‘Violent Night’: A gruesome look at family values

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Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

Opening in a bar with a mall Santa and the real Santa Claus speaking through drunken complaints is certainly an innovative way to begin a Christmas movie. 

Tommy Wirkola’s “Violent Night” is an action-packed story that details the importance of the Christmas spirit and human connection. While these values may be hard to extract from David Harbour’s initially booze-driven depiction of Santa, they are certainly clear by the end.

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Cynical about Christmas and the general greed of the modern world, Santa Claus drunkenly stumbles through Christmas Eve with little regard for the families he visits until he is caught in the crosshairs of a surprise break-in at the Lightstone family compound. 

After narrowly escaping the compound, he is motivated to reenter the home and defend the Lightstone family all because of one Trudy Lightstone (Leah Brady), a child who truly believes in Santa and made him personalized Christmas cookies. 

Trudy encourages Santa to give them their lumps of coal and take on the bad guys, who also happen to be on his naughty list. Through a series of ass kickings and some straight-up murders, Santa happily obliges. 

“‘Violent Night’ manages to connect with audiences both through the thrill of action and the emotions that many associate with this holiday.”

The Lightstone family may be dysfunctional and wealthy to the point that it has clearly corrupted their morals, but Trudy’s youthful spirit and belief strike a chord with Santa Claus. She believes in the power of Christmas and the depth of the gifts. 

The coordinated theft of the Lighthouse’s money is orchestrated by some truly horrendous people — the type who attempt to murder Trudy and torture people with nutcrackers.

With some homage to John Hughes’ Home Alone, “Violent Night” plays into the naughty and nice aspects of Christmas and what it means to believe. 

This connection between a spirited child and a discouraged Santa brings about the unraveling of the intruders’ plans. Though they begin their hostage-fueled robbery on top and with extensive violence that includes murdering the entirety of the house staff and security, Santas shocking past with combat turns their plans upside down. 

This violent salvation of the Lightstones shockingly brings the spirit of connection and Christmas joy closer to their family dynamic. Though not everyone is reconnected with Christmas in the end, Santa certainly leaves an impact. 

It would be easy for a film like this to deteriorate into a cheap comedy or a horrifying thriller to shake the Christmas joy right out of somebody; however, “Violent Night” manages to connect with audiences both through the thrill of action and the emotions that many associate with this holiday. 

Even the villains set on robbing the Lightstones are at the very least shocked by Santa’s knowledge of their childhood wishes before they meet their inevitable demise. 

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Contrasted by the insanity of one wealthy and crazy family, Santa reestablishes the feeling of Christmas by slitting throats and saving the relationships of a greed-torn family. While it may be an unconventional way to communicate the spirit of Christmas, it certainly hits home. 

Reach Ivy Secrest at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.