If you’re tired of everyone praising Love Actually every time the holidays roll around, Silent Night is ready to introduce you to a whole different kind of Christmas movie.

Nell, Simon, and their son Art are ready to welcome friends and family for what promises to be a perfect Christmas gathering. Perfect except for one thing: everyone is going to die.

It’s not a horror movie

Just a disclaimer before we kick things off: Silent Night isn’t a horror movie. I’ve seen it listed as one some places online, so I wanted to clear that up. I think setting the right genre expectation is important for viewers, and it’s a pet peeve of mine when the marketing for a film describes it as one thing when it’s really something else. So, if you’re looking for holiday horror, go try Krampus. Or even Gremlins. Despite its promise of impending doom, Silent Night is a drama/dark comedy, not a horror movie.

Silent Night Review

Silent Night starts like perhaps any other Christmas movie centered around a big family get-together. The hosts are scrambling to get the holiday feast ready and make the kids presentable. Long drives leave the out-of-town visitors a bit short with one another, but in the forgiving spirit of the holidays, their tiffs don’t last long. They exchange hugs and pleasantries at the door, argue about who gets the better guest room, pour everyone a drink.

And rob the shop down the road because someone forgot the sticky toffee pudding.

See, it’s not just a Christmas celebration. It’s the Christmas celebration. The last one this family will ever have, because the toxic gas sweeping across the planet and causing everyone to die horrific, painful deaths will arrive tomorrow.

So go ahead. Steal that sticky toffee pudding. Pop the prosecco, and let the kids curse as much as they want.

It’s Christmas. And it’s the end of the world.

Keira Knightley in Silent Night

Darkly funny and weirdly relatable

Silent Night manages to dovetail “family Christmas gathering” comedy and “apocalypse scenario” quite nicely, actually. I think one of the reasons the movie works so well is that your typical apocalypse movie leans more into the sci-fi of it all. Silent Night instead takes a much more grounded and realistic approach (perhaps painfully so). 

This isn’t a rag-tag but determined group of survivors, living on the fringe of society, ready to rise up and stop the end of the world. It’s just a regular old group of family and friends. Their impending demise isn’t a question; it’s a foregone conclusion. The end is coming. Nothing can be done to stop it. Yes son, you can have a whole can of Coke when you take your suicide pill.

What results is something a bit depressing, darkly funny, and wholly relatable. Have I ever thought about how I’d spend Christmas if it was my last day on Earth? Thankfully, I’ve never had to. But I imagine it would be something like this.

As T.S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

A powerhouse cast

This movie is stacked with talented actors, from Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode to young Jojo Rabbit star Roman Davis Griffin. The ensemble cast also includes Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lily-Rose Depp, Lucy Punch, Sope Dirisu, and Rufus Jones. Griffin in particular proves standout, easily carrying Art’s powerful and conflicted emotions throughout the film.

Really, my biggest complaint with Silent Night is that this large cast—combined with a runtime just scraping 90 minutes—leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to character development. It’s hard to get to know that many people well so quickly, which leaves their untimely demise perhaps less impactful than it could have been. In particular I would have liked to have seen more of Howell-Baptiste’s Alex; she’s a really excellent actor and I don’t think Silent Night gave her enough screen time.

Still, while I would have liked to get to know everyone a bit better, I appreciate that director Camille Griffin focused on keeping the story tight here. I would much rather be left asking for a bit more than slog through a film that could have been an hour shorter.

Silent Night

Not your typical Christmas movie

If you spend your holiday season binging every cheesy feel-good rom-com the Hallmark channel has to offer, Silent Night is not going to be your cup of tea. Griffin isn’t interested in giving us another mushy, happily-ever-after story. Spoilers (I guess?) – but when this movie tells you everyone has to die in the end, it means it. Even a Christmas miracle can’t clear up this poison gas storm.

As such, this movie will probably prove too bleak for most people to add to their yearly holiday rotation. Still, there’s no doubt Silent Night has the “Christmas spirit” woven throughout. It is undeniably about family, love, togetherness, and reminding ourselves what really matters in our lives. It’s definitely worth a watch… just maybe sandwich your viewing with something a little more cheerful, if “bleak” isn’t your preferred Christmas mood.