Holiday horror used to be a rare find. Every few years, fans would stumble across an indie or underseen movie about a traumatized killer Santa and we would blog about it so everyone will know. It seems that since Krampus was theatrically released in 2015, the sub-genre has been flooded with offerings and the results are a mixed bag. While most are found in Walmart discount bins with artwork reminiscent of better movies, the occasional find makes a unique mark. VIOLENT NIGHT is one I preferred to stay in that bin.
Hollywood is capitalizing on David Harbour’s daddy sex appeal and that is obvious in his latest role as an alcoholic Santa. He’s flying from home to home during the holiday while wasted and vomiting on civilians below his sleigh. He ends up at an estate to deliver presents only to find a violent surprise. It turns out this rich and awful family is being held hostage by armed criminals who use Christmas-themed code names. The results are twists on holiday one-liners and lots of fights with Santa.
The main difference between VIOLENT NIGHT compared to other movies of its kind is its budget. A wide modern release featuring an R-rated Santa is not something you see every day and it gets major props for making it happen. However, that doesn’t take away that the movie itself feels borrowed from various films before it. Harbour embraces the camp and is perfectly cast as the holiday icon, but his roles are starting to blur together with only his costumes differentiating them. “Stranger Things” is coming to an end in the near future and looks like there is a need to cement him in feature films. Based on the box office numbers, Santa might be his winner.
VIOLENT NIGHT depends heavily on a comedic cast and outrageous kills. The kills are very transparent with the exception of a body-bending chimney sequence, but one particular cast member is a standout. Immediately, I was happy to see Beverly D’Angelo back on the screen as the matriarch of the family. Her one-of-a-kind voice and onscreen presence honestly overpowers everyone else’s and that is a compliment. The other characters are utilized as filler and are unmemorable, but D’Angelo takes charge and it’s clear this is one mother not to fuck with. Most fans know her from the Vacation movies where she is underrated, but VIOLENT NIGHT proves she needs to be cast in more high-profile projects. Let’s make it happen, Hollywood.
As of now, there’s no 4K release, but the Blu-ray holds its own when it comes to the tech specs. The 1080p HD transfer has no problems making Christmas colors pop on the screen. A movie like VIOLENT NIGHT relies mostly on gore gags and the blood looks amazing, spraying all over the place. The 7.1 audio mix is perfect for this kind of movie. The action spreads across all speakers, keeping listeners engaged. The score and holiday music doesn’t take anything away from the dialogue, which is evenly clean.
The special features are a hit or miss. There are a handful of short features involving mini-interviews, but the audio commentary is where it’s at. The director, writers, and producer all offer an entertaining track with plenty of behind-the-scenes information that fans will enjoy.
Based on the online chatter, I’m in the minority when it comes to VIOLENT NIGHT. However, the numbers speak for themselves and a sequel is already in motion. While a 4K release would have been preferable, VIOLENT NIGHT is given an explosive Blu-ray release to show off that home sound system with some special features to delve into for the fans.
VIOLENT NIGHT is now available to own on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.