Violent Night brings the carnage to Christmas


Mateo Mangolini, Co-Feature Editor

As the holidays roll around, a great way to pass the time with family and friends alike is to watch an appropriately themed movie. Stories of gratitude, camaraderie and appreciation of the ones you love offer a heartwarming break at the end of a long year of work and hardships. 

“For me, it’s just the tradition of it” Erin Cespedes, Sequoia’s IB Psychology teacher, said. “It brings back memories, and reminds me of my dad”.

However, after watching Violent Night, Tommy Wirkola’s latest low budget film, I have found that watching a vengeful, binge-drinking Santa Claus save Christmas from a small army of trained mercenaries offers an enjoyable viewing experience with a festive spin, and a welcome departure from some of the “classic” films. 



“Violent Night”, which first released in theaters on December second, stars Santa Claus (David Harbour) as he finds himself caught in the middle of a heist led by the mysterious Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo). Scrooge intends to steal 300 million dollars from the Lighstones, a greedy New England family hosting a Christmas party, and so takes the family hostage. Amongst the hostages is a young girl by the name of Trudy (Leah Brady), who wishes for her parents (Alex Hassell and Alexis Louder) to resolve their marital issues brought about by the overbearing matriarch of the family, played by Beverly D’Angelo. Unable to call for help, Santa must go back to his warrior roots in order to save Trudy and the others, stop Mr. Scrooge, and escape the Lightstone estate. 

If that plot synopsis sounds familiar to you, you’re right to trust your gut. The film’s director, Tommy Wirkola, has stated publicly that his inspiration for “Violent Night” was drawn primarily from the 1988 classic Christmas movie “Die Hard”. Though it is debated as to whether Die Hard deserves the title of ‘Christmas Movie’, some viewers of the movie agree that the well choreographed action scenes and over-the-top violence set it apart from other classic films in a positive way. 

The film: 

“Violent Night” makes its own name by reveling in the holiday spirit. Everything, from the plot to the fight scenes to Santa’s Christmas powers, creatively utilizes the holiday for laughs, gore and everything in between. The film definitely scraps “Die Hard”’s more serious and suspenseful elements in favor of a lighthearted adventure through a winter wonderland. One of my personal issues with “Die Hard” was that, even though the action was impressive for the time, it was rather predictable in how it portrayed its characters, from the stone-cold Hans Gruber to the ultra-macho Simon Mclane, an opinion held by some fans.

“I like “Die Hard”, but some of the parts of the movie feel bland or formulaic,” senior Reese Hsu, a longtime fan of the film, said. “Everything’s very predictable”. 

“Violent Night” does a perfect balancing act of playing into the campy stereotypes of action movies while presenting them in a fresh David Harbour’s performance. The apathetic, washed up Kris Kringle made me laugh from start to finish, frequently making use of sarcastic and slapstick humor to embrace the absurdity of the situation. Oftentimes, more adult portrayals of Santa Claus lean into the gritty or into the crude and “cheeky”, but Harbour’s performance perfectly toes the line and creates a character that, while serious and intimidating, has a relatable and human element to him that does not overpower the viewer with its vulgarity.  Similarly, John Leguizamo’s portrayal of Mr. Scrooge perfectly suited the tone of the film: irreverent, with a suitably petty, Christmas-related backstory to create a threatening, hilarious villain that took over whatever scene he was in. He felt like a less serious version of “Die Hard”’s Hans Gruber, trading composure and class for a kind of mania that feels right at home within the personality of a Christmas-obsessed robber. The supporting cast, too, has their moments in the spotlight, each bringing their own personalities to the table. Though not every joke in the film landed, I found myself to be thoroughly entertained by this aspect alone.

By far the weakest part of the movie would be its plot. The overarching story is rather formulaic, and even though most viewers could predict it in the first few minutes of the film, I will not spoil it for those interested in seeing it. The characters have some inconsistencies in their motivation/methods, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find myself connecting with the B plot of the film, following Trudy and her parents. The characters were rather flat besides Mr. Scrooge and Santa Claus, largely being one-note archetypes or victims for Santa’s vengeance. There is some level of commentary around holiday consumerism and human greed, but besides a few lines by Santa and Mr. Scrooge complaining about ‘kids these days’, there’s nothing of substance.  Though the plot was the film’s weakest point, I was not bothered as this film is meant to be enjoyed, not dissected.”Violent Night” plays to its strengths, those being humor and mayhem.

Of course, no “Die Hard” inspired movie would be complete without its fight scenes, and “Violent Night” definitely delivers. From Home-alone style traps,to an infinitely deep sack of gifts, to Santa even wielding a sledgehammer he so affectionately christens the skull crusher, the film expresses endless  creativity in utilizing the set to give the fight scenes a larger-than-life feel to them. The fights themselves are far from clean and precise: they feel like deathmatches where both combatants are fighting till their last, bloody breath, as all manner of objects slice, dice and crush them. The audience around me and I verbally exclaimed as characters were slashed by ice skates, set on fire by exposed wires, or had their heads crushed like apples underneath the weight of Santa’s fury. Though a few scenes had their fights go on for a tad too long, most of the action was fast paced and over-the-top when it came to blood. Despite only having a budget of $20 million, the film did not look campy in the slightest, aside from Santa’s reindeer resembling something found in the effects folder in iMovie.Similarly, the set pieces of the movie were beautiful, greatly capturing the holiday atmosphere and giving you that warm, cozy feeling only christmas can. 

“Violent Night” is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding roster of Christmas movies. Personally, I enjoyed it much more than “Die Hard”: for the most part, this new film got rid of the more serious aspects of the ‘80s classic and went off the deep end into campiness, embracing the carnage and action to create a must-watch film for this holiday season.