For years now I haven’t been able to get behind what’s become of the action film genre, not impressed by the over-the-top fast pacing, seemingly dumbed-down a little more each year. I was really hoping Violent Night could’ve been the film that got me back into them, but alas, I found very little to like here.
It starts out promising enough; we’re instantly introduced to David Harbour of Stranger Things fame as a jaded, drunken Santa. Seems like a decent enough concept. But things quickly take a turn for the worse when the film becomes a blatant ripoff of Die Hard, finding him the lone wolf inside of a terrorist takeover (lead by John Legumizo) at one of the mansions his deliveries brought him to. What unfolds is some of the most (literal) painful screen time I’ve witnessed in a long time.
I know most people my age group and below are likely to disagree with me, but I found no redeeming qualities with this film whatsoever. The action scenes are unbearable, the jokes beyond lowbrow, and the characters some of the most unlikable in screen history (I especially despised seeing Beverly D’Angelo playing a heartless heiress). It then somehow manages to even parody Home Alone (which in hindsight maybe the film would have benefited from had it taken a more lighthearted tone throughout).
I went in really hoping to like Violent Night, but unfortunately that was far from the case. This movie was not “fun” in anyway to me at all, just utter garbage that I’d much rather permanently remove from my memory bank. In fact, the only thing keeping me from giving this a zero star rating is the inclusion of the Slade track “Merry Christmas Everybody” during the ending credits. Other than that, I’ll be fine if I never see this film again as long as I live.
By now I’m assuming most fans of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things are likely already caught up the entire fourth season of the show, so hopefully no spoilers can be found here for anyone. This season truly was a gift to fans of the series, and even though volume two consists of just a couple of episodes, there’s so much compacted in it it’s almost overwhelming.
The numerous storylines all feel like small movies that could stand alone themselves. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) isfinally forced to come into her own once the secret government facility she’s been regaining her “powers” at is ransacked and officially put out of business for good, leading to a tearful goodbye with her “Papa” (Matthew Modine).
Meanwhile, Eleven’s extended support system is broken off into three separate groups, each trying to fight the evil that’s threatening mankind, while making it back to each other. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Noah Schnapp) make their way across state lines to get to her, while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) and the rest plot to take on Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) himself head-on. Lastly Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) escape their way out of Russia after fighting their own demons.
Each specific plot leads to its own satisfying conclusion, with enough twists and turns to make your head spin, often with emotional results. But what makes these characters so endearing is the ability to relate to them on a human level, which is ultimately a reflection of well-crafted writing. Thankfully, the door is left ajar again for another follow up, which all of us already engulfed in this little world created by the Duffer Brothers are already waiting for with much anticipation.
It speaks volumes for a show to still be as captivating as Stranger Things is four seasons in, and yet somehow this series only gets better with time. Within seconds of it starting, you’re instantly sucked into its world, and forgot about everything and anything else going on around you, the ingredients of not only great, meticulous writing, but flimmakers who actually care about their art.
This latest season contains so many subplots, I’m not sure if I can even sum it all up accurately without giving too much away. Long story short, a new evil in the form of a demon named Vecna is threatening Hawkins, and after the popular school cheerleader (Grace Van Dien) is killed in the house of local metal head and leader of the local D&D club, Eddie (Joseph Quinn), the kids get wrapped up in solving the mystery while trying to stay alive.
Meanwhile, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who has since lost her powers and struggling to adjust to living a “normal” life, is brought back to a facility by Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) to help regain her strength back. And while all this is going on, Hopper (David Harbour), who survived the events of season three but has since been imprisoned in a Russian hell, is plotting his escape while Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murrary (Brett Gelman) get tangled up in a kidnapping while attempting to free him.
While the show has always paid homage to ’80s films like E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial (among many others), this particular season has a strong influence from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, with dream-like sequences similar to those from said franchise (there’s even a brief appearance from Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund). And the tributes to such metal bands as Dio and W.A.S.P. via the Eddie character are a nice touch as well.
Since the show first started in 2016, it’s caused an unprecedented pop culture phenomenon, and rightfully so, considering the care and attention to detail put into Stranger Things is immaculate. There’s an artistic integrity often not found elsewhere these days, and I find myself wanting to go back to revisit the earlier seasons each time a new one emerges. There’s a simple reason why we respond so strongly to ‘throwbacks’ like Stranger Things; maybe it just reminds us of a time when the world – and life itself – was just a simpler place.