Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Dutch with English subtitles)
Directed by: Dick Maas
Written by: Dick Maas
Starring: Huub Stapel, Egbert Jan Weeber, Caro Lenssen, Bert Luppes & Madelief Blanken
Holiday horror films centering around twisted versions of folklore are nothing new. Dating back to SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, childhood friendly holiday icons have been slaying “naughty” kids as well as innocent bystanders. KRAMPUS and RARE EXPORTS are the best examples of how this can work out perfectly, while other B-movies usually fail to deliver in mixing fairy tale fantasy with dark humored horror. SAINT falls very much into the latter. Despite having an insane premise that practically guarantees fun, Dick Maas’s yuletide slasher suffers from poor writing and cheap production values.
The truth behind Sinterklaas (Netherlands version of Santa Claus) is far more disturbing than one seaside Dutch town lets on. Back in the 15th century, a group of villagers torched a pirate ship that was housing the corrupt bishop Niklas. It is said that when the full moon falls on December 5th (the night before Saint Nicholas Day), that the undead Niklas will return to slaughter townsfolk. Police officers and teenagers believe all of this to be a fantastical myth, but they’re about to be proven dead wrong as zombie pirates and a burnt-up Saint Nick begin slashing their way through the night. It’s up to a wrongly accused teen and an obsessed cop to end the blood-stained curse and put the undead Sinterklaas to rest.
The premise for SAINT sounds like a fun one. Indeed, the trailer further sells the viewer on this idea as we see a scene of an undead Saint Nick riding a horse on top of a rooftop while police shoot at him from a speeding car. While that sequence is the best moment in the whole damn film, the rest of SAINT proves to be a tedious bore that suffers from sloppy writing and half-assed characters. From the moment I was introduced to the main protagonists, I hated them. These are your typical obnoxious teens that populate most low-budget slasher films and there’s nothing special to them. That wouldn’t be so bad if we saw these people dying in every other scene. Instead, we spend an excruciating amount of time with them. The wrongly accused guy is a complete jerk, while the obsessed cop is your typical clichéd obsessive cop from every action movie ever. To pad out the running time even further, we get a pointless girlfriend whose subplot does nothing more than serve for a bit of nudity in final minutes. That’s about all there is to these characters who we’re supposed to be rooting for.
As if the writing doesn’t sound bad enough already, Sinterklaas plays second fiddle in his own damn movie. Most of the undead shenanigans occur from “Black Pete” pirates (burnt pirates who are portrayed by locals in black face). Saint Nick only shows up for a brief prologue, the aforementioned chase scene involving a horse on the rooftops of various buildings, and an underwhelming final confrontation. A couple of gore gags look cool, but the film mainly relies on obvious CG blood that looks extremely cheap and silly. The humor never quite melds well, mainly because the script is trying far too hard for gross-out humor and sex-obsessed characters (they never shut up about it). These jokes seem out-of-place. Only one moment elicited a single chuckle out of me and that scene had potential to go a lot farther but was cut short.
In the end, pretty much every single problem with SAINT boils down to the script. Though the CG gore might not have been helped with a better screenplay, damn near everything else could have been fixed. The characters are half-assed and boring. The kills are your typical stabbings and slashings, save for two gnarly gore gags. The main monster only shows up for three scenes while his lackeys do all the dirty work. This isn’t so much a holiday horror movie as it is a Dutch remake of THE FOG that happens to be set during December 5th. Go watch KRAMPUS or RARE EXPORTS (or both) instead of this poorly made, shoddily written disappointment of a holiday slasher.