The first reviews for David Harbour’s bloody Christmas movie Violent Night are in – and they’re pretty mixed. Some critics are calling Tommy Wirkola’s movie a fun riff on the festive genre, while others are critical of its plot and length.
Violent Night stars the Stranger Things actor as a downbeat Santa Claus, who’s lost the joy of dolling out presents each year. However, his night takes an unexpected turn when he hears one child’s pleas to help save her family from a brutal home invasion.
We’ve rounded up what the reviews are saying about the new movie so you can decide for yourself whether it should be on your naughty or nice list this festive season.
Indie Wire – Kate Erbland (opens in new tab)
"As Santa stomps and cuts and maims his way through the Lightstone mansion, with a giddy Trudy going full Home Alone to support him, Violent Night is often quite entertaining. But even as Wirkola and company ratchet up the violence and find still more clever ways to off the naughtiest of the naughty, a hefty sack of subplots, personal motivations, and nefarious double-crossings bog down what could have been the season’s most bloody good time (emphasis on the bloody)."
Variety – Owen Gleiberman (opens in new tab)
"David Harbour gives off of a ping of likability, and that makes him the right actor to play a down-in-the-dumps, vengeance-is-mine Santa who is really, beneath his bloody mottled gray curls, the Christmas mensch we want him to be. John Leguizamo, as always, refuses to phone anything in; as Scrooge the sociopath who hates Christmas, he makes every obscenity pop."
Bloody Disgusting – Meagan Navarro – 3.5/5 (opens in new tab)
"Violent Night doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, nor is it looking for any deep introspection on Christmas. Save for Trudy and her mother, it’s a case of naughty versus naughtier. It’s a simple, straightforward story of Santa saving Christmas, yet again, this time with a delightfully low-brow wink and an onslaught of grisly holiday surprises. Not even some silly dialogue or a pacing lull in the middle can slow down Santa’s lust for carnage here."
ComicBook.com – Patrick Cavanaugh (opens in new tab)
"There are expository sequences that run too long and narrative deviations that grind the story's momentum to a halt, and while the attempts to explain how Santa's history and how he could be so quick to become a bloodthirsty barbarian are admirable, the ideas aren't entirely fleshed out and leave us scratching our heads. Still, for genre fans who have been on the lookout for a worthy addition to their annual rotation of nontraditional holiday movies to watch each year, Violent Night has a surprising amount of heart for a movie whose focus is to deck the halls with broken bones and bloodshed."
The Guardian – Charles Bramesco – 2/5 (opens in new tab)
"Not to be a Scrooge, but the occasional eye-gouge with a tree-topper star or string-light garotte only lends a frosty air of resourcefulness to a film with coal for brains. Any cleverness stops with its improvised weaponry, the sufficiently brutal smackdowns wedged in a half-baked plot like so many chunks of candied apricot in an underdone fruitcake."
Collider – Marco Vito Oddo (opens in new tab)
"It's not only Die Hard that Violent Night tries to mimic, as the movie directly connects to the Home Alone franchise. Without the restraints of a family-friendly rating, Violent Night can explore the realistic (and bloody) results of booby-trapping a home against robbers. Again, all this is masterfully executed for the audience's amusement, which results in a hilarious experience."
Violent Night hits theaters on December 2, here are all of the other upcoming movies on the way. If you’re in the festive spirit, we’ve also rounded up the best Christmas movies.