DEVIANT DVD: “SAINT” (2010)
Starring Egbert Jan Weeber, Bert Luppes and Huub Stapel
Written and directed by Dick Maas
The recent angry Facebook status updates I have noticed from those looking to reclaim their right to wish people “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” speaks to just how protective some people get about Christmas… sorry, the holiday season. Similarly, the Dutch take their equivalent, Sinterklaas, very seriously, to the point where poet and artist Quinsy Gario was pepper sprayed and arrested in Dordrecht, Holland, last month for wearing a homemade T-shirt that read “Zwarte Piet is Racism.” (Zwarte Piet — or Black Pete — is Sinterklaas’s Sambo-like servant.)
So I was primed to watch Saint (Sint in Dutch), Dutch director Dick Maas’s return to scary movies, and to see another culture’s take on holiday horror. A prologue set in 1492 shows us how the former bishop Niklas (Stapel) and his gang of rogues was burned alive by villagers tired of their murderous rampages. But Niklas’s dying curse brings him and his blackened brigands (thus mistaken for Zwarte Piets) back to life every time there is a full moon on December 5. Flash forward to 1968, the last time Niklas and his undead crew were able to terrorize the Netherlands. Among those killed are the entire family of young Goert, who grows up to be a police detective (Luppes) obsessed with destroying Niklas
Cut to the present-day and teenager Frank (Weeber) is preparing for a drunken Sinterklaas party with his buds. Unfortunately their plans are interrupted by the arrival of St. Niklas riding a white horse and his gang of Black Petes as they murder their way across the country. Soon enough Frank is charged with the murders, and only Goert believes him when Frank blames the deaths on Sinterklaas.
Many of Saint‘s flaws — wooden acting, dodgy CG, and logical flaws — are forgiveable because of the film’s exotic nature: Sinterklaas is kind of like Santa Claus but different enough to put a welcome spin on a well-worn genre.
Maas is also generous with the gore, and has a knack for creating some great imagery, like Niklas riding his white steed through creeping tendrils of fog, bringing to mind Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead. There’s also a strong element of John Carpenter’s The Fog, with mysterious figures returning from the dead.
Those looking for some viewing slightly more sinister this holiday season than A Christmas Story may want to put Saint on a double bill with Black Christmas to satisfy your ho-ho-horror needs.