There have been countless ‘Bad Santa’ movies – most notably, of course, in one bearing that title – but if memory serves me right, Violent Night is the first time you’ll have seen Saint Nick cudgel someone with the star from a Christmas tree.
A sew of Die Hard and Home Alone – it scores points for acknowledging those films exist in its universe too, likely knowing it’ll earn comparisons to both – if they were perhaps written by the staff of Fangoria Magazine, the rather bloody but conscientiously cheesy action-comedy can be summed up in a line : the real Santa, now an alcoholic cynic, is forced to defend a family against a horde of terrorists holding them captive.
As Santa, David Harbour (of “Stranger Things”) is a hoot — lending both great comedic chops and a hulking physical presence to a Father Christmas that’s more than happy to punish those on the naughty list.
Finding himself inside a mansion dropping gifts off, night before Christmas, Santa’s forced to sober up quick smart when he realises the family the place belongs to are being held hostage by a crazed mad-man and his bad guy ensemble, all there to score some large loot.
The always-versatile John Leguizamo plays the leader of the pack, a Christmas-hating rogue who has seemingly thought of everything – except, well, ‘the real Santa Claus’ being in the house, and further, being handy with a hammer and ice skate.
Making up members of the family, veteran actress Beverly D’Angelo, Twilight slum Cam Cigandet (he’s the ‘Ellis’, of the picture, if you will), and young Leah Brady, as Santa’s pint-sized sidekick-to-be, among others. All of whom likely instructed by director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) to simply ‘have fun’ with their parts.
And that, a stratagem of keeping things fun, seems the overall intent of the film – penned by Pat Casey and Josh Miller – with proceedings, as bloody as they get, never not considered anything but a crowd-pleasing black comedy with perfect pacing and super Yuletide zingers.
Sure, the movie lags a bit in quieter spots – though the sweet, sombre finale came as a pleasant surprise – but when someone’s swinging something, firing something, or crashing through something it’s a riot. Quite simply : It Sleighs!
One of the big film surprises of the year, you won’t have to be drunk on spiked eggnog to enjoy Violent Night.