LITTLE ROCK The Christmas slasher film is not such an original conceit - Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night both came out in 1974, and since then there’s probably been at least 30 or 40 low-budget horror films built around the idea of a murderous Santa. (We are still waiting on Thanksgiving, the movie promised in the trailer Eli Roth shot for the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez conceptual double feature Grindhouse.)
Still, venerable Dutch director Dick (Amsterdamned, The Lift) Maas’ culty comic horror film Saint (originally Sint, which sounds cooler) is a sporadically entertaining take on the cliche, although its appeal will probably elude the decent sorts who don’t seek out bloody, bloody creep shows. (Full disclosure: I tend to see these sorts of things only in the line of duty, not because I disapprove but because life’s really too short to view more decapitations than one absolutely must.)
For those of you left standing, Saint is OK, though inferior in almost every way to Finnish director Jalmari Helander’s similarly themed 2010 film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (released on DVD last week). It takes off from the premise that the story of Sinterklaas, a 15th-century bishop who slaughtered people indiscriminately until he was apparently burned alive by townspeople, has been suppressed by church and government officials for 500 years.
But there’s a loophole. Every Dec. 5 (in the Netherlands, that’s St. Nicholas Day, a bigger holiday than Christmas) when there’s a full moon, Sinterklaas comes back to resume, for the evening, his murderous ways. Since this happens only once every 30 years or so, its presumably not so hard to cover up the carnage. (Though don’t expect everything to add up - there are 42 years between 1968 and 2010, right ?)
But, if you’re unlucky enough to be a horndog Amsterdam undergraduate on the unlucky Dec. 5, you better watch out, because Sinterklaas knows that you’ve been naughty and he’s got a gold serrated staff with which to wreak his havoc.
While the body count is pretty high, I imagine that some aficionados will complain that the violence isn’t explicit enough. A lot of murders occur off-screen, and the basic horror movie tropes presented here aren’t sent up as much as they are recycled. Generally, the funniest thing about Saint is that it’s a Dutch horror movie starring a heavily computer generated Santa Claus figure. This is not Bad Santa.
Still, it is novel, and midnight movie fans have their ways of repurposing movies for their enjoyment. And I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that. Saint is a movie to talk back to, and if you don’t enjoy any particular scene you don’t have to wait long before some other atrocity gets thrown in your face. They don’t hurt, and they don’t shock much, but they are available for Mystery Science Theater 3000-style mockery.
Which is, I suspect, the point.
Saint 85 Cast: Huub Stapel, Egbert Jan Weeber, Bert Luppes Director: Dick Maas Rating: Not rated Running time: 88 minutes In Dutch, with English subtitles
MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 11/04/2011
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