Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas goes the horror-comedy route for his darkly comic tale of a serial killing re-imagination of Santa Claus. But is it worth your time?
As Dutch horror films go, I haven’t seen many. Which is to say: this is my first experience in the area. And if this is the standard of the genre, then it may well also be my last. Director Dick Maas’ slasher reimagines St. Nicholas as a bloodthirsty renegade bishop, who rises every time there’s a full moon on December 5th, in order to slaughter as many of Amsterdam’s citizens as possible.
This will require some understanding of Dutch Christmas celebrations – instead of Santa Claus delivering presents to children on December 25th, the more traditionally titled St. Nicholas bestows gifts twenty days earlier to the Netherlands. While the premise of serial killer Santa might seem slightly ridiculous, it’s at least fairly unique. And the film does provide a couple of genuine scares. But as far as positives for Saint go, that’s about it.
The film opens with a pair of flashbacks, introducing the main characters of St. Nick himself (Huub Stapel) and Goert (Bert Luppes), a young boy who loses his entire family to the wrath of the murderous bishop. Fast forward 42 years, and we meet the rest of the present day principals: a bunch of college kids. Yes, it’s going to be one of those movies.
The majority of the film focuses on Goert’s adult self attempting to rid Amsterdam of the Christmas curse afflicting the city, with the aid of youngster Frank (Edgert Jan Weeber), though his means of doing this are questionable at best – legend tells that the only way to dispel the wrath of the aggrieved saint, who was burned alive by angry citizens five centuries before, is by… blowing up his boat.
So that’s the story out of the window, then. Especially when one considers the gaping plot holes or complete lack of depth to the titular menace. We’re given a single scene of St. Nick in 1492 murdering a couple of peasants, and absolutely nothing else to explain the curse – how the saint returns at every full moon, or even why it’s only at the full moon that he does (though at one point early in the film we’re also told it’s ‘every 32 years’ – even despite the 42 year gap between 1968 and 2010, the two main time periods of the film. Yes, it makes no sense).
But what of the production? Saint can certainly not be called a serious horror. The crude special effects, weak acting and tired script see to that. But nor does Saint reach the opposite end of the slasher spectrum – that of the Grindhouse film. Sitting awkwardly between the two, the whole production ends up feeling wholly amateur.
The film enjoys its fair share of dark humour – or at least that’s the sense you’ll need to appreciate the bombastic and frivolous murder of children. Some might say I am missing the point; that the film is meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, and does not take itself seriously. But I ask, then, what is the point of it? For a film to not take itself seriously, it needs to at least entertain or be humourous or satirical. Saint is none of these things.
The curse of St. Nicholas afflicting Amsterdam is nothing compared to the curse afflicting this film – one of dire acting, dire scripting, dire direction and dire just-about-everything-else. Definitely one to miss.