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“Go suck on a candy cane, pipsqueak.”

* 2 cups of Die Hard (or Die Hard 2)
* 1 half cup of Home Alone
* 1/4 cup of The Ref
* 2 tablespoons of The Santa Clause
* 1 gallon of fake blood
Bake at maximum heat for exactly 112 minutes.
The result is a holiday dish you’ll want to be served again and again.

Violent Night is yet another one of those films that you don’t want to watch the trailer before seeing it; as the trailer spoils some of the greatest moments of fun. And boy, is there a lot of great fun!  But then, what would you expect from 87North – the producers of John Wick, Deadpool 2, and Bullet Train?

“Yes, I see you when you are sleeping… but I don’t think of it as stalking you.”

Casting David Harbour (“Stranger Things“) as Santa Claus is nothing less than inspired genius. After watching his performance as jolly ole’ St. Nick it seems so blatantly obvious to cast him in the role that it is surprising it hasn’t been done before now; he steps into it effortlessly.

I went in to my local AMC theater on January 18th – long past the days most anyone would’ve seen this film at a movieplex.  Hey, forgive me, I’ve been busy.  Because I waited so long to see it, I was alone with the film – not another single soul in the theater other than the ghost in the projection booth and my good friends Milk Duds, popcorn, and Coke (but they didn’t seem to have much of an opinion on the film). I had done a good job of avoiding the trailer and most of the spoilers, and I am so glad I did.  The only thing I knew going in was that people were talking about Violent Night and how great it was.  I was honestly expecting a horror film, as that is the community I’ve surrounded myself with.  What I got though was a truly pleasant surprise of blood, action, torture-porn, comedy, and even a touch of Christmas magic.

“Ironically, my part in Violent Night is a lot meatier than my role in The Menu. Go figure.”

The fights are fast, and the kills rack up quickly and surprisingly creatively, most all deaths incorporating something Christmassy, making it all the more fun.  This is one reason you do not want to watch the trailer first, as it gives away a couple of the good ones. The Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises have done their best to bring unconventional ways for victims to meet their demise – but Violent Night is, in my opinion, more imaginative and, dare I say funny, which is a strange thing to say about deaths.

What is with Beverly D’Angelo’s Christmas films surrounding her with dysfunctional families?

The humor alone makes this well worth a watch.  Outside of the violence, the comedic timing of David Harbour and John Leguizamo in their respective roles is flawless.  John Leguizamo’s scenes with the family that has been taken hostage are so well done, helped along with an incredible mother-in-law-you-love-to-hate performance by Beverly D’Angelo.  And Harbour is actually at his funniest when he’s alone on screen talking to himself — or his reindeer.

Which brings me to the one thing I would change. Santa’s language.

“A giant mansion like this without a decent cell signal? How can I stream to my legion of 8 followers on TikTok?”

Now don’t get me wrong – cursing doesn’t really bother me in films so long as it is used with a purpose.  And honestly, this film does that just fine.  The f-bombs are there only when they make sense to be.  And I’m fine with any and all of the other characters keeping their dialogue intact exactly as is, even the bratty, spoiled, self-obsessed teenager, played by Alexander Elliott (whom you want to hate almost as much as D’Angelo).

“You can’t say ‘ass’, you little s**t. It’ll put you on my f**king ‘naughty’ list.”

But Santa. To hear the “real Santa” using the language he does in this film takes away from the character.  He tells a little girl (“Trudy” played by Leah Brady, who is simply adorable) that she risks being on the “naughty list” if she uses the word “ass” – but he throws around “f**k” and “sh*t” without even a wince?  How does that jive?  And aside from that, I honestly believe the humor could’ve been heightened even more if Santa used the parent-safe words like shucks, doggone it, dagnabbit, fudge, drat, etc., when wanting to express anger or frustration — even in the most violent and bloody scenes.  Like hearing Juice Newton’sAngel of the Morning” in the opening credits of Deadpool, or Air Supply’sI’m All Out Of Love” in the opening credits of Deadpool 2, it would be a great contrast of violence and innocence in the same frames of film.

I would have Santa curse, eventually… but only once: perhaps to say, “shove that coal up your…” It would’ve been an unexpected punch towards the climax of the film and would possibly even have the audience laughing and cheering for Santa for him finally letting himself go for a moment.

Despite this, I still give this film a full five out of five screams.  There are always things we as consumers say we would change about a film – as we sit comfortably in a theater or in our recliner at home; I did both for of those for this review.  That doesn’t change the fact that I found myself laughing at the humor, wincing at some of the blows, and even choking up a couple of times when somehow, director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) found a way to bring out heartwarming scenes as well. A film critic I saw recently on YouTube said it very well: “The film was able to have a real genuine Christmas heart at its bloody center.”

With the success of Violent Night you have to wonder if there will be a sequel.  Actually, you’d have to wonder how could there NOT be a sequel.  It has been out for just over a month and David Harbour is already talking about making it an entire (sigh) “cinematic universe” (sigh) with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  Seriously? Does everything need to be a “cinematic universe” now?  Just give us a great sequel.  Add the Easter Bunny and/or Tooth Fairy if you want, but still… leave it as a sequel to Santa’s story.  He’s the one we care about.

And I do care.  I want see more of this particular Santa – naughty mouth or not.

“Dagnabbit!  Did any of you know which bar Rudolph went to this time? How many times do I have to tell him he has to stop getting drunk just to keep his nose red?!?!”

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