it.

But if you’ve seen other movies like this or other Wirkola movies, nothing in violent night it feels so provocatively irreverent. This Santa could slaughter without regret, but he also kindly warns a child that “butthole” is too much of a swear word for those on the Good List. However, credit where it’s due, Harbor sells the most on that line.

David Harbor kills like Santa in Violent night.

David Harbor as Santa Claus in the

Credit: Universal Images

Decked out in fur-trimmed red leather and finished off with a bow that signals playtime is over, Harbor brings the beer belly power that has become his niche, from Strange things‘ hoppera black widow’s red guardian a children of hell hell boy. It’s her gruff but lovable personality that makes violent night It works, even when the script gets lazy with characterizations and the fight scenes lack an unpleasant sheen.

Also, Harbor looks good as Santa. And Wirkola knows it, he regales us with shots of this shirtless, close-up bent-over Santa who stay so close you could smell the stale beer and sugar cookies on his breath. I’ll give it to both of you, Santa Slashers don’t often boast that much sex appeal.

In the end, violent night it’s a mixed bag. It lives up to the seasonal gore and carnage that the Santa Slasher genre demands and boasts a higher production value that makes moments, like Santa running up a chimney, sing. It’s R-rated for being rude, crude, gruesome, and graphic, which just might satisfy your hunger for something wild to counter the sugary sweetness of a deluge of serious Christmas rom-coms. But for a Wirkola job, it might be better considered as an entry point. You must be this wild to continue on this journey.

Maybe the acid test for violent night is this: Does the thought of Santa pissing on the side of his sleigh, as reindeer fly high over Washington DC, disgust you, excite you, or make you shrug? If you’re upset, shop elsewhere for some holiday fun. If he shrugs it off, manage your expectations before you line up to see this Santa Claus. If you’re excited, you better watch out for dead snow 2.

violent night hits theaters worldwide on December 2.

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