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 holiday movie, look elsewhere. violent night we deserve to argue year after year about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. This fucked up but celebratory movie is basically Die Hard but with Santa Claus as John McClane, a world-weary enforcer of justice who battles a gang of vicious thieves during a Christmas party brutally gone wrong.
But how does that play out? Well, let’s break it down.
is violent night a Santa?
Credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures
For those shaken by the phrase, the Santa Slasher is a horror subgenre in which Santa Claus (or someone dressed like him) wreaks murderous havoc. We talk about movies like Santa’s Slay, Silent Night Deadly Night, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and – best of all – Deadly Games, that is basically Home alonebut with a mall, Santa became a serial killer.
violent night follows in their footsteps and focuses on a Santa Claus (stranger things David Harbour) killed people. But instead of red-cheeked children, feuding families, or troubled parents, this Santa is solely dedicated to giving some dastardly invaders what they deserve. And it’s not a lump of coal. It’s a Christmas ornament that’s slipped through the eye into the skull. After all, killing with festive weapons – like a sharpened candy cane – is part of Santa Slasher’s tool kit.
in the violent night, A gang of surly caterers at the annual Lightstone family get-together all secretly carry guns and seasonal code names like Peppermint, Jingle, Krampus, and Scrooge (John Leguizamo as the film’s answer to Hans Gruber). They plan to rob hundreds of millions of dollars from the family vault. But it’s hard to feel too invested in these stakes, because this clan is a murmur of fierce grinches.
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The Lightstone family are thinly sketched caricatures of American wealth and excess: the foul-mouthed and domineering matriarch (National Lampoon’s Christmas Holiday Beverly D’Angelo), the greedy ass kiss (The Righteous Gems‘ Edi Patterson), the obnoxious teen influencer (Alexander Elliot), the guilty golden boy (The young‘ Alex Hassell) and a comically cocky aspiring movie star (dusk Cam Gigandet does a merciless Mark Wahlberg send-up).
With these poster boys for greed as a prey, you might be tempted to support the robbers. But in their midst there is a sweet kid (Leah Brady) who believes in Santa Claus and the healing power of Christmas. After connecting with Santa via walkie-talkie, crunchy Kris Kringle is determined to give her the gift of survival. And maybe her fucking family can share it – season of charity and all.
is violent night A family-friendly Christmas film?
Credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures
Though it has a heart of gold – beneath a pile of bloodshed – this is a Christmas comedy in the vein of the crass classic caught but with a generous dose of action and violence. That said, this R-rated movie is definitely not for kids. It starts with Santa Claus sitting in a bar drunk and belligerent with a stomach ache about the state of the world. While this may be relatable — or insanely funny — for adults, youngsters might be shaken by Santa’s disillusionment. And if that wasn’t his sloppy attempt to level up and collect himself!
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What’s more, the red-clad warrior has a license to kill, as Santa Claus fights villains who threaten not only the Christmas spirit but also an adorable child. Screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller portray a variety of graphic violence, including fatal gunfire, impaling, decapitation, warhammer blasts and explosions. Plus, punch lines are often wrapped in flashy swear words, like when the not-so-friendly grandma says, “Don’t shit in my mouth and tell me it’s chocolate cake.”
Basically, if your standard Christmas time movies like preferred Elf, A Christmas Carol, or the Rankin’/Bass collection, violent night will flip your hair back and whiten it for good measure. But what if you’ve happily snuggled into the bloody laps of Santa Slashers? What if you’re a fan of Tommy Wirkola’s other horror comedies?
How works violent night Rank as Tommy Wirkola film?
Credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures
The Norwegian writer/director made his name in 2009 with dead snow, a truly outrageous zombie film about college friends whose ski vacation is ruined when Nazi soldiers rise from the dead. Four years later, Wirkola brought his brand of grisly comedy mayhem to a fairytale setting Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which memorably portrayed Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as armed avengers determined to overcome their childhood trauma by wiping sinister sorceresses from the map.
Where dead snow was rough and wild Hansel and Gretel had American studio smoothness but was nonetheless a satisfyingly sick romp filled with absurd violence and unapologetically stupid jokes. When it came out I called “The Honey Badger of Movies” (pull out a meme of the time), and while this joke has aged, the sentiment remains true. But nothing could prepare me for the absolutely gorgeous madness of 2014 Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead. A direct sequel to his gory outburst, this one is so amazingly violent and twisted I was screaming with uncontrollable creepy glee the entire time. And honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a weirder yet perfect ending in any genre.
With all the dizzying confusions of these Wirkola works dancing in my head like visions of sugar plums, I was eager for it violent night. And I can confidently report that… it’s fine. For a star-studded American film about Santa Claus killing people, it’s quite shocking to show scenes of celebratory murder with a wink befitting the mischievous Saint Nick. But for a Wirkola film, it feels tame. He’s given us worse villains, more stunning kills, and more charismatic chaotic heroes before.
Though cleverly adorned with Christmas-themed weapons, the fight choreography is a bit mundane, unadorned with sweeping pans and uninspired cinematography. However, one thing Home alone-inspired sequence stands out. There, Wirkola cheerfully lays the anticipation of what lies ahead for the pursuing enemies as they hunt down the plucky child hero, and the payout is as exciting as the sight of a large, shiny gift box with your name on it.
But if you’ve seen other movies like this or other Wirkola movies, there’s nothing to it violent night feels provocatively disrespectful. This Santa might slaughter with no regrets, but he’s also gently reminding a child that “asshole” is too close to a dirty word for those on the Nice List. But credit where it’s due, Harbor sells the hell out of that line.
David Harbor hits as Santa Claus violent night.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Clad in fur-trimmed red leather and topped with a man-bun signaling game-time is up, Harbor wields the beer-bellied power that has become his niche stranger things‘Hoppersto Black widow’s Red Warden to hellboys hellboy. It’s his rugged but endearing personality that sets him apart violent night work, even if the script gets lazy with characterization and the fight scenes lack a nasty tinge.
Plus, Harbor looks good as Santa Claus. And Wirkola knows, gifting us shots of this Santa Claus shirtless and leaning in close-ups that linger so close you might smell the stale beer and sugar cookies on his breath. I’ll give it to both of you, Santa Slashers don’t often have that much sex appeal.
Finally, violent night is a mixed bag. It lives up to the gore and seasonal slaughter demanded by the Santa slasher genre, and boasts a higher production value that makes some moments – like Santa Claus going up a chimney – sing. It’s R-rated for being rude, gross, cruel, and graphic, which might satiate your hunger for something wild to offset the sugary sweetness of an onslaught of serious Christmas rom-coms. But for a Wirkola plant, it might best be viewed as an entry point. You must be wild enough to continue this ride.
Perhaps the litmus test for violent night is this: Does the idea of Santa Claus pissing off the side of his sleigh – while the reindeer fly high above Washington DC – disgust, titillate, or make you shrug? If you’re disgusted, shop elsewhere for holiday fun. If you shrug, get a handle on your expectations before lining up to see this Santa. If you’re tickled, you better watch out dead snow 2
violent night hits theaters everywhere on December 2nd.