‘Violent Night’ Is A Merrily Brutal Fun Time.

If you had told me that a new Christmas-based action thriller comedy starring David Harbour would make me squirm in disgust and awe as Santa Clause beats crooks down in brutal fashion and that it’s actually pretty great, I would’ve believed you but even just saying it now, it sounds too weird to work. In a time where new holiday classics are tougher than ever to find, ‘Violent Night’ comes just at the perfect time to deliver what is arguably the most memorable holiday movie I’ve seen in years. Maybe it is indeed time, to revisit ‘Home Alone’ through the eyes of a rated-R flick.

spoilers for ‘Violent Night’ are featured in this review.

When it comes to Christmas movies, I usually stray away from movies like ‘Violent Night’ due to how they wear the holiday as a gimmick. I’m the type of person who rewatches my childhood holiday specials every year. What I mean is that I like my holiday content to be wholesome, sweet and full of warmth. ‘Violent Night’ doesn’t really seem like it meets those descriptions, I thought it would be another action-comedy aimed at mindless teen boys. Then, I saw the trailer and I found out a couple things, it’s using the actual Santa Clause as a main character which invites lots of hilarious magical hijinks but it’s also rated-R. How could anyone pass up the opportunity to see that movie? I made an entire night out of this with my friends, we went gift-shopping, looking at decorations and then eventually buying tickets for this movie. As the movie started progressing in its first act, we started looking at each other unsure of what the movie is going for but we found that the longer it went on the better it got and throughout these two hours, one project kept coming to mind and that would be the adult animated superhero series ‘Invincible‘ which explores that nostalgic animation with the bright colours and contrast that with the morbid violence and gore creating something totally new. ‘Violent Night’ replicates this by setting up a cheesy, adorable Christmas movie and smacking it with tons of great violence and gore and somehow making it still feel endearing and jolly. It shouldn’t work yet somehow it does.

While it may not be categorized as horror, ‘Violent Night’ sure does give 2022’s horror hits a run for their money with the amount of clever kills it has. It is easily the most fun slasher I’ve seen all year if you can even call it a slasher. If it wasn’t obvious enough, the entire reason this movie works is because of David Harbour who puts his charm to good use as the real Santa Clause. From his great comedic timing and amusing mannerisms to the great physicality he brings to the role, he just simply is the best Santa I’ve ever seen. He is committing pure unfiltered murder but that’s okay because they’re on the naughty list. It is stuff like that that made ‘Violent Night’ so effortlessly funny, the jokes really do write themselves and thankfully the writers take as much advantage as they could with a concept like this. I cannot describe to you the laugh that escaped my mouth once Bryan Adams’ ‘Christmas Time’ started playing while David Harbour’s Santa starts killing people with a sledgehammer and impaling others with a sharp candy cane. That to me is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It’s also worth mentioning that Harbour still maintains the charm and heart of the character thanks to his dynamic with the adorable Leah Brady as Trudy Lightstone, a young girl asking for Santa to get her parents back together. They are just adorable together and they give the movie that Christmas warmth which was surprising that it could balance two very opposing tones.

All of this being said, while I did very much enjoy this movie, I don’t think it’s a complete slam dunk. The main flaw for me is the runtime, this movie has no business being two hours, I genuinely walked in thinking it was an hour and a half but no for some reason, there’s a whole other half hour. The problem isn’t necessarily pacing but moreso the characters. Outside of Harbour, Brady and a very fun John Leguizamo performance, the cast is just odd. This time last year, Alex Hassell tormented me with his portrayal of Vicious in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and now it seems he’s making a tradition out of it with his performance here. I am sure he’s a nice guy in real life but I couldn’t get into his performance for the life of me. Just an unlikeable presence that could’ve been easily fixed with a different actor. To be completely fair, this problem runs through the other cast members as well. None of them are particularly good, they’re just there. If it weren’t for those three, particularly Harbour and Leguizamo who play a fantastic game of cat and mouse ending in one of the best on-screen deaths I’ve seen in a while, this movie wouldn’t be as good as it is.

Overall, despite facing a few issues here and there, ‘Violent Night’ is still definitely worth checking out. It’s very fun with friends and a true challenge with a family depending on how cool they are with Santa Clause going on a killing spree. The action sequences are clever and fun and the entire concept is realized in a very full and satisfying way. I can definitely see myself revisiting this every few Christmases.

‘Violent Night’ is now showing in cinemas.


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