While theoretically, I’m a pacifist and don’t believe in violence, I was raised on the high-level bloodless brutality of the Looney Tunes and at San Diego Comic-Con learned that I enjoyed killing zombies in a virtual world. For me, “Violent Night” is a welcome visual vacation away from the usual saccharine holiday fare. Director Tommy Wirkola doesn’t allow Pat Casey and Josh Miller’s to be a gross-out fest. This is a tightly-paced 112-minutes of blood-splattering action, balanced with a contrasting sweet innocence of a child who still believes in Christmas and Santa Claus.
Yet this Santa Claus (David Harbour) isn’t a jolly man with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Instead, we get a foul-mouthed man whose eyes have become bleary with booze. His Christmas spirit has been worn down by the greedy consumerism of this generation of kids. Even if they are nice, they aren’t the really nice people. Yet he still gets in his sleigh with his magical present-producing bag while he mumbles this may be his last Christmas.
Who can save Christmas?
That question is soon answered. A father, Jason Lightstone (Alex Hassell) is reuniting with his estranged wife Linda Matthews (Alexis Louder) for the sake of his young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady). This threesome is heading for the much dreaded holiday from hell–the precisely catered Christmas at the compound of the ultra rich Lightstones under the angrily critical eyes of Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo). Gertrude holds the purse strings and is a master at causing forcing Jason and his sister, Alva (Editor Patterson), into unhealthy groveling for her approval and the potential for the major share of the eventual inheritance.
By the time Santa comes down the chimney at this snow-bound Connecticut compound, an expertly planned home invasion is well underway under the command of an angry Christmas-hating man, code-named Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo). Trapped when his reindeer flee, Santa is forced to save himself by taking out one of the seasonally named baddies with Christmas ornaments. He is soon contacted by Trudy who is not only genuinely nice (except for her sentiments toward the burglars), but still believes in Santa Claus.
You might be wondering how does a jolly old dude know how to deal with these bad dudes. Casey and Miller’s script doesn’t give St. Nick instant ability to use automatic weaponry or modern technology.Instead he falls back, way back. We flash back several centuries to when St. Nick was a grimy medieval dude swinging a giant hammer he called skull crusher.
You know this is heading for a happy ending but I won’t spoil the blood-soaked trail for you. Casey and Miller make no convoluted explanation for St. Nick’s Christmas magic. Those are mere details that would get in the way of the action. Wirkola doesn’t linger on the gruesome and the soundtrack adds to the humor. The R-rated “Violent Night” isn’t destined to be a family classic, but still it was mindless fun.
For the press and special advance screening, Universal Studios helped the audience get into the mood by providing hats and headless gingerbread men as well as the delightful vocal stylings of the all Filipino Filosophy (@OurFilosophy on Instagram).
You can hear Filosophy on this short one-minute review:
“Violent Night had its world premiere at New York Comic-Con (7 October 2022) and will be released in the US on 2 December 2022.
Here’s a poetic parody:
Twas the night before Christmas
And Santa was being a grouse
He was in Bristol, England getting totally soused
Leaping into his sleigh and barfing over the side
He wasn’t in the mood to spread the Yuletide
Discouraged but determined, he continued on
A hop and a skip over the Atlantic pond
To a posh Connecticut estate where an estranged husband and wife
Reunite for their daughter for the annual extended family strife
There the stockings were hung by the chimneys with care
In the hopes that expensive gifts would soon be there
The adult kids were all waiting for the foul-mouthed matriarch to be dead
While visions of money and power danced in their greedy heads.
While up on the roof there was such a clatter
Downstairs the home invasion made blood splatter.
Down one of the chimneys St. Nicholas came with a bound
After killing one bad guy, he learned what was going down.
David Harbour’s St. Nick has some Viking vibes
And the Violent in the title aptly describes
This Home Alone booby trap scenario gone R-rated wild
With Leah Brady as a Yes, Virginia child
In Pat Casey and Josh Millers’ black comedy screenplay
This St. Nick kills Mr. Scooge in a most gruesome way.
Tommy Wirkola directs with well-paced action flare
For a change from the saccharine holiday fare
When your kids are asleep and out of sight
Head on over to a screening of Violent Night