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

Saint Nicholas. Kris Kringle. Père Noël. Weihnachtsmann. Babbo Natale. Дед Мороз. Noel Baba. Święty Mikołaj. Sinnterklaas. These are just a few of the names Santa Claus goes by in communities and cultures around the world. He’s a figure known for bringing magic to children, delivering presents, eating cookies, and drinking milk all in the space of one night. How? Christmas Magic. No one really understands it, but that’s the hand-wave to make it all make sense. We see this in films like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), and many others as magic, renewal, and the gifting of love takes center stage, each propelled by the belief that Santa possesses a magic we can’t understand. Now, imagine if you will, taking one of the oldest storytelling tropes (weathered individual on the verge of quitting their job) and placing it in a Christmas story. Seems fairly standard right? Sure, but what if — hear me out — the one on the verge of personal and spiritual collapse is Santa Claus himself and the only way to bring him back to his purpose is to return him to his roots? That’s the narrative arc screenwriters Pat Casey (Sonic the Hedgehog) and Josh Miller (Sonic the Hedgehog) place this Santa (David Harbour) on before having him roped into a hostage situation. Whether you missed the Tommy Wirkola-directed Violent Night (2022) in theaters last December or are looking to extend the 12 Days of Christmas, this Universal Pictures holiday blood-splattered actioner is coming home with nearly 20 minutes of individual bonus features and extra footage, respectively, and feature-length commentary.


David Harbour as Santa and John Leguizamo as Scrooge in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. Photo credit: Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa Claus has had enough. He’s tired of the increase on his naughty list, the video game requests, the cash demands, store-bought cookies and skim milk, and, frankly, he’s ready to quit. His evening isn’t the only one going wrong with each second. The very wealthy Lightstone family is enduring a hostage situation lead by the unscrupulous Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), and the youngest Lightstone, Trudy (Leah Brady), believes Santa will come to their rescue. Must to his dismay, Trudy gets her Christmas wish and Scrooge’s men soon wish they’d traded dreams of millions for sugar plums while snuggled in their beds. Why? Because this isn’t your regular mall Santa, this is the original and he’s got centuries of frustrations to unload.

If you’d like to learn about Violent Night without ruining the surprises, head over to EoM senior critic Hunter Heilman’s initial theatrical review. Moving forward, we’re going to explore some of that “Christmas magic.”


L-R: Stephanie Sy as Sugarplum, Beverly D’Angelo as Gertrude, Edi Patterson as Alva, Cam Gigandet as Morgan Steel, Can Aydin as Frosty, Alexander Elliot as Bert, Alexis Louder as Linda, Rawleigh Clements-Willis as Peppermint, John Leguizamo as Scrooge and André Eriksen as Gingerbread in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. Photo credit: Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

If one considers the idea of the film, Violent Night is a silly premise. One imagines the gentle soul of Santa tricking or trapping the hostage-takers in a Home Alone-esque (1990) manner. Heck, that Trudy namedrops seeing that film for the first time when she and her mother, Linda (Alexis Louder), pick up her father, Jason (Alex Hassell), before heading to the Lightstone compound implies that Violent Night is going to tread some familiar ground. And it does. There are booby traps of all sorts set up and activated, but where the Wet Bandits survived each one to terrorize another day (gotta make those sequels), each hit, each puncture, each application of industrial-strength glue comes with a reality-based response. Thus, Violent Night is not a family-friendly holiday treat, but an adults-only alcohol-laced delight that makes one reconsider the sheer notion of who Santa is.


L-R: David Harbour as Santa and John Leguizamo as Scrooge in VIOLENT NIGHT, directed by Tommy Wirkola. Photo credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Now, one wouldn’t expect quite so much blood and viscera, but this Kringle has had enough of the greed of the world and is pissed off enough to really let himself go wild. Smartly, this isn’t just some “make it gritty” approach Casey and Miller take in order to make their Santa capable of delivering some on-screen kills that rival some of those made my Michael Myers in Halloween Kills (2021). Via two flashbacks, we learn that — somehow — this Santa was once a Viking raider, playing into the pagan history of the now-mostly Christian-affiliated Coke sponsor. How he became Santa is a mystery, but who he once was is not and it helps explain how he can pick up his metaphorical hammer again and dispatch several heavily armed soldiers whose reliance on their “gizmos” (as Santa refers to their guns and tech) makes them far easier to dispatch in close-quarters combat than when he’s out in the open. The 87North stunt crew who worked on this film put in the *work* with so many of the stunts, inducing several audible gasps and at least one moment where obvious telegraphing still lead to a disquieting and uncomfortable pit in my stomach. (Props to the VFX team for the real and likely digitally-enhanced blood spurts which only add to the ooey-gooeyness of it all.) All of this to say that a recent tweet suggesting that ‘80s action movie heroes are just slasher villains seems right on the money when you consider that there’s another script of this same story where Trudy is accidentally saved by Krampus. Especially in the final fight which goes to a spectacularly gruesome place. Merry Christmas, indeed.


