Tommy Wirkola obviously has a thing about snow – he directed the Dead Snow Nazi zombie movies, which were surprisingly inventive. Writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller have worked on the Sonic the Hedgehog movies.
Together, they’ve assembled a perfect machine-tooled Christmas cult movie, pulling reversals on Home Alone, Die Hard, Bad Santa,36:15 Code Pere Noel, Krampus, You Better Watch Out, The Ref and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians to come up with a nigh-irresistible scenario in which a disenchanted Santa Claus (David Harbour), an ex-warrior who has been transformed into a symbol of benevolence, comes to the rescue of a little girl (Leah Brady) whose wealthy, squabbling family are being heisted by crooks led by a Christmas-hating psycho (John Leguizamo) over the holiday … he calls himself Mr Scrooge, refers to millions in kickbacks stashed in a vault as ‘that’s what I want for Christmas’ and is still on Santa’s sweet electronic naughty list (‘broke his mother’s heart … killed his best friend’) from way back.
Scrooge’s Christmas-themed gang – funniest are Candy Cane (Mitra Suri) and Krampus (Brendan Fletcher) – menace the horrible family, who fall over each other to betray each other and spit out nasty wisecracks even in dire peril, with Cam Gigandet, Edi Patterson, Alex Hassell and especially Beverly D’Angelo hoots as the sort of folk who don’t really deserve fighting for, but Saint Nick does anyway, sometimes using his chimney-penetration, bottomless sack and twice-checked list as tactics when not administering ‘season’s beatings’ (a line from the trailer that got laughs but is dropped here on the principle you’ve already heard it). Deep down, it’s sweet and Christmassy – but it’s cynical, smart, amusingly gruesome, nicely-paced, neat-looking and doesn’t outsleigh its welcome.