BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW: Violent Night (2022)

The end of 2022 brought us one of the best Christmas movies released in recent years. VIOLENT NIGHT is an American Christmas action comedy film directed by Tommy Wirkola and written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. It follows Santa Claus (portrayed by David Harbour) as he fights mercenaries who have taken a wealthy family hostage in their home. The film also stars John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Leah Brady, and Beverly D’Angelo.

In Greenwich, Connecticut, Jason Lightstone, his estranged wife Linda, and their 7-year-old daughter Trudy visit his mother Gertrude’s mansion to celebrate Christmas with his sister Alva, her new boyfriend and wannabe-action star Morgan Steel, and Alva’s online streamer son Bertrude. Finding an old walkie-talkie for Trudy to “talk to Santa”, Jason and Linda overhear her only wish: to become a family again. Drunkenly delivering gifts, Santa Claus arrives at the Lightstone estate where the caterers reveal themselves to be mercenaries with Christmas-themed codenames. Led by “Mr. Scrooge”, they slaughter the staff and take the family hostage.

Santa is discovered by one of the henchmen, whose gunfire scares away the reindeer, and they fight until Santa knocks him out of a window to his death. Stranded, Santa decides to save Trudy and her family from Scrooge, who demands the $300 million in cash from the mansion’s vault. Santa kills another henchman and takes his radio, coming across Trudy’s channel, and finds the mercenaries on his magical naughty list. When Trudy’s walkie-talkie is discovered, Jason tells their captors that she is simply playing make-believe and declares that Santa is not real, causing her to run and hide in the attic. Santa reassures Trudy over the radio, revealing that he was once Nikamund the Red, a bloodthirsty Viking warrior and finds comfort in his 1,100 years of marriage to Mrs. Claus. Mr. Scrooge’s henchman Krampus forces the family to present their gifts to Gertrude, who is surprised by a card from Jason.

Wounded, Santa is captured by Scrooge who bears a childhood grudge against Christmas. Santa’s knowledge of their real identities convinces henchmen Gingerbread and Candy Cane that he is real, and he uses his magic to escape through the chimney, though they burn his magic sack. Gertrude’s private “kill squad” led by Commander Thorp arrives but are in league with Scrooge and kill Morgan when he tries to escape. Finding the vault empty, Scrooge threatens Linda and Jason confesses that he stole the money and was planning to flee with his wife and daughter which he explained in his card to his mother. He reveals the money hidden in a nativity scene outside and Gertrude forgives his treachery as the secret Lightstone rite of passage (having stolen her company from her grandfather), choosing him as her heir.

Retreating to a shed, Santa finds a sledgehammer and brutally slaughters the kill squad. Trudy creates traps inspired by HOME ALONE, resulting in Gingerbread’s death. Candy Cane prepares to shoot her, but she is killed by Santa. Scrooge gives the order to kill the hostages, but Alva, Linda, and Bert manage to kill Krampus instead. Scrooge and Thorp flee into the woods with the money and a captive Gertrude, pursued by Santa. Linda kills the last mercenary and Trudy sees her parents reunite with a kiss. Lured by Scrooge, Santa crashes into a cabin and Scrooge finds himself on the naughty list and acknowledges Santa is real and decides to kill him as he blames Christmas for ruining his childhood. They fight, and Scrooge gains the upper hand, but is instantly killed when Santa uses his magic to drag him up the cabin’s chimney, crushing and eviscerating him.

Santa is fatally shot in the back by Thorp, who is killed by Gertrude. Despite Jason burning some of the money to keep him warm, Santa succumbs to his wounds. Trudy inspires her family to all declare their belief in Santa, and he is revived, admitting that he still does not really understand how Christmas magic works. His reindeer return (with a note from Mrs. Claus and a new sack of presents) and Santa bids goodbye to Trudy before flying off to finish delivering gifts, his faith in Christmas renewed.

VIOLENT NIGHT, in addition to the comedy, action, and horror, this movie explores other issues in the world. The movie starts by showing a very disgruntled and disappointed Santa Claus. Because there is so little Christmas Spirit in the world, he is actually contemplating shutting the whole operation down. I love this theme and it has been brought up more than once in Christmas films lately. I loved Christmas as a child and though I never had kids myself, I witnessed the Christmas spirit as an adult through my nephews. To see their excitement each year kept the magic alive for me. Now that they are grown up, I am seeing more of a lack in Christmas spirit these days. It truly seems that more often than not families are just going through the motions of the holiday, finding it to be more of an inconvenience and hassle than what should be a magical time of year.

Because of the night he has, and thanks to the Christmas Spirit in Trudy, Santa is set back on the right track after dying. When Trudy’s family decide that they also believe, Santa comes back to like thanks to Christmas Magic, something that Santa Claus doesn’t even fully understand. The creators of this film have actually created a great story with a feel-good ending, despite what it took to get us there.

VIOLENT NIGHT was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 24, 2023, less than two months after its theatrical release. I like that they did this as attendance quickly dwindled after Christmas. Unfortunately, though, the release is pretty threadbare. The film itself looks and sounds amazing, just as you would expect. It’s the bonus features that are lackluster. Thought it was nice to see the deleted and extended scenes and featurettes, and the behind-the-scenes featurettes, they all tended to be short. It seemed as though as soon as I was getting into the featurettes, they ended. I would’ve also liked to have seen a gag reel. Granted, this release was put into production quickly, which probably didn’t allow for a huge bonus package. Hopefully a 4K release is in the works that will include much more bonus material. The only downside to this is that I have already bought the threadbare edition and will have to replace it down the road. The upside to this to me is that this movie deserves all money that it makes. It is that well done.

I hope you enjoyed this review. Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW series. To order your copy just click on the Blu-ray cover below.

~David Albaugh

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