David Harbour’s Mr. Claus delivers more than coal to naughty people.
Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for Violent Night.
Violent Night is finally in theaters, delivering Christmas joy through hilarious ultraviolence. The movie stars David Harbour as a naughty Santa who drinks, curses, and beats criminals to a pulp in a story that nevertheless has a lot of heart and discusses what the holiday means. We are confident that the refreshing brutality of the Christmas tale will make the audience laugh in theaters. At the same time, the sweetness of the message has the potential to turn Violent Nights into a new cult classic. However, it can be hard to keep track of everything that happens on Violent Night, especially if you were cackling like a hyena and had trouble keeping your eyes open in theaters – been there, done that. So, now that the movie is available for Christmas fiends everywhere, let’s break down that wacky ending and explain who Harbour’s Santa is.
Let’s get straight to the point: Harbour’s character is not a killer dressed like Santa, he is Father Christmas himself. When Violent Night begins, Santa has been bringing joy to good children everywhere for more than 1,100 years, and in the meantime, he grew disillusioned about humanity. People become more complacent and greedy each Christmas, using the holiday as an excuse to haul presents instead of spreading love and getting together with family and friends. It’s all about cash and video games now, and children are so spoiled that they barely unwrap a present before already whining to get another toy. So, while Santa is still on the clock, he becomes a bad-mouthed drunk who goes to bars on Christmas Eve while taking breaks from work. However, despite people losing focus on what Christmas truly means, Santa can still use Christmas magic.
He has a magic scroll where he can read the name of everyone around him and tell if they have been nice or naughty. He also has a magic gift bag from which he can pull any toy the children on his nice list desire. He also uses the flying sleigh to cross the globe at an incredible speed. Finally, Santa can touch his nose gently to traverse chimneys, a power he uses to break into people’s homes. All these powers will prove useful once Santa decides to go after some bad guys, but even Mr. Claus cannot explain where Christmas magic comes from.
While Violent Night doesn’t tell us how Santa began to work as Father Christmas, it reveals he had a different life a millennium ago. In fact, Santa was initially a brutal Viking known as Nicomund the Red, who raided, pillaged, and killed with the help of his ever-reliant hammer, Skullcrusher. Santa was on the naughty list once before he turned his life around and became a symbol of hope. And while he cannot explain how Christmas magic works, his battle experience will prove priceless when he decides coal is not enough for some naughty people.
In Violent Night, Santa is busy doing his Christmas Eve rounds, tasting disgusting supermarket cookies, and stealing alcohol from people’s shelves. However, once Santa gets to the Lightstone Estate, Father Christmas decides to chill for a while. There, he finds delicious homemade cookies baked by the young Trudy (Leah Brady). While the Lightstones are filthy rich and despicable, Trudy is still a good girl who believes in Santa and prefers to use her Christmas wishes to ask for her parents to make up and become a family again. So, touched by Trudy's care about Christmas, and willing to enjoy the comforts of one of the wealthiest families in the U.S., Santa grabs a glass, sits on a massage chair, and just relaxes for a few minutes.
Unfortunately for Father Christmas, that evening is when the vicious Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo) puts his plan into action. Leading a band of hardened criminals disguised as staff members, Mr. Scrooge breaks into the Lightstone Estate, kills everyone who doesn’t belong to the family, and holds the rich clan hostage while breaking into their vault. Mr. Scrooge is trying to get the $300 million that matriarch Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D'Angelo) got from the government as compensation for selling illegal arms to Middle-East countries. And he’s willing to harm anyone who gets in his way.
The gunfight that ensues makes Santa’s reindeer flee with his sleigh. Trapped inside the Lightstone Estate, Santa must fight for his life, killing a few bad guys who get in his way. However, when young Trudy reaches out to Santa with a walkie-talkie, Father Christmas decides this is one good kid he must save at all costs, even if that means becoming Nicomund the Red again. And so Violent Night draws from Die Hard and Home Alone, amping up the violence to the highest levels, as Santa crushes his enemies until the final confrontation with Mr. Scrooge himself.
After a long (and violent) night, Mr. Scrooge breaks into the Lightstone vault only to find out the money is missing. Trudy's father, Jason (Alex Hassell), had stolen the money earlier in the evening as part of his plan to escape from the clutches of Gertrude with his family. However, after everything that happens, Jason gives away the money’s location to Mr. Scrooge, hoping this could keep his family safe. Mr. Scrooge still orders his goons to kill everyone while he runs away with the money. The Lightstones fight back, and Santa goes after the top prize of his naughty list.
Santa and Mr. Scrooge have their final showdown in an abandoned cabin in the woods. After witnessing Santa’s powers, Mr. Scrooge is convinced Mr. Claus is the real deal. So, Mr. Scrooge decides he’ll do whatever it takes to end Christmas once and for all. That’s because, when he was only a child, Mr. Scrooge’s dad lost his job, shattering the illusion of a happy holiday when he couldn’t afford any gifts. Led by jealousy, Mr. Scrooge invades the neighbor’s home to get himself some presents, causing an accident that leads to an old man’s death and puts the criminal on the destructive path that would ultimately lead him to the Lightstone Estate. Basically, Mr. Scrooge blames Christmas for his misfortune and won’t let Santa get away with it.
Mr. Scrooge and Santa give everything they got to kill each other. After they are both beaten and bloodied, Mr. Scrooge pins Santa’s hand against an abandoned fireplace. It looks like this could be the end of Father Christmas, but in one last burst of energy, Santa touches his nose and drags Mr. Scrooge into the chimney. Santa becomes magic dust and comes out unscathed, but Mr. Scrooge’s body is gruesomely bent to fit the fireplace and ends up torn into many pieces. It’s a beautiful and gory ending to their fight.
While Santa wins his duel against Mr. Scrooge, he’s shot dead by one of the villain’s associates. Father Christmas dies from blood loss just as the Lightstones get to the old cabin, with Gertrude killing the last remaining criminal herself. Trudy leads her family to say they believe in Santa Claus, and together, the Lightstones use their positive energy to resurrect the good old man. Santa’s reindeer also come back with his sleigh and spare gift bag so that Santa can return to delivering presents even after Mr. Scrooge burned his first bag out of spite. It’s a happy ending for everyone except for the people on Santa’s Naughty List.
After the credits roll, we also get one last scene with Bert Lightstone (Alexander Elliot), whose whole personality is built around being a social media influencer. Bert makes a video to his followers by the side of a dead body, telling everyone that Santa is real, he is mean to bad people, and everyone should behave. The word is out, and people better start believing in magic. Or else they might get a visit from Santa and Skullcrusher next Christmas Eve.
Violent Night is now playing in theaters.
Marco Vito Oddo is a writer, journalist, and amateur game designer. Passionate about superhero comic books, horror films, and indie games, he works as a Senior News Writer and Features Writer for Collider.
Violent Night Ending Explained: Don't Get on Santa's Naughty List – Collider
David Harbour’s Mr. Claus delivers more than coal to naughty people.