VIOLENT NIGHT l Universal Pictures

You better watch out for potential spoilers in this VIOLENT NIGHT review. Santa can’t be held responsible if you accidentally read on…

Christmas is when people expect to be happy and frequently aren’t. However, this year, you do have a cinematic Christmas treat on the way that will help satiate your need for holiday violence and warm your heart at the same time. VIOLENT NIGHT is the kind of Christmas movie for all of the grinches out there who are tired of the traditional Christmas classics and want something more fun to watch while having too many Christmas cookies. This film has major Santa Daddy energy and has a little something for everyone in its magical sack.

VIOLENT NIGHT comes from the director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and the writing team behind the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise, Josh Miller and Pat Casey. This is very good news because Wirkola definitely went for the gore and the oddly humorous violence, and Casey and Miller have brought wit, good plotting and ideas, and a genuine sense of humanity to the table. It’s heartwarming violence, a very merry massacre, and holly jolly hammer time but it also put me in the Christmas spirit. I’m serious!

The film stars David Harbour (“Stranger Things,” “Quantum of Solace”) and he was a really good choice. In many films, Santa is just a caricature of the jolly old elf. The writers and director made the wise choice of choosing an interesting actor and giving him something to work with. I so badly want to say who Santa is, but I will only divulge that he is a warrior. Harbour allows his portrayal of Santa to be cranky, querulous, and kind with a good heart. He’s faithful and true. He talks about Mrs. Claus and is somewhat depressed about the lack of true Christmas spirit in the world. The writers also included the theme of how gods and magical figures only live because of our belief in them which figures prominently in the story. Yes, Harbour is “Daddy Santa” and a bit more complex than that. That’s what the right actor in the right role can do.

Courtesy Universal Studios

The cast has a lot of other interesting actors: Alexis Louder (Watchmen, The Good Lord Bird) as Linda Matthews, Alex Hassell (The Tragedy of Macbeth, “Cowboy Bebop”) as Jason Lightstone, John Leguizamo (The Menu, John Wick: Chapter 2) as Mr. Scrooge, Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation, “Entourage”), Leah Brady (“The Umbrella Academy”) as Trudy Lightstone, in a delightful performance. Cam Gigandet (Twilight) is in the film too as Morgan Lightstone and I have to say, it is probably his best work. The actors work together well and the ensemble, including the not-so-nice associates of Mr. Scrooge, all have personalities and make a good impression which makes the film more interesting.

The film is kind of a remix of some of the best-known and funniest films set during the holidays. Die Hard, Home Alone, and The Ref are some of the major touchstones of VIOLENT NIGHT. It takes some of the basic setups and then does something new with them while still giving the characters an emotional inner life. It isn’t sentimental but has true feelings. This idea follows along with Santa’s disenchantment with his life’s work and probably echoes many of our own crummy feelings around Christmas time. It might be one of the only films that convince me that Santa’s magic is real while at the same time having a super cool Christmas star ornament to the eye scene. Is this possibly the first Christmas film that references Fulci-style eye violence? Maybe.

All and all, VIOLENT NIGHT is a film that is worthy of Christmas-time rotation. Dare I say it is a new Christmas classic? I do. It’s full of the kind of fun you don’t see in holiday films too often. It will satisfy both your need for good Christmas vibes and your lust for Daddy Santas and/or joyful mayhem. It will play well on Christmas Eve, especially after a couple of cups of eggnog. As a wise man once said, “It is the time of miracles. So be of good cheer…”.

VIOLENT NIGHT is only in theaters on December 2, 2022.

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