Ho, Ho, Horror — A review of Saint
The pages are flying off the calendar as we get closer and closer to the holidays. If you’re like me you are thinking about one thing: Where, among all the cartoons and family movies, can I find some good holiday themed horror? Naturally, there is only one place to turn — the Netherlands.
Yes, that’s right the Netherlands. Specifically to the Dutch film Saint (original title Sint). The film tells the true story of Saint Nicolas who was a bishop who lead an army of crusaders which wreaked havoc throughout the medieval countryside. In the opening scenes we see a group of villagers rise up against the not-so-saintly Nick. The result is a burning ship and the creation of a recurring nightmare. Now every time there is a full moon on 5 December (Saint Nicolas’ Day is December 6 for Western Christian churches), the titular Saint rides forth to create bloody mayhem.
The film then fast forwards to the 60s where a young boy is spared the horrible fate which befalls his family when Nick comes sliding down the chimney. There are some entertaining, almost cartoonish death scenes, along with one fairly haunting image.
The bulk of the film takes place in the present where that young boy has grown up to be a police detective who is obsessed with putting an end to Saint Nick’s slaughter. The point of view switches between the detective and a number of high school students. We establish that the students fall heavily on the “naughty” list during a gift exchange which I will leave for you to view.
The film proceeds as a well plotted slasher as the students fall victim to Nick and his minions. At times the suspense is ratcheted up quite nicely. As people begin dying left and right, it is up to the police officer whom no one believes and the young man accused of the killings to find and dispatch Saint Nick.
At times the film stretches the viewers ability to suspend disbelief. The scene where Nick is riding a white horse along the rooftops but no one sees him is a bit difficult to swallow. There are also a number of scenes which call to mind other classic horror films. The horrible person burned alive who returns from the dead to exact revenge has Freddy Kruger written all over it. I watched the film with a number of horror fans, all of whom were able to point out specific shots which seemed to be lifted directly from the original Halloween.
Another maddening flaw was the number of years which supposedly pass between Saint Nick’s appearances. Originally we were told it was 32. When the film jumped to the present day, the time frame didn’t add up. Then different numbers from 32 to 48 are mentioned by various characters. In the film’s defense, we were watching it with the original dialogue and reading the English subtitles, so there could have just been a problem with the translation. One thing which did not translate were the scenes featuring other people dressed as Saint Nick and the accompanying Black Peters. Yes, this movie features white guys in black face. A quick Google search revealed that according to tradition, Black Peter dragged naughty children back to Moorish Spain, hence all of the anti-Spain comments.
Despite these setbacks, Saint Nick is actually quite an enjoyable movie. The acting is pretty good, the is plot odd but interesting. Some of the special effects are outstanding. Nick’s burned visage was well done – pardon the pun. If you like your gore tinged with a bit of humor, there are some very funny bits, again, pun intended. While there are some interesting kills, there is not an excessive amount of gore or splatter. The creative use of the bladed shepherd crook was particularly inventive. While the film is bloody, it is not particularly gory.
All in all, Saint, while not particularly scary, was a fun movie. The tone is similar to Shaun of the Dead or Dead Snow. While definitely in the horror genre, it is not so full of inside jokes that someone who is not a genre fan cannot enjoy it. Saint is a good addition to your holiday horror viewing.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
About the Author
Michael Cieslak is a lifetime reader and writer of dark speculative fiction. He lives near Detroit in a house covered with Halloween decorations in October and dragons the rest of the year with his wife and two dogs. His works have appeared in numerous anthologies. He is the Literature Track Head for Penguicon. In 2013 he started the Dragon’s Roost Press imprint which which published its first book, Desolation, 21 Tales for Tails in 2014. His mental excreta can be found at thedragonsroost.net.