“When a group of mercenaries attack the estate of a wealthy family, Santa Claus must step in to save the day (and Christmas).”

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Staring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Beverly D’Angelo, Alex Hassell
Rated: R
Release Date: December 2, 2022

If you described Violent Night (2023) to someone who is not in the movie zeitgeist, they would think that you are insane. Santa Claus as a drunk has been done before. Thanks Bad Santa (2003). But Santa as a killer ex viking sledgehammer wielding warrior…well that is new.

Violent Night is directed by Tommy Wirkola, the same director as the outrageously violent Dead Snow (2009) and Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014). Violent Night is not the same level of horror as those two zombie beheadings mess, but the creative kills are still a plenty, and the cheesy ass dialogue brings out all the smirks a gluten for this type of slop would appreciate.

The premise is very simple, and very similar to another Christmas hostage action comedy. A over-the-top bad guy that thinks he is smarter than he actually is by name of Scrooge (John Leguizamo) has infiltrated the house of a wealthy family owned by a blunt and unloving oligarchical leader called Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo). Among the family being held captive by this professional criminal is a young girl by the name of Trudy (Leah Brady). She is the only one possessing a sense of Christmas spirit, and therefore it makes sense that she is the only one who has direct contact with her family’s only hope.

Santa Claus.

David Harbour plays jolly ole Saint Nick, but this rendition is not your traditional deliverer of presents. We meet Santa Claus in a bar, getting drunk and telling everyone who will listen how miserable he is. Violent Night lets you know you are in for a weird trip when the man donning red pukes over the bartender before the opening title even kicks off.

The biggest compliment I can play to Harbour is that he does not take this role seriously at all. If you told me that Harbour drank a few to get loose before the scenes, I would totally believe it and I would endorse it. When you are reading lines like: “Santa’s gonna eat through these guys like a plate of cookies!”, then you know exactly what you are in for.

Everyone wants to compare Violent Night to Die Hard (1988), but this over-the-top romp reminds me of more of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger romps from the 1980s. Die Hard is a tier above the likes of Rambo III (1988), Commando (1985) and Road House (1989). I would say that Violent Night is more in those realm, but I still think John McClain would give Santa Claus a polite nod.

The biggest thing you need in these type of action movies is a great bad guy. You need someone who is so crazy, so evil, or so maniac that you kind of want him to win. Apologies to John Leguizamo, but he does not bring such charisma to the role. He is not a real BAD GUY. He doesn’t do anything purely sinister. He doesn’t shoot anyone in the head point blank. Going up against Scrooge is a really dumb family. A crowd of real bozos. The super annoying millennial Bert (Alexander Elliot), the dumbass actor husband (Morgan Steel), and the over pleasing Alva (Edi Patterson); all three of them could die and I could not care less.

The one kidnapped family member that you are not meant to hate is Trudy. There may have been a little bit too much happy kid for my own liking, but I get why it was necessary. You need to give a ray of hope and a reason for Santa Clause to stick around, besides his reindeer flying away. Between the cheesiness of the bad guys and this friendly father/daughter-esq connection, Violent Night is okay to be on the second tier of action movies.

If I have one gripe about Violent Night, it is that the characters can choose to play deaf if they want. Are you telling me that the bad guys and family in the house don’t hear a god damn thing when Santa Clause is going to town on cronies in the stable? You are telling me that you don’t hear the screams, the gun shots, or anything like that? The house is big, and the property is large, but come one now, it is not like these guys are using silencers.

I guess one other gripe I got is that the reindeer bit didn’t land with me, and that essentially ends the movie.

Imagine if Violent Night started a holiday character R-rated multiverse? What if the Easter Bunny suddenly turned the gun on the hunters? What if the turkey’s gobbled up everyone who at them? What if Leprechauns didn’t just want gold? Oh, we can ask Jennifer Anniston that.

Listen, trust tree here if you have read down this far. I watched this movie a while ago and I am behind on my writing because Super Bowl week fucking kicked my ass. Busy as balls. This reaction of mind is a bit of word vomit, so I apologize for that.

I can say, even in my exhausted daze, that Violent Night is worth a watch if you are an action movie fan. Know what you are getting into, and embrace it. That is the best advice I can give. Also it’s not a family movie. Don’t confuse holiday for family friendly.

STANKO RATING: B (3.0/5 Stars)

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