September, 2011 (US VOD)
Huub Stapel as Niklas
Egbert Jan Weeber as Frank
Bert Luppes as Goert
Caro Lenssen as Lisa
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
Saint Nick Turns Foreign Traditions into Terror. This entry to the ‘Holiday/Christmas Slashers’ horror subgenre from The Netherlands, and is a dark twist on their already dark holiday traditions.
In America, he’s known as Santa Claus: the jolly fat man in his red suit with his sleigh and flying reindeer and elves making toys for all the good little boys and girls… blah, blah, blah. However, our country isn’t the only one with a holiday figure who’s become seen as a sign of gift-giving and commercialism. The Netherlands, for instance, has Sinterklaas, aka St. Nicholas. Nowadays, he and his servants, the Black Peters (or Zwarte Piet) are as synonymous with gift-giving as the figure he was the basis for, Santa.
According to the Dutch film Saint Nick (akaSint, Saint), though, he has a far darker past. In the Middle Ages, Niklas (Huub Stapel) was a Catholic bishop who rode a white horse through towns, looting and killing people on December 5th, his feast day. In 1492, the townsfolk took action and burned Niklas alive along with his gang. Now every year December 5th falls on a full moon, Niklas returns as a burned Sinterklaas with his band of murderous Black Peters to kidnap children and commit mass murder against people of all ages. This year, Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber) has a run-in with Sinterklaas while en route to play as him and finds himself charged with his crimes. Now he has to find a way to escape and clear his name as only he and Goert (Bert Luppes), a disgraced, suspended cop whose family Sinterklaas murdered over 40 years prior, can… and put an end to Sinterklaas’s reign of terror.
Surprisingly, the movie Sint is not reminiscent of a Christmas slasher initially, but of Halloween. At first, the film seems more focused on the character of Lisa (Caro Lenssen), Frank’s sort-of virginal girlfriend, making her out to be almost a “Final Girl”. There’s also some great camera work in her early scenes that create the same sense of “he could be anywhere” seen when Michael Myers stalked Laurie Strode. The first kill in the movie proper even happens to one of HER friends while she’s on the phone with them!
Then Sinterklaas attacks Frank and his friends, and the movie loses that initial track. It’s still fun and enjoyable, but it disappointingly stops being a traditional slasher movie with Lisa nearly vanishing from the plot for the rest of the movie until its finale. With Frank having to clear his name and teaming up with the obsessive Goert, it almost becomes Jaws or Moby Dick-esque, with Sinterklaas as Goert’s “White Whale”.
While that works in some ways, it’s also a style too serious for a movie about a burned Catholic bishop’s ghost riding a horse across the rooftops of Amsterdam. Some have called Saint Nick a “horror-comedy”, but, while there are jokes, most of the movie takes a surprisingly serious tone. Luckily, the concept alone is amusing enough to be entertaining and recommended for a viewing. The problem is it feels like it could have been so much better.
For one, the movie is bogged down by how often Frank and Goert get stopped or held up by the authorities in their quests, individually and together. I can understand initially not wanting to admit to the legend being the explanation, but when, say, you have a slew of eyewitnesses claiming they saw a man dressed as Sinterklaas riding a horse across rooftops, maybe someone should at least listen and let them do what they’re doing! Also, while Saint Nick has some decent gore effects and a phenomenal decapitation with Sinterklaas’s staff, it also has a tendency to overuse CG gore to create sudden jump scares. Finally, the movie would have made more of an impact if Frank’s relationship with Lisa seemed more vital to the plot. Because of her absence, the way Frank initially comes off as a bit of a dick doesn’t really have the path to redemption you might expect, instead just kind of happening at one point and creating a weaker, less relatable character.
All that said, Saint Nick is generally enjoyable and has the potential to grow on you after multiple viewings. In much the same way that Hell’s Ground proves that maybe other countries should be remaking U.S. movies instead of us, so does Saint Nick with its interesting spin on the Christmas slasher and ludicrous, fun concept. Perhaps Dick Maas, director of a film about a killer elevator in the 80s, could have made this one a bit less serious.