Violent Night brings Santa Claus like he's never been seen before to the big screen with David Harbour saving a family from pure torture and murder on Christmas Eve. Despite some pacing issues, this movie is a ton of fun with buckets of blood, violence, and funny moments that might make this a staple at the holidays. The 1080p HD image looks good and the DTS-HD 7.1 audio track sounds fantastic. The bonus features are a ton of fun but should be longer. A 4K option should've been available, but until then, this is the way. Recommended!
Not every film is a Christmas movie these days. But Violent Night is completely and unabashedly a Christmas film that not only delivers some magical and mysterious components of the folklore of Jolly Old Saint Nick, but also comes with explosions, blood and guts, and ultra-violence that can be a great time in the right frame of mind. With a fun cast led by David Harbour and some truly fun, bloody moments, Violent Night will satisfy the urges of most audiences despite some of its pacing issues.
Nobody has seen Santa Claus like this before as he is portrayed by the great Sheriff in Stranger Things David Harbour, where the night of Christmas Eve is upon everyone, he is seen drinking heavily at a bar and throwing up on civilians from above in his sleigh. The Christmas magic has been taken out of him, because like in Elf, people just don't believe in him anymore.
Meanwhile, at a prestigious estate with a wealthy family that hates each other led by the matriarch Beverly D'Angelo, a group of vicious and well-armed criminals descend upon this family's Christmas Eve and hold them hostage for a ransom of millions of dollars. There's nothing silent about this situation, but as its title suggests, it's extremely violent when things don't go as planned when Santa shows up to deliver presents and must take on the criminals himself as he fights his way through the large mansion to save people.
A story and script from Pat Casey and Josh Miller (the Sonic the Hedgehog movies) offer up some wonderful winks to those iconic '80s action films that might be considered a Christmas movie. There are loads of explosions, gun violence, and some witty lines of dialogue. There's even one amazing sequence where the main young girl in the film has just watched Home Alone and booby-traps the house as she saw in the film. But here, this movie has an extreme R rating, so one could imagine the hilarious entrails and blood that splashes around when these villains encounter her makeshift traps. Sitting in the director's chair is Tommy Wirkola who is most known for his two fun zombie flicks Dead Snow and Dead Snow II.
Much like those two movies, the pacing can drag a bit in between the heavier action beats, which are no doubt high-octane and full of red liquid. But in Violent Night's almost two-hour run time, the story of the family issues and even some of Santa's past can be a bit uneven. There are some fun action moments, especially when Santa is getting beat up, but overcomes everyone with some blunt-force trauma each time. If the film kept its pace as it runs in the last 15 or so minutes, Violent Night would be the perfect action movie. Performances from everyone including a hammed-up John Leguizamo are entertaining and Harbour's performance as Santa is just the right amount of charm and brutality for this universe.
In the end, Violent Night has the potential to spawn sequels and become a big yearly phenomenon, so let's hope the bugs are worked out here and the next go-around sticks the landing a little better. Still, this film is a ton of fun.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Violent Night carols its way to Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code via Universal Pictures. Does anyone still watch DVDs anymore? And no 4K at the moment? Both discs are housed inside a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve with artwork that features David Harbour's face with a candy cane in his mouth. The case mentions this is a Collector's Edition, but there isn't anything Collector about it. There is an insert for a download code.
Violent Night comes with a 1080p HD transfer that looks very good in its stylized venue.
There's a great contrast between the warm holiday lights that give off a nice, soft amber glow with red and green decorations everywhere, along with gold and dark wood furniture throughout the mansion and the cold, blistering blues of the exterior. Those brighter and warmer interiors look solid with windows that seep through those blue and silver outside lights. Nothing is particularly too bold or bright, but the many uses of red blood that sprays everywhere look great whether it be CGI or practical effects. Primary colors are somewhat muted inside the glowing amber rooms. The black levels are inky enough and allow for some of the other reds and blues outside to be distinguishable. A 4K option with Dolby Vision would no doubt look richer and better here.
The detail allows for some good closeups that reveal chunky bits of vomit, individual hairs, blood droplets, textures of bone muscle, and threads in the leather and cloth wardrobe. Wider shots can look a bit soft with the CGI. This is a solid-looking video presentation with no big bells or whistles, but a 4K picture would have upgraded everything for the best.
This release comes with a great DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix that is loads of fun. These sound effects are intense and loud from start to finish. The many uses of guns, shotguns, and machine weapons sound off perfectly with the right amount of heavy action that consists of a big rumble of bass. Explosions and loud hits with a sledgehammer always bring painful noises. The bass levels never cross into rocky territory or sound overloaded.
The many sounds of screams, footsteps, and gunshots can be heard easily from the surround speakers with fluid motion and transitions. There is a wide dynamic range of intensity and the quieter moments offer up those great little moments of tenderness. The score and music always add to the holiday spirit and '80s action vibe the film gives off, and the dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to follow, free of any issues.
There are only about 35 minutes of bonus materials included here, but all of it is quite fun and worth watching. The EPK-style features are too quick but offer some good insight, and the fun '90s sitcom intro is wonderful. The commentary track is also excellent.
Violent Night is a fun action Christmas movie that hits hard in all of the right places and is full of gory entertainment that should satisfy most. Its pacing is a bit off, but at the end of the day, David Harbour and co. make this one hell of a sleigh ride. The 1080p HD image looks good enough and the DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix sounds exquisite. The bonus features are worth the time but should be longer. Recommended!