Let me preface by saying I’m not a Scrooge, nor am I walking around muttering grumpy “Bah, humbugs” left and right, but I am just not in the mood for Christmas this year. Call it fatigue or nihilism—the spirit just isn’t hitting me like it usually does. Or so I thought. Enter Tommy Wirkola’s latest flick, VIOLENT NIGHT. Of the countless holiday movies released year after year, I can say with absolute conviction the one I least imagined would cause me to shed a stupid, sappy tear would be this bloody, foul-mouthed, raunchy, ridiculous kick-ass Santa action movie from the creator of such d-level horror titles as the Nazi-zombie themed DEAD SNOW and DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD.

In the film, the obnoxiously affluent and extremely dysfunctional Lightstone family gathers for Christmas in hopes of gaining the affection of their rigid, potty-mouthed matriarch (played with a mercilessly sharp tongue by national treasure Beverly D’Angelo) as well as control of the family business. Her son, Jason (Alex Hassel), his wife Linda (Alexis Louder), and their young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) are caught up in the family feuds when a group of former-military-turned-criminal rag-tags, led by a deliciously scene-chewing John Leguizamo, break into the home to hold them hostage. All hope seems lost until a disheartened (and drunk) Santa Claus (David Harbour) gets wrapped up in the middle of it all. What unfolds is the single most ridiculous premise for a Christmas movie to ever grace the screen…and I had a blast watching it.

Harbour as Santa does his best with what he’s given. He’s charismatic and has perfected the art of playing the lovable *sshole, yet in addition to this, his depiction of Jolly Old Saint Nick is surprisingly well-rounded. He’s believable as a wise-cracking action star but also manages to bring a decent amount of emotion to the uneven pacing of the film.

The movie is exactly what it’s supposed to be: a silly, bloody, fun popcorn flick. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s not meant to be. The first 10 minutes or so had me worried. A series of incredibly flat-fallen jokes and what seemed like a predictable plot setup didn’t inspire a lot of hope for a film that runs an hour and fifty minutes. However, once the movie gets going, its bloody, well-choreographed fight sequences juxtaposed with a surprisingly inspiring and gentle spirit kept me engaged for the majority of the film. Its second act slows down too much for too long, and while it does so to allow character-building and set us up for the “Christmas feels”, there’s a solid 20 minutes of the movie that ought to have been tightened up. The outrageous third act mostly makes up for it, though. Unfortunately, throughout the film, a number of cracks, zingers, and one-liners fail miserably to land. It’s a shame because a funnier script might have made this a b-movie Christmas cult classic.

All in all, this perfectly imperfect film made even me, with my icy, unfeeling heart, believe in the magic of Christmas. All it took was lots of f-bombs, broken limbs, and buckets upon buckets of blood. (And also Beverly D’Angelo. I just…love her!)

VIOLENT NIGHT is now playing in theaters.

Ricky J Duarte

[He/him/his] Ricky is an actor, singer, and writer in New York City. Passions include: theme parks, Disney villains, and watching horror movies with his cat. He's also the host of the RICK OR TREAT HORRORCAST podcast.

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