'Violent Night’ is the goofiest cult classic you didn’t know you needed until now

It is exactly the goofy balm we need right now to help us push aside the anger and division that have become our norm.

click to enlarge Santa Claus (David Harbour, right) prepares to hammer some bad guy ass as Trudy (Leah Brady) and her family look on in awe - Photo via Universal Pictures
Photo via Universal Pictures
Santa Claus (David Harbour, right) prepares to hammer some bad guy ass as Trudy (Leah Brady) and her family look on in awe
Just so we’re clear: “Violent Night” is one of the most stupid movies you’re likely to love in your lifetime.

It’s gory and violent to a fault, so much so that people in the audience seemed oblivious to the fact that this is a movie with the word "violent" in its fucking title. And it doesn’t give two craps about all the ginormous plot holes that will drive you to drink if you waste any thought trying to make sense of them.

That said, “Violent Night” is a glorious return to form for Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola, whose “Dead Snow” and “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” remain the gold standard for Nazi zombie gorefests.
Violent Night
4 out of 5 stars
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It’s also a huge makeup kiss from star David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) for the abysmal redo of “Hellboy” that he toplined back in 2019.

Harbour is absolutely perfect for the role of an angry, disillusioned and alcohol-soaked Santa Claus on the cusp of an identity crisis so deep that he’s considering sending the reindeer to pasture permanently and canceling Christmas forever more.

What’s got him so angry? Oh, you know, just the fact that kids today are basically spoiled bastard spawn who only want cash or video games and no longer believe in the miracle of Yuletide.

To that end, the filthy-rich and soulless Lightstone clan might not make for the most sympathetic source of inspiration. This is a family that lives in fear of its uber-powerful matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo in fantastic and filthy form) even as they jockey constantly for top billing.

The pathetic brood includes Alva (Edi Patterson), the only daughter, along with her D-list action movie star boyfriend Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet), and her influencer son Bertrude (Alexander Elliot). On the flip side is only son Jason (Alex Hassell), his ex-wife Linda (Alexis Louder) and their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady).

Trudy still believes in Santa, and when the Lightstone clan is taken hostage by a marauding band of thieves led by Scrooge (John Leguizamo), it’s Trudy’s faith in the holiday spirit that sobers Santa up and kicks him into action.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that “Violent Night” also represents a glorious return to form as far as batshit crazy performances for Leguizamo, who channels the lunacy he brought to 1997’s “Spawn” like he never missed a beat.

Again, I feel compelled to remind you that “Violent Night” is ridiculous fun. This is a movie that pays homage to both “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” with sequences that are so insane and bloody and dumb that you will be howling with laughter and cheering in the theater.

This is a movie that spends an inordinate amount of time showing Santa get piss-house drunk and urinate and vomit on people from his sleigh.

This is a movie that flashes back to Santa’s origins just long enough to tease that he was a bloodthirsty Viking named Nicomond the Red who brained a lot of enemies with his trusty hammer, Skullcrusher, before being transformed into lovable old Saint Nick.

This is also a holiday film that never fails to find a way to convert every possible ornament and decoration into a lethal weapon. Years from now, there will be a “Violent Night” drinking game based on the icicles, candy canes, stars and tinsel used to maim and kill throughout.

It has been way too long since I left a movie theater grinning from ear to ear, but “Violent Night” is exactly the goofy balm we need right now to help us push aside the anger and division that have become our norm.

It’s an instant cult classic that demands to be seen in a crowded theater with other like-minded souls who love a bloody good time that’s as dumb as it is endearing.


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John W. Allman

John W. Allman is Tampa Bay's only movie critic and has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer—but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now...
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