I knew exactly two things about this movie going in. One, that it wasn’t an “evil Santa” Christmas horror movie. Two, that while horror comedy it wasn’t “so bad, it’s good and funny” horror. Armed with my knowledge of only that, I sat down for a viewing, and wow. This movie is a shockingly wholesome Christmas movie in a hilarious and violent package.
The movie starts off with a man drinking heavily at a bar in traditional Santa garb. He chats with another Santa about the season and how much he hates Christmas now due to consumerism and greed. Fears related to consumerism being a theme in both Christmas movies and horror, so we already have that tie-in. The bartender and the fake Santa enjoy his quips until he leaves. Although when he exits via the roof, the bartender follows and realizes, “oh, he’s the real Santa.”
We get a quick look at a family, clearly going through some dysfunction, as they are on their way to a Christmas party. Then they are in the home of their extremely wealthy family for the actual holiday. Trudy, the daughter of the couple from the start, fills the role of the “truly good kid” that a lot of Christmas movies have. In fact, that is a theme here; all of the characters fill the Christmas movie tropes, only ramp it up to the nth degree.
Trudy’s father gives Trudy a walkie-talkie to talk to Santa and tell him what she wants because he forgot to take her to see him at the mall. More family drama, and then Santa arrives. He helps himself to some of the nicer things around the house, and then… a break-in happens.
The family is held hostage, and Santa realizes he should help him. This realization is solidified when he grabs his own walkie and ends up on the same channel as Trudy. He realizes she is truly a “nice” kid, and if for no other reason than her, must solve this.
What happens next is a lot of violence, dark humor, and Trudy helping Santa rediscover the importance of Christmas and his role in it.
And I am not being sarcastic about the second point. Violent Night is a true Christmas movie. It is not a horror movie in Christmas wrapping paper; it’s a Christmas movie in horror wrapping. If you just took the moments between Trudy and Santa and did a little shifting and editing, you’d have something up there with the likes of The Santa Clause.
This movie has, the greedy family that needs to learn to love each other again. The sweet girl who all she wants for Christmas is her parents to be happy and together again. Adults who doubt the magic of Christmas because of their own past disappointments. A Santa that wonders if he can really do it, really save Christmas. It’s a damn Christmas movie.
Just… you know… with a lot of blood sprinkled in.
It’s pretty damn brilliant.
It’s not a perfect movie, though. The pacing is a bit off, especially with the story. It starts fairly slow and has a lot of exposition in getting the audience to “Santa is ready to fight back.” It’s not enough to hurt the overall movie, but I did end up feeling like I could have used a bit more action in the first 45 minutes or so. However, once it kicks off, it kicks off. There is also a subplot with Trudy’s father, and the effort to make sure the audience knows something is happening tends to feel a bit forced.
I struggled with the characters as well. If you watch a lot of horror, especially in the slasher and more trashy variety, you know that part of the experience is really not caring when certain characters die. They are assholes, and it’s all fake, so you are like, “yep, fine with that one going,” or even sometimes root for it. Trudy’s family – with exceptions – is hard to care about the danger they are in. But that’s not the purpose they serve. Again this is a Christmas movie, we are supposed to want them to learn a lesson and come together. It’s sort of an odd feeling because I don’t know if the horror fan in me is supposed to not care or the Christmas fan in me is supposed to be worried.
I guess the last one you could call smart, though. Maybe the point is we are still supposed to have more empathy than we normally have for victims in this type of horror. Maybe it’s a mirror reflecting on the audience. Maybe they are just assholes, and I am overthinking it.
These are pretty mild complaints in an overall top-notch movie. The comedy is fantastic, though dark. Very dark. When I try to explain horror comedy to people who aren’t into horror, it’s a bit difficult. How do you explain how a young adult jumping headfirst into a wood chipper is hilarious? (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil). A lot of the humor in this movie is like that. It’s about death and gross, but fantastic.
And once again, I know how this must sound as I type this out. The violence is really good and sometimes hilarious. Just… if you are morbid, you get it. Otherwise, I promise I am not a psycho. Speaking of violence, there is a great scene with some pretty brutal action happening to Christmas music. Movies overuse “happy” music vs. violent scenes, but this one managed to thread that needle.
I also appreciate that there are threads of messaging and choices that speak to me. I appreciate the anti-consumerism and anti-greed notion of it. It also is fairly girl power. I don’t want to give too much away, but other than Santa, the real heroes, almost universally, are the women in the family.
So bottom line? It’s technically after Christmas but still, watch this. It’s still the holiday season, after all. This movie is dark, funny, with great action, cool, and entertaining. And again, I can not stress enough, WHOLESOME AF. I applaud this movie for doing what I have seen so rarely with blending horror and holidays. I liken it to Krampus, and that movie blew me away with how much it successfully blended the two. It really and truly is a great Christmas movie… with lots of gore.
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