It’s a “Violent Night” and all the creatures are screaming.

For every smart little one-liner I wanted to inject into this intro about Santa Claus to describe this film, I realized it was already covered by Violent Night’s catchphrase-heavy screenplay, rendering my job nearly useless, as one can imagine the broad ways in which those lines can go. Still, one can reasonably be assured by that fact, as it means that Violent Night isn’t a damn thing that its completely ridiculous trailer and subsequent marketing materials didn’t market it to be. You wanna see Santa go buckwild against some comically over-the-top supervillains with little-to-no depth actually given to them? You got it. Want crude, often juvenile humor that lampoons the ideals of the Christmas holiday? Here you go. Do you want a cheap knockoff of Knives Out with none of the nuance to its broad strokes that makes it special? Well…whether you want it or not, you have it. It’s hard to lampoon Violent Night for anything since it’s so incredibly in on its joke, but there is a point of balance that sometimes struggles to be met here.


L-R: Alexis Louder as Linda, Leah Brady as Trudy, and Alex Hassell as Jason in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

At the dysfunctional meeting of the ultra-wealthy industrial magnate that is the Lightstone Family Christmas, we’re surrounded by a motley crew of horrible individuals including crass matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo); self-centered daughter Alva (Edi Patterson) with her TikTok famous son, Bert (Alexander Elliot), and washed-up action star husband; Morgan (Cam Gigandet); and the brief reprieve of decency in eldest son Jason (Alex Hassell); as well as estranged wife, Linda (Alexis Louder) and daughter, Trudy (Leah Brady). When the family is soon targeted by a group of criminals seeking access to Gertrude’s vault with over $300 million in cash, led by leader known only as Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), the family soon believes they won’t survive the night. Meanwhile, Santa Claus (David Harbour), depressed and drunk from years of providing ungrateful children with consumerist pleasures, stumbles upon the Lightstone’s predicament while delivering presents to the house. Unable to leave after being targeted, Santa is soon forced to fight the experienced group of criminals to save the Lightstone family and their Christmas.


L-R: Stephanie Sy as Sugarplum, John Leguizamo as Scrooge, and André Eriksen as Gingerbread in in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

On paper, Violent Night sounds incredibly stupid, but in execution, it somehow is even more stupid, and that’s the base of its charm. Of course a movie called Violent Night about Santa Claus being a washed up John Wick-type (the film is produced by John Wick co-director David Leitch, for reference) figure taking bad guys down in increasingly violent ways is going to be low-rent trash. What we need from it is a balance of the self-awareness of its trashiness and a bookend with filmmaking that actually delivers the goods on the action side, which I would argue Violent Night does quite well. This is a pulpy, gory film that doesn’t skimp on the festive ways Santa can rip a bad guy to absolute shreds with Christmas decorations. It’s what you want, and for a good 75 minutes, it gives it to you.


David Harbour as Santa Claus in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

However, there is a bit of an issue with Violent Night and that comes with its padding, particularly that of anything involving the Lightstone family dynamics. I mentioned previously that this feels like a Knives Out ripoff, and I stand by that wholeheartedly. A wealthy family of assholes, sans the one “good one,” speaking in broadly offensive ways to show just how awful they are doesn’t feel fresh when there’s no smart humor behind it. Of course, Johnson’s murder mysteries are broad and obvious with their characterizations many times, but are bookended with a nice nuance that comes with an understanding of the archetypes these characters fill. If we’re forced to pad the film with character drama, I would at least hope that said characters would go somewhere, or anywhere for that matter. They’re simply so cartoonish that they quickly become uninteresting and irritating as they get in the way of the Santa violence I came for.

That being said, Beverly D’Angelo is a delight who deserved far more screen time than she got. I could’ve dealt with that sort of padding.


L-R: Alexis Louder as Linda and David Harbour as Santa Claus in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Tommy Wirkola, director of such films as the Nazi zombie film Dead Snow and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, knows his way around a gimmick, and Violent Night is mostly no different. There is a bit of a want in its screenplay for more depth in its “good” characters in the Lightstone family that falls very very flat, bringing the pacing of the film down a fair degree, but when the film goes full “John Wick, but Christmas,” it’s hard not to have a good damn time with the gimmick it’s running with. Harbour, while not a particularly convincing Santa Claus, is still as game as could be expected of an action star, and is having a ton of fun. It almost feels disingenuous to critique a movie such as this because it’s virtually critic-proof to the audience it’s courting (stoned teenage boys and formerly stoned adult men), and perhaps that’s all it needs to achieve. A cult classic this is not, but there are worse ways to spend an hour and 45 minutes on a winter’s night when you’re sick of all these weighty awards films…even if that 105 minutes could’ve been cut to a tight 90.

In theaters December 2nd, 2022.

For more information, head to the official Universal Pictures Violent Night website.

Final Score: 3 out of 5.


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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1 reply


  1. Ho-ho-HOLY S#@T! Christmas actioner “Violent Night” is out on home video. – Elements of Madness

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