Violent Night knows what it is and feels like the answer to fuck around and find out.
Right off the bat you know it’s going to be a classic because David Harbour is taking the lead. Best known for Stranger Things, this movie allows this talented actor to really spread his wings and try something new. Not saying he isn’t giving his best on Stranger Things. It’s just that Violent Night is a different hill to conquer where he plays Santa, fights criminals, and saves the day after an epic showdown with a villain named Scrooge. And by the end of this movie, it’s easy to see that he had fun from start to finish with this Santa transformation.
As promised, this movie is pretty violent. And it’s one of the main reasons I think Harbour had so much fun. Here you have Santa Claus, one of the most beloved fairytales, and you have him smashing stars into people’s faces, using garland to choke someone out, and using a candy cane to unalive people. That subversion of something so sacred into something guided by skilled and dangerous hands is shocking and memorable. And it leaves a lasting impression on you because of the time and care that Harbour put into giving his Santa everything he had. Sure, there were jokes with the action. But this was Santa. And he never deviated from the core of who this man is.
How much fun Harbour had and the success of this movie is also due to the man starring opposite Santa: Mr. Scrooge played by John Leguizamo. Santa and Scrooge don’t hold back when it comes to each other, leading to explosive encounters that leave you thinking, “Ok, Santa is going to win. But Scrooge just slapped a woman like nothing because he’s not sexist garbage. That woman is capable and a badass. So he’s gonna be at her level and I don’t think I’ve seen someone like that before in a movie like this.” I’m probably explaining it badly, but Scrooge and his cool, calm, collected, angry, smart, devious, etc. skill set make him a worthy adversary for Santa that elevates the stakes of it all.
It’s important to note, that even with all these wonderful bits from Violent Night, this movie isn’t reinventing the Christmas movie. Yes, it’s making a new Christmas classic with the possibility of a Santa Cinematic Universe opening up right before our eyes. But it’s just fun, packed with tons of action, and has a bunch of cheesy lines that make you go, “Did they really just make a pun out of that?” As a result, I found myself enjoying the subversion of Santa but also just having a good time where I could just shut down my brain for a movie and not worry about what’s happening out there in this vast, wide, and often traumatizing world.
And in 2022, sitting back and relaxing is invaluable.
The one thing that Violent Night was missing out on was the inclusion of Mrs. Claus. They made Santa’s backstory so rich and interesting, that I couldn’t help but wanting to know who he chose as a partner and who chose him in return. Plus, I kept thinking, “I bet Mrs. Claus is just as badass as him. I bet, I bet, I bet.” Sure, a letter and a hammer to help him save the day are important and appreciated. But I wanted her to appear, kill Scrooge, and be like, “Dear, what’s taking so long?” But I understand that Santa Claus had his own inner demons to slay and that he needed to do this alone. And he did with a little Santa magic.
Violent Night is now playing in theaters.