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Finished streaming 'Violent Night'? Let's talk about that killer homage to 'Home Alone'
Let's be honest: The Wet Bandits probably should have succumbed to their grievous injuries in the first movie.
Let's be honest: if the Home Alone movies were truly accurate to the real world, the Wet Bandits probably should have succumbed to their grievous injuries in the first film. Sorry to tell you this, fellas... but no New York sequel for you! A normal human being can't just walk off a hot iron to the face or a jet of roaring flames to the forehead. Even if Marv and Harry weren't killed right away, they would have most likely slipped into an unconscious state from the immeasurable pain caused by Kevin McCallister's infamous booby traps.
Director Tommy Wirkola's Violent Night (which is now available to stream on Peacock), flips that cartoonish logic on its head with a similar collection of seemingly innocuous pitfalls laid by the bright-eyed Trudy Lightstone (played by relative newcomer Leah Brady). These haphazard traps, impressively concocted in the young girl's mind after a single viewing of Home Alone, turn out to be incredibly lethal for two of the mercenaries attempting to rob the fortified family compound.
"Knowing that we have this kid and what the style of this movie was going to be, [it was us] wanting it to have all the emotional — bordering on saccharin — Santa/little kid Christmas stuff. But also it was like, ‘How can we have like fun with her?’" the movie's co-writer, Josh Miller, admitted during a recent Zoom conversation with SYFY WIRE.
"Because she's so sweet and innocent, she just thinks they're funny and doesn't realize that she’s murdering these people," added fellow scribe, Pat Casey. "It's been great to see the reaction to that sequence and that people are into it. Tommy definitely loved that when he first read the script. I feel like our first conversation with him, he was like, ‘This Home Alone sequence, we have to make it bigger!’"
He continued: "All sorts of different gags kept going in and out as we were leading up to shooting the sequence. People thought that of new bits or realized that that this bit is too insane. There was a bit where Trudy set one of them on fire and we were going to do a full body stuntman running on fire burn sequence. I think that was the one where the studio was like, ‘We can't have like a little kid set a person on fire. That is one step too far.’"
"I told the producers, writers, and studio, ‘I think this could be one of the showstoppers of the film. We've got to expand on it and really have fun with this.’ So that's what we did we, we expanded upon it, we added set pieces and moments and really went went for it," echoed Wirkola during a separate Zoom call. "I actually wanted to shoot even more, but we just didn't have time to make it even bigger. But yeah, I had a blast shooting that stuff. And our approach was basically, ‘Let's just show what really would have happened if you were to set any of these traps on another human being.’ Because as you grow up and watch Home Alone [you realize], ‘Nobody would survive that. That would maul you horrifically.' I think the fact that people have seen it and thought those thoughts themselves just made that scene funny and really work. And obviously, the actors also sell it in such a fun way."
While major Hollywood studios tend to prefer PG-13 ratings (or lower) to attract the largest audience possible, the writers state that they always envisioned an R-rating for this project. Despite serious consideration of a more public-friendly certification, the writing partners got their wish. "It always felt like the best version of this movie was rated R," Casey said. "Even though it’s pretty friendly, people ask me, ‘Oh, should I bring my kids?’ I'm like, ‘Don't bring your like little-little kids, but I think 12-year-olds are gonna love this movie.’"
Miller likened it to the influential action movies of the 1980s and early '90s. "When I realized that Terminator 2 was R and I was like, ‘That’s so funny,’ because I felt like that was such a big birthday party movie when we were kids," he explained. "And parents just didn't care that we were watching it, but it's because it's fun R. It’s got violence, but it's not real dark and super disturbing."
Fortunately, everyone — from the writers, to the executives at Universal Pictures, to the producers at 87North (the production banner co-founded by David Leitch) were all on the same page from start to finish.
A perfect example of that synergy can be found in the movie's climax, where Santa (David Harbour) kills lead mercenary, Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), by forcing the villain's body up a chimney. Given that Scrooge does not believe in Christmas magic, he's completely mangled by the tight stone space until Kris Kringle arrives at the top, holding nothing but a bloodied torso.
According to Miller, this brutal fate was originally intended for one of the supporting baddies, but was ultimately given to Leguizamo's character when the creative team decided to scrap a "bigger, crazier ending" involving an airborne chase with helicopters and Santa's sleigh that would have cost too much money.
"Everything on this movie always felt like it was moving in the easy, correct direction. Sometimes, you get all these like conflicting notes and it feels like you're just changing things just to change them," Miller added. "But I'd say that was a perfect example where we had to change the ending and then what do we do now? [Here,] everything just fell into place and you're like, 'Oh, this is a way better ending.’ It's not as big and spectacular, but emotionally, it has a way bigger catharsis for Santa and Scrooge."
"We definitely got lucky on this movie in terms of collaborators," echoes Casey. "Everyone really got the concept and embraced it. Everyone was pulling in the same direction and trying to make the same movie. Most of the notes we got, you're like, ‘Oh, yeah! Yeah!’ Rather than, ‘Ugh, how do we deal with this?’ which is sometimes the experience."
You couldn't ask for a better holiday present.
Violent Night is now streaming on Peacock and available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray. A sequel is in development.