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Violent Night ★★★★



Director: Tommy Wirkola

Cast: David Harbour, Beverly D’Angelo, Cam Gigandet, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson

Release Date: December 2, 2022 (UK)

While Bob Clark’s Black Christmas may be the definitive neck-slicing, eye-stabbing R-rated Christmas miracle, Violent Night makes a rather strong case for a fresh addition to the canon. The latest genre effort from Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola (the brazen mind the Dead Snow duology and the gleefully stupid Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), this take on the Christmas home invasion flick is a bit more You’re Next and a bit less Santa Clause. Guns, gore, and a healthy dose of booby traps – all this Santa wants for Christmas is to clean up his naughty list.

Fittingly, this anti-Christmas movie begins with a Bad Santa-esque opening: Santa Claus (David Harbour as the Actually Real Santa) is sat in a British pub, downing pint after pint while slamming Gen Z kids for their obsession with monetary gifts. This brand of cinematic yelling at clouds seems to have become increasingly popular over the past decade, with audiences flocking to cinemas to see the latest quippy exercise in misanthropy. However, instead of going down the bitter route of cynical humour, Violent Night spins its post-Deadpool action-comedy status to deliver an exceedingly genuine, mostly snark-free Christmas tale. Sure, it’s foul-mouthed and cartoonishly gnarly, but there’s something about the mix of Hallmark sentimentality and John Wick-lite brutality that could win over even the biggest of cynics.

In all honesty, Wirkola’s bag of tricks is well-worn and outmoded: a few gore gags here, a few Christmas puns there, all neatly wrapped up in a family drama straight out of an SNL parody of Succession. But what distinguishes Violent Night from all the edgy festive fare is the heart at the centre – and its name is David Harbour. Thanks to Harbour’s careful approach to the material, there’s a discordant kindness to the film that stands out among all the CG-heavy bloodshed. Combine that with John Leguizamo’s goofy outing as Santa’s archnemesis, and you get a wild hodgepodge of farcical entertainment.

Violent Night is a blood-soaked Christmas delight, one that is as gruesome as it is unexpectedly sweet. Anchored by David Harbour’s unmistakeable charm, Wirkola’s film manages to wear its heart on its schlocky sleeve while drinking mulled wine and mowing down endless hordes of nameless mercenaries – this one belongs on the nice list.

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