Violent Night is a film that follows a jaded Santa Claus who goes to great lengths to violently stop criminals from harming a little girl and her family on Christmas Eve. It’s the latest “non-traditional” take on a Christmas movie and Father Christmas himself. With other non-traditional hits like Bad Santa, Krampus, and Die Hard, it does have a lot to live up to. It’s worth checking twice to see if this twisted holiday tale is able to stand out on its own.
Light spoilers for Violent Night are ahead.
This film is extremely action-packed, and the action scenes are absolutely incredible. The fight choreography is riveting to watch, yet it never feels too over the top or ridiculous. It’s quite impressive that Santa’s magical abilities are cleverly used during each battle but it all somehow still feels relatively grounded. Adding to the exciting action are the tremendous gore effects used throughout. Every bit of blood, broken bone, impalement, and any other injury also look real while still feeling grounded and somewhat realistic despite the fantastical nature of a Santa Claus story.
The movie’s humor is just as well-handled. Fans of dark humor especially have plenty to look forward to with this film. There are several moments in which Santa killing or injuring someone is made outrageously funny. There are a few puns and one-liners that lead to some big laughs. Quite a few scenes are so bonkers that it’s rather difficult not to laugh during them. Most of the humor is pretty dark, so if that’s not your thing then maybe this isn’t for you, but just about all of it does work exceptionally well.
Something that is important for any true Christmas movie or special is the heart and themes of believing in the magic of the holiday, and that’s very much present in Violent Night despite the brutal action. Not only does Santa use his magic, but a child and her family learn to believe in Santa and the Christmas spirit. A family grows closer together. In the most dire of situations, Santa thinks about how much he loves Mrs. Claus. There’s a surprising amount of emotional moments throughout, and all of them are welcome.
This is one of the few times in which Santa Claus actually develops as a character in a movie. Seeing him start off as jaded and gradually remember why he loved giving gifts to all in the first place in genuinely heartfelt. Seeing his arc fully reached is quite satisfying. Santa is usually portrayed as a flawless figure, so it’s great to see him as someone who can still grow here.
Throughout the film, there are hints at the backstory of this version of Santa. It’s a rather unique one and it actually makes a lot of sense given where and when the idea of Santa originated. It also gives context as to how Santa is able to fight countless goons so effortlessly. Something that makes this backstory so interesting is that it provides us with just enough information that we can fill in the blanks without it taking up too much of the movie.
The members of the Lightstone family are genuinely horrible people, and they even admit to being terrible a couple of times throughout the story. However, they don’t seem to change their ways or get any sort of comeuppance. Santa and the main couple grow, but it’s quite annoying that some of the ones who need to most don’t learn anything whatsoever.
It’s unclear if the main couple, Jason and Linda, ditched their toxic family members or not. They said they wanted to, but then it feels like they grow closer to them by the end. Since their family remains horrible and toxic, maybe they should have still made a point of not being around them anymore. If they’re still cutting them off, the ending should have made that more clear.
The excessively wealthy Lightstone family are able to afford what they think is a top-notch security team to protect their home, themselves, and their money. However, their security is completely incompetent. They don’t stop a single criminal from breaking in or harming those they’re hired to protect. They’re all taken out with absolutely no effort from the villains. The security team also somehow has no idea that someone had been gradually stealing money from their vault. There might as well have been no security there to begin with.
There are several moments throughout the story in which Santa talks about how important Mrs. Claus is to him. Despite her importance, she never makes an appearance in the movie. What’s especially odd about that is that there’s an organic moment when she could have shown up. The reindeer return from the North Pole with a new sack of toys at the end of the movie so Santa can resume his night of gift-giving. There’s also a letter from Mrs. Claus. She could have also been on the sleigh, the one to return it to him. It also would have been a solid opportunity for a humorous or fan-service cameo, but this is one opportunity that was missed.
Violent Night may slightly suffer from plot contrivances and things that are somehow less believable than Santa Claus (like the world’s worst security team), but the rest of it is so wildly entertaining that it mostly makes up for it. The action is exciting, the dark humor is laugh-out-loud funny, there’s still emotional moments that don’t feel out of place, and Santa actually receives fantastic character development. This movie is perfect for those who are fans of the brutal tales around the holiday season like Gremlins or Die Hard but want them to feel even more Christmasy.