WARNING: Violent Night spoilers ahead!
If there was one thing Tommy Wirkola, the director of Violent Night did right when making this film, it was delivering on what the film’s trailer promised: an incredibly funny, dark comedy taking pure delight in its goriness. It entails the story of Santa Claus (David Harbour) fighting a group of mercenaries led by Jimmy “Mr. Scrooge” Martinez (John Leguizamo) to protect a wealthy family.
As an example of the gore shown, it was graphic enough when Santa tried to overpower one of Mr. Scrooge’s henchmen by putting an electric Christmas star tree topper in his eye. However, Santa then plugging the star into an outlet thereby electrocuting the henchman was both creative and gruesomely over-the-top. It definitely gets even more entertaining when Santa fights off multiple henchmen in a shed.
Matt Dennis, a film reviewer from Critical Popcorn, believes that the joke that Santa is a brutal killer ‘begins to wear thin pretty quickly.’ He claims that the nearly two-hour long runtime production plays a large part in that. However I personally felt this joke was what carried the movie and made it such an entertaining viewing. This is mainly since the members of the family Santa is protecting from Mr. Scrooge and his henchmen, the Lightstone family, were not interesting characters and their arcs about appreciating family felt recycled and predictable.
There is another scene where Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady) sets traps for the henchmen seasonally named Gingerbread (André Eriksen) and Candy Cane (Mitra Suri). Some of these were the same traps that we have previously seen done by Kevin McCallister in Chris Columbus’ Home Alone films. For example, Trudy put nails on the steps leading to the attic belonging to her grandmother, Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo), and left glass ornaments on the attic floor.
Brian Orndorf, an online reviewer from Blu-ray.com, shared that he felt the filmmakers of Violent Night were just remaking Home Alone. Orndorf elaborates on this by stating how Trudy fought off ‘determined mercenaries with booby traps’ and that the filmmakers wanted to ‘steal from a popular picture instead of paying tribute to it.’
However, Trudy took this homage one step further by making one of the steps to the attic easily breakable, which causes Gingerbread’s jaw to land on the step with the nail on it. She even rolled bowling balls onto Gingerbread so that he could fall on a doormat with nails in it. Another trap Trudy came up with was slingshotting bowling balls and a barbell at Candy Cane while putting superglue on the floor which Candy Cane falls on, thus causing some of her hair to get ripped off her head. Not only did the film pay homage to Home Alone but these new, darker traps added to the film’s sadistic tone and that felt like an R-rated Home Alone.
As entertaining as the gory moments were and as unique as the film seemed even with scenes ‘paying homage’ to Home Alone, there were times where the film was a little overly sentimental despite still delivering on what it promised, which did not help due to how this film was promised to be a dark comedy.
Masonsaul, another online reviewer from IMDB, praised Leah Brady for bringing a ‘boundless optimism to her adorably innocent character.’ Personally, I felt that while some of the scenes between Santa and Trudy were charming as they conveyed good messages about family and redemption for past misdeeds, Trudy herself acted as if she was meant to be the Tiny Tim (from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol) or Cindy Lou Who (from Ron Howard’s version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas).
By this, I mean that Trudy was meant to be an adorable character that the audience would find charming due to her faith in Santa, and this not only felt like a recycled trope, but it also felt far too sweet and wholesome for a film of this kind.
With all of that said, I would have to give Violent Night 7/10. If you’re tired of schmaltzy holiday fodder and want something a little darker, then Violent Night is just what you will want.