Written by: Niall Browne, Special to CC2K
Saint is a Dutch horror film that sees an evil Saint Nicholas descending on Amsterdam bringing death and terror, rather than the usual festive gifts. This Christmas-set horror comes from writer/director Dick Maas (yes that is his real name – if only he was called Chris). Anyway, he re-imagines the legend of Santa Claus as a 15th Century Bishop, who goes on s killing spree in a Dutch town when December 5th coincides with a full moon.
Saint opens with a prologue set in 1492, as Saint Nick and his “Black Peters” attack the village, stealing and pillaging, the opposite of the usual Christmastime merriment,. The locals fight back, killing the red-cloaked Holy man, in a fire that also destroys his ship. We then cut to celebrations on the same date, in 1968, where a young boy’s family are massacred by the Bishop and his evil cronies. Finally we hit present day when we meet a group of teens who are ample fodder for the bearded killer – and that’s just the first fifteen minutes.
Now, there’s quite a bit to recommend in Saint, as Maas produces some nice set pieces, the highlight being a horse chase, which sees the titular character followed by police as he makes his way along rooftops of the city. However, it’s just another piece of the jigsaw that just doesn’t come together, a shame because the premise of the film is so good. The film’s characterization and the plot are what really lets it down; both are a mess leading to a lack of interest to the chaos and mayhem appearing on screen. The opening has one prologue too many, and the film spends a lot of time with characters who later become totally irrelevant or dead – sometimes both.
Central to the plot is Goert, the young boy from the opening of the film, who grows up to be a police detective dedicating his career to tracking down Saint Nicholas. However, Goert has a problem – no one will believe him, because the festive killings have been covered up by the government and the Catholic Church. They don’t want to admit that there’s a murderous man of the cloth slaughtering the masses during the festive period. Again, like other character’s in the film, Goert is absent for large portions of the film, only appearing on screen when he’s needed to further the plot. This disjointed story makes it seem as if Maas had a collection of ideas for about three different films, but decided that it might be fun to cram them all into one. So, we get the obsessed cop on the trail of the serial killer film, tacked on to a teenage slasher movie, mixed with a religious conspiracy thriller, three tales for the price of one – a nice Christmas bargain in this time of financial malaise.
Maas’ film riffs of other (better) films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and a pair of John Carpenter classics, Halloween and The Fog. Now, the premise of a killer Christmas isn’t exactly new (Rare Exports and Black Christmas to name just two) and Saint almost takes these elements and makes something of them, however much like a child who has been naughty throughout the year– he comes up empty handed on the day.
A trailer. Not quite a lump of coal, but disappointing nonetheless, especially considering the controversy the film caused during its domestic Dutch release.