Have you ever watched a movie trailer and thought to yourself, “Did I accidently click on an SNL skit?”. Well that’s essentially what went through my head when I saw the trailer for Violent Night. With its corny Christmas puns and Santa Clause beating up naughty mercenaries, I was just waiting for Kenan Thompson to pop out any minute. But then I realized this was indeed a real movie, written by the team behind the Sonic the Hedgehog films and directed by the guy behind Dead Snow and…Spermagedon?
Truth be told, my expectations were pretty low for this. I enjoy the occasional low-concept beat em’ up film now and then, but I didn’t get my hopes too high for this to be as off the wall as the concept allows. And yeah, Violent Night is pretty much what I expected; Santa beating up bad guys and saving Christmas. A pretty predictable plot that does lead to some fun, creative fights scenes and an enjoyable lead performance. However, it does feel like the film played it a bit too safe with its story and tried to add too much padding to make this longer than, I dunno, an SNL skit.
One fateful Christmas Eve, a downtrodden Santa Clause believes kids these days are too enveloped in the materialistic side of Christmas and have forgotten what the holiday is all about. Under the impression that this may be his final Christmas, he suddenly finds himself unwillingly entangled in a hostage situation involving a rich, mostly downright despicable family. Yet, its the influence of a young girl who still believes in the magic of Christmas that convinces Santa to beat the absolute piss out of her family’s kidnappers and, what else, save Christmas.
So of course, the biggest draw this film has is seeing Santa kill bad guys in many creative and festive ways. And like he does every year, Santa delivers. David Harbour plays good old Saint Nick in hilarious fashion, portraying him as both a bumbling goof and a lethal killer. Harbour’s comedic timing is still as great as ever, and it does seem like he got into a lot of the physicality the film had to offer. It’s not the first ever depressed Santa we’ve seen, but it’s the first one to be a hammer wielding viking to my knowledge. The rest of the cast isn’t nearly as memorable, but I can’t put too much of the blame on themselves because their characters aren’t exactly the best. We do have John Leguizamo as the villain, donning the moniker of Mr. Scrooge, who manages to be pretty entertaining through his pissed off, Christmas hating ways. The Lightstone family, who Scrooge holds hostage, are purposefully annoying, which leads to sometimes comedy and other times…well annoyance. They’re definitely there to be thinly written caricatures of wealth that get put in their place later down the line, but a lot of times the film slows down too much when we tend to focus on them.
The film actually slows down a lot at points, and even at 112 minutes, the film still feels longer than it really needs to be. We get a lot of backstory for Santa and radio conversations between him and Trudy, the girl he’s trying to save, but the scenes really hurt the pacing and bring everything to a halt. A better script would make this bearable, but for a film about high octane violence, it just doesn’t work that well. I can appreciate them trying to keep the film from being completely mindless, it’s just what they went with isn’t all that interesting.
The fight scenes are of course the main attraction, and when we finally get to them they can be pretty solid. Santa makes use of everything holly and jolly, from Christmas stars, to candy canes licked into shivs, to everyone’s favorite Christmas decoration; a wood chipper. It gets pretty brutal but remains just cartoony enough to not turn out needlessly edgy. The big final kill is truly a sight to behold, in all its disgusting beauty. Also, this might be the closest we get to a Rated R Home Alone sequel, so I gotta give it props for that.
While this film has its moments, I do wish we could’ve seen a little more out-there story. I feel like the idea of Santa fighting bad guys and saving a family for Christmas has been around for ages, and unfortunately, no amount of seasons beatings makes it feel any fresher. Big dumb films like this should have a big dumb plot, where they really get weird and go balls to the wall with all the Santa Clause lore and all the settings you could place him in. I suppose this is fine for what it is, but nothing really blew me away here.
There’s certainly some fun to be had with Violent Night, making it quite the wild card to throw into your holiday film rotations. The action is impressive at times and the characters are so stupid that it will occassionally make your laugh. There’s no real surprises here, so if this seems like something you’d enjoy at face value, then this is pretty much what you’ll get. For me, I’m sticking with the true badass Santa, Detective Crashmore.
O’ Gory Night
There’s blood in the snow this Christmas, but at least its better than yellow snow. A violent Christmas movie calls for something that can look the part but still contain all those flavors familiar to the holidays. The O’ Gory Night is just that, balled up into a boozy, desert heavy package that pulls flavors of vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint. Top it off with a blood splattered snowball, and get ready to be hit by a Viking hammer of a holiday drink!
- 1.5oz Rumchata
- 1oz rum
- 1/2oz peppermint schnapps
- 1/2oz creme de cacao
- Garnish: 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
- Pour: Maraschino cherry syrup
- Add ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice.
- Strain into rocks glass filled with ice.
- Top with scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Pour maraschino syrup gently over the top.