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  • Nate Adams

'Violent Night' review: Santa goes on a bloody rampage in bonkers Christmas themed flick

Courtesy of Universal


For all the bad movies critics see on a routine basis, at least the occasional niche genre film yields some wild results. This years winner is “Violent Night” in which “Stranger Things” star David Harbour plays a gritty Santa Claus (with a hellacious and hilarious backstory that involves a hammer named Skull Crusher) who, in one of the film's several outrageous sequences, disembowels a bad guy with nothing but a candy cane before throwing the spare parts into a woodchipper “Fargo” style. Just when I started to think there were no surprises left in the cinema, I’ve once again been delighted at what madness Hollywood cooks up. Indeed, “Violent Night” is a bloody and downright ludicrous romp that has no business being this fun with the obvious (and appropriate) comparison belonging to “Die Hard” and “Home Alone,” but this heavily R-rated Christmas themed actioner knows exactly what it is and isn’t afraid to be extra naughty.  

A wholesome family-friendly Christmas movie this isn’t, Harbour is having an absolute blast in director Tommy Wirkola’s demented and ultra violent little flick with enough stylized action to overcome the scripts tepid dialogue. After all, it’s not everyday you see someone get incinerated after Santa lodges a Christmas tree topper into their eye. We first meet Santa (Harbour) sitting in a bar, sloshed out of his mind, in England. Any parents who accidentally stumbled upon “Violent Night” thinking it was for youngsters will know within seconds they made a grave mistake. This Santa is a vomiting, recluse alcoholic who has lost all self worth when it comes to the Yuletide holiday. He leaves presents unwrapped and unboxed in their original Amazon Prime packaging and throws cash into stockings. One tradition he does enjoy is eating cookies while he mixes in rum with the milk. 

Santa gets roped into a hostage situation on one of his stops in Connecticut after the Lightstone family, a wealthy bunch with deep governmental ties, are overtaken by a squad of thugs looking for a $300 million payday. The leader of the brigade is known as Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo - eating up the screen) and he dispatches his posse (who all go by a variety of Christmas themed names in another ode to “Die Hard”) to clear the house, where they encounter jolly old Saint Nick who is patiently standing with a fire poker, ready to stab your eye out. 

Abandoned by his reindeer, but inspired to help thanks to a sweet little girl named Trudy (Leah Brady), the only Lightstone who still believes, Santa goes on an all-out rampage, dismantling goons with hand-to-hand combat, a sledgehammer and…tinsel? That’s right! Everyday Christmas decorations are utilized in hilarious and inventive methods. At one point, Santa uses wrapping paper as a makeshift tourniquet. 

It’s an understatement to say the gory violence might be hard for casual viewers, although it’s so over-the-top and outrageous, nobody on planet earth should take it seriously. If you go in with that mindset and understand the stakes, “Violent Night” brings the goods. There’s also an underlying sweetness in the script about spreading Christmas cheer and Harbour is the best person to shoulder the charm alongside the blunt-force brutality. If you’re looking for a different Holiday-themed movie this season, “Violent Night” is the anthestis of the Hallmark movie formula, and it’s bat-shit crazy.   

In other words, a possible new Christmas classic. 

Grade: B 

VIOLENT NIGHT is now playing in theaters. 


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