REVIEW: Violent Night, Gory Night: a Twisted Christmas Story

Christmas movies create the perfect opportunity for families, adults and children alike, to gather beside their fireplace, sip hot chocolate and bundle beneath warm blankets. No matter where – a getaway to your relatives house, a vacation or Christmas at your own house – the holiday season is always known for bringing family together. 

Most classic Christmas movies are recognized for their comedic aspect, but also their ability to capture the joy that the holiday season brings and oftentimes, the romance. While most of these films remain family-friendly, typically falling into PG ratings, director Tommy Wirkola’s newest Christmas film takes an unexpected twist on the stereotypical holiday film, including both gore and comedy to create a thrilling rated R movie. 

Following Santa Claus (David Harbour – famously known for his role as Hopper in Stranger Things) this film ultimately changes the image Santa Claus portrays in all other films. Instead of being the jolly, friendly and overly energetic gift-giver that we grew up knowing, Wirkola’s twist on Santa Claus depicts him as a portly drunk with no desire to deliver presents or bring joy to families across the world. Harbour’s appearance as Santa Claus is nearly spot-on, wearing all of the typical attire, including red trousers and circular spectacles placed at the bridge of his nose. 

What differentiates his appearance from the stereotypical Santa Claus is his abundance of tattoos. Even prior to becoming Santa, his personality is completely unexpected and influences the entire plot of the film. Contradicting society’s image of Santa Claus, Wirkola makes him a warrior and thief who entirely lacks Christmas spirit. These contrasting personality traits make Santa’s role as action-hero justifiable as he attempts to withstand the ‘Scrooge’ of Christmas. 

While still maintaining it’s gruesome and gory nature, Violent Night captures the Christmas spirit perfectly through a child’s eyes. Trudy Lightstone, the seven year old main character, receives a gift on Christmas Eve that supposedly allows her to communicate with Santa; it was a gift her parents imagined to be a fluke and one that only works with a child’s imagination. Trudy’s spirit captures the magic every child feels during the holiday season, both in terms of her anticipation leading up to Christmas and her undeniable belief in Santa Claus.

After Santa enters the wealthy residence of Trudy’s grandmother to deliver presents – as Santa is required to do – he receives notice of danger. The family in the house had been kidnapped at gunpoint. The agents involved in the scheme had intentions of acquiring the millions of dollars stored in a vault beneath the house. Trudy assists Santa in taking on these villains as she manages to escape the eyes of the kidnappers. 

The comedic take on this disturbing film is what attracted viewers and makes it unique among other holiday films. With the abundance of Christmas puns – including wounds bandaged in wrapping paper – this unsettling film is bound to make viewers laugh. Even the action scenes that make you duck under a blanket and cover your eyes are mellowed out by the up-beat tunes of classic Christmas music. It was intentionally choreographed to work with the violence and create a comedic contrast. 

Santa even attempts to defend himself by using his endless sack of gifts, pulling out baseball bats and dolls. At one point a candy cane is even sharpened – something we have all done while sucking on the minty treat – in order to be used as a spear-like weapon.

What’s most clever about this thrilling film however, is its correlation with Home Alone. Apart from being referenced several times throughout the movie, Home Alone is one of the only other Christmas films that incorporate some aspect of violence. It completely set the stage for the release of Wirkolas’ violent film. 

Trudy Lightstone coincidentally watches the film days prior to the kidnapping, learning exactly what tricks are necessary to fend off the villains. She sets booby traps that all resemble those from Home Alone. There were gooey traps to stop the kidnappers in their steps, nails to pierce through their skin – and in some cases their jaws – swinging cement blocks replicating the paint buckets that Kevin swung from the stairs and even glass light bulbs for the kidnappers to step on. And of course, the infamous iron that left a mark on the kidnapper’s forehead was recreated using a bowling ball. 

Despite the ending of this movie being cliché and anticipated by viewers, the comedic contrast with the violent actions creates an exciting film that all adults – who are comfortable with gore – would enjoy. And of course, with all of the events that went on within the action-packed movie, Trudy’s main Christmas wish still came true. 

Grace Praxmarer is a staff editor for Oswego East’s online news magazine The Howl

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