Violent Night sees Santa Claus (David Harbour) battle a team of burglars who break into the mansion of a wealthy family, as they fight over their mother’s (Beverly D’Angelo) fortune. Let’s call it Sackcession.
Hot on the heels of The Menu comes another film about eggnoxious rich people that wants to have its Christmas cake and eat it too, apparently vexed at Xmas cynicism but deeply tacky and cynical itself. Between violent bouts of Santanic Panic, the movie pads out its almost-two hours with insincere festive schmaltz.
For all its gory kills, the most vomit-inducing moments are the exchanges between Santa and the little girl (Leah Brady) who asks: “Can you use your Christmas magic to make my parents love each other again?” The result is tonally crackers, trying to appeal to both the anti-Christmas crowd and those who think Santa being saved by people believing in him is an acceptable plot point for a 15 certificate.
Directed by Norwegian purveyor of B-movie bloodshed Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), the picture works best as a yuletide slay ride, successfully incorporating the seasonal setting into its turkey bone-snapping action. But the fight scenes make up less than a third of the bloated runtime, failing to fully live up to its title. The rest is talky and tedious, offering few characters to root for in Santa’s grotty game of cocks and robbers.
Even a fantasy premise requires motivations and reactions we can understand, but neither the family nor the criminals display anything approaching human behaviour. The hostages exchange gifts while their captors allow them to openly pass notes to each other. This robs the film of any tension, unless you happen to be playing Whamageddon and hoping Last Christmas isn’t on the soundtrack. Fortunately it is much too cheap for that.
When it isn’t explaining away plot holes with reference to “Christmas magic” (Santa’s catchphrase is “I don’t really understand how it works”), Violent Night is saint-nicking off other Christmas flicks. It is a Frankincense’s Monster without an original ideer in its head, built from the leftovers of Die Hard, Home Alone, Bad Santa and Gremlins. Cloyingly smug and pleased with its-elf, the real Christmas miracle is that this has a theatrical release. Sack it off for Krampus or Rare Exports instead.