L-R: Producer David Leitch and John Leguizamo on the set of VIOLENT NIGHT. Photo credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Even with all the violence, there’s still plenty of humor. Some of it comes from the situation of Santa as some Yuletide Rambo (an apt description considering Rambo’s unaddressed PTSD), some from the ridiculousness of the magic which allows Santa to do his job (the gag of Santa pulling out video game after video game from his gift bag while looking for some sports gear to defend himself is damn funny and offers some interesting subtext to Santa’s pent-up societal frustration), and from the gags we know to expect. In these instances, the comedic tension comes not from the trap being tripped (for example), but us knowing that some fool is about to get axed with extreme prejudice. And this specifically only refers to one sequence and it involves Trudy getting wise about her situation, enabling a strong character moment to power the violence. Heck, by the time we get to this silliness, we’ve already watched Santa grapple with a dude who gets impaled on a decorative icicle. What sets things apart, initially, anyway, is that Santa is still in his early Die Hard (1988) John McClane emotional state — that feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He just wants to get to out of there but can’t when his reindeer flee due to stray gunfire. But then Santa hears Trudy’s voice when he tries to use a comms device and he can’t just leave a good girl to face these naughty folks. So, before he gets all The Shape on the bad guys, he first goes through the phase of shaking the cobwebs off. Harbour is fantastic at playing these kinds of “semi-washed up but still has fight left” characters, making the arc his Santa is on believable from his first beer to his last on-screen ho-ho-ho. Harbour just possesses a soulfulness that makes his more atypical bad guys undeniably creepy (A Walk Among the Tombstones) and his good guys someone you root for (Stranger Things). The fact that he’s just a big dude means (cinematically) that anyone coming to him better be ready to throw down (Extraction) ‘cause Harbour can do that, too.


L-R: Director Tommy Wirkola and David Harbour on the set of VIOLENT NIGHT. Photo credit: Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Gratefully, the home release includes materials that allow folks to explore how Violent Night was made. There are three featurettes, each fairly brief but allowing for home viewers to have a sense of the process to bring to life the absolute mayhem in the film. For those who agree with me on Harbour, there’s a nearly four-minute featurette exploring the actor’s version of Santa Claus in “Quarrelin’ Kringle.” Want to learn about the making of the film and get a bit about how David Leitch’s (John Wick) 87North developed the film? There’s the almost six-minute featurette “Santa’s Helpers: The Making of Violent Night.” If you want a behind the scenes look at the making of the film through the lens of the fights by going over the ideation, blocking, and execution, head to the six-minute “Deck the Halls with Brawls” featurette. Be advised that the deleted scenes and extended scenes are kept in the same spot within the bonus features, but that they are different. So, you can opt to either watch all eight deleted scenes individually and then watch nearly seven minutes of extended scenes *or* press play on them all and watch nearly 20 minutes of cut material at once. Choices, choices.

Violent Night is as-advertised. It’s more vicious than one might expect from this action comedy, but it starts at a high-level of foulness when Santa upchucks on someone and just continues on from there. It’s not some store-bought confection. It’s a carefully constructed homemade indulgence that will fit nicely into your holiday routine, especially if your routine includes other Christmas-centric films like The Night Before (2015) and Anna and the Apocalypse (2017). (I’m Jewish, so I didn’t grow up with what most consider traditional holiday entertainment.) Oh, and if you were hoping that maybe we’d get to see Mrs. Claus between Santa’s heartfelt confession mid-film and the love note we see at the end, looks like Violent Night 2 has been greenlight with Wirkola, Casey, and Miller all set to return. Considering that this outing outdid my expectations by going darker both with the characters and the humor, I’d be interested in spending another holiday with this Santa as he continues his rebirth. Until then, I wish him a little more mirth and a happy disembowelment!

Violent Night Special Features:

  • Quarrelin’ Kringle – Cast and crew relay why David Harbour is the perfect brawler for this combative rendition of Santa. (3:46)
  • Santa’s Helpers: The Making of Violent Night – Tommy Wirkola and David Leitch have reunited for another madcap, violent fairytale with heart in Violent Night. This making-of will celebrate their spirited reunion as well as the other little helpers. (5:57)
  • Deck the Halls with Brawls – Go behind the action as we go blow for blow with the new villains of Christmas. (6:08)
  • Feature Commentary with director Tommy Wirkola, producer Guy Danella, writer Pat Casey and writer Josh Miller (1:51:32)
  • Eight (8) Deleted Scenes (13:35)
  • Extended Scenes (6:43)

Available on digital-to-own and streaming on Peacock January 20th, 2023.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD January 24th, 2023.

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

Final Score: 4 out of 5.


Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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1 reply

  1. I still need to see this.

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