Violent Night


The first ever Christmas flick was called, appropriately enough, Santa Claus, released in 1898 with a pleasingly brief running time of two minutes long.

Since then, it has become one of the most enduring genres in film, that has seen a number of classics released, such as Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life to Bill Murray’s 1988 Scrooged.

There has also been a growing misunderstanding in recent years as to what is and what isn’t a Christmas film. And no, Die Hard really isn’t a Christmas film. And sure, Gremlins is.

Another one that very much comes under the ‘is’ category, is this latest release, despite being somewhat of a curiosity, it’s a festive one at least.

boom reviews Violent Night
So you want this wall knocked down? It's gonna cost ya.

Sitting in a bar in London on Christmas Eve is Santa (David Harbour). He’s had one too many alcoholic beverages, as he sits on his stool bemoaning the state of Christmas, disillusioned at how commercial it has become.

He pulls himself together enough to board his sleigh and start his long night of delivering presents. One of his stops is to a young girl, Trudy (Leah Brady), who is visiting her Grandma’s for Christmas, who just so happens to be extremely rich, living in her private family compound with her own security detail for the holidays.

But by the time Santa arrives, he discovers that all isn’t as it should be, with a group of criminals inside the home, threatening to kill everyone inside unless they get access to the family vault, where millions are stashed away.

So instead of just stopping by to drop off pressies, it looks like Santa’s going to have to step it up a notch, by taking names and kicking some serious seasonal ass.

boom reviews Violent Night
So if any of you do see my reindeer on the roads, please don't run them over.

Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola’s first English language feature is a true hybrid of a film. First and foremost it is a Christmas film, after all, how could it not be with its main protagonist being the real Father Christmas.

Secondly it’s a homage, to two films specifically, with a sprinkling of a current hit TV show.

The first obvious influence is, ironically enough, the non Christmas film Die Hard. Wirkola has transposed the Nakatomi Plaza building to a wealthy family compound in Connecticut. He’s also swapped John McClane for none other than Santa, as he works his way around the large home with the aim of taking out all those who appear on his naughty list; it’s only to be expected really if they’re carrying around armed weapons.

The second film is Home Alone - which yes, is a Christmas film – that features heavily in the back end of the film when a young girl decides to help Santa out by setting some traps to slow the baddies down.

Slightly less obvious is a light sprinkling of Succession, mirroring the show’s stupidly rich dysfunctional family, who definitely have more money than sense.

Blend all three together and you have Violent Night, which is part of the film’s problem. It is a blend that, although undeniably silly and enjoyably violent in places, doesn’t entirely work.

It doesn’t hide the fact that it’s heavily relying on the two forementioned films, instead, probably leaning into both of them a little too heavily. On top of that, there’s also an attempt to actually be a bone fide Christmas film in a truly conventional sense, with a number of scenes that attempt to bring to the fore the true meaning of Christmas, after Santa just having disposed of a gun-toting goon.

It’s these grinding gear changes, that are no doubt deliberate, attempting to offer the juxtaposition of an anti Christmas film with a very traditional one, that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t help that it’s all underscored with a seasonal orchestral score, that is all too bouncy and fun, going all the way to eleven in much the same way as Home Alone’s did.

Harbour does well as the conflicted Santa, who soon has to bare arms against his haterz. Edi Patterson steals the show, as anyone who has seen her do so often in the shows Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones time and again; the film could have certainly benefitted from more of Patterson, as could anything she appears in quite frankly.

It’s the type of film that would have work well as a sketch, but as a full feature, much like the holiday period itself, it definitely outstays its welcome.

That said, you can expect it to become a cult classic, like a Christmas version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as it has an undoubtedly quirky sensibility.

If only it stuck to its guns, literally, and made Santa a really brutal avenger from the off, instead of being too much (stocking) filler and not enough killer.

we give this two out of five