Saint (Sint) (2010)

Santa's come to slay.
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Saint (Sint) - Santa's come to slay.

Dick Maas (known for The Lift and Amsterdamned) puts his own spin on Dutch holiday traditions with Saint (known to the locals as Sint). St. Nicholas' Day is December 6th and Dutch children look forward to a visit from a kindly bishop with a massive sack known as Sinterklaas. Kids love this commercial invention and welcome the excrescence of our affluent society. Sinterklaas comes to deliver them Chatty Cathy dolls, Viewmaster Slide Viewers, iPods, flick knives, Slinkys and whatever else it is that kids enjoy nowadays. Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) is St. Nicholas' politically incorrect, blackfaced sidekick that assists with appeasing the good kids and taking a birch rod to the behinds of the naughty ones. Saint expands the tradition declaring that if a full moon falls on St. Nicholas' Day then Sinterklaas turns up for a killing spree. There you have the basis for this film. A blood thirsty Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam accompanied by more Black Peters than Jeffrey Dahmer had in his refrigerator and they slaughter the population indiscriminately regardless of naughtiness or niceness.

The movie caused a fair amount of controversy due to the movie poster adorned with the zombified face of Sinterklaas possessing a wicked look in his eyes. Parents believed that the image could be disturbing to children that still believed the folklore but the complaint was thrown out of court due to the fact that both the traditional and the evil Sinterklaas are fictional. If parents were willing to lie to their children about the existence of one then they could make up further stories to deny the existence of the other. This cunningly distracted attention from real Bishops that like children and also charged up the hype machine for the movie. Everybody wins (except children).

Despite the many murderous Santa movies made before, many of these verging on the slapstick due to the subject matter, Dick Maas still manages to make a compelling horror that can compete with the crowd. Saint still relies on a subtle yet massive dose of Euro comedy, but it manages to be quite deadpan, dark humour and takes itself relatively seriously compared to the fact that this whole premise is obviously ridiculous. The story and script are nothing in depth but there is an attention to history, an explanation of the origins for that which is due to unfold and numerous elements of the traditional tale tied into the film. There is a little something to engage with, above and beyond a Christmas gimmick with gore.

Despite the film taking itself quite seriously it is not intended to be taken seriously by the viewer. It is a fast paced and action packed film with everything done being done over the top. The gore is gratuitous and worthy of a bigger budget, modern splatter slasher. There are a few good jump scares and there is the time-honoured finesse of European horror without resorting to the tastelessness expected from Euro horror in the decades before. Children do meet their demise at the hands of St. Nick in a fashion usually avoided by mainstream horror but it doesn't seem like it is simply a shock tactic. The effects can be quite crude occasionally but this doesn't detract from the entertainment value.

Along with the Christmas traditions there are also some Dick Maas traditions. There are some familiar faces looking unfamiliar (Sinterklaas is played by Huub Stapel - known for The Lift and Amsterdamned) and there is an offbeat chase sequence, in this case St. Nick is riding his horse over the rooftops with the police in pursuit. This is a spectacular scene although one of the areas falling foul of the special effects budget. Amsterdamned featured a speedboat chase which seemed unusual in a horror and Saint revisits this custom. There are also a number of scenes and plot devices obviously inspired by other horror films but this all adds to the fun rather than seeming like lazy filmmaking.

Saint is a perfect Christmas horror movie. It is entertaining from start to finish without much to strain the brain. The acting isn't Oscar worthy but the characters are developed enough and convincing enough to maintain emotional attachments without crowding the purpose of the film. The purpose being to create a festively entertaining slasher that provides something a bit different.
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Categories: Slasher Movies

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