Saint (2011)

Directed By: Dick Maas
Written By: Dick Maas
Starring: Huub Stapel
  Egbert Jan Weeber
  Caro Lenssen
  Bert Luppes

Saint is a darkly comic, completely deranged, enjoyable little Christmas horror. Unfortunately the plotting is awkward, the humour mismanaged and the characters weak, leaving behind a disappointing feeling of missed opportunity. Saint is good, but not great.

In the Netherlands December 5th is a special day. Sinterklaas and his army of Zwart Pieten (or black Peters, as they’re tastefully known) descend on people’s homes to deliver gifts, joy, music and happiness, as another variation of Coca Cola’s jolly Santa Claus. Unknown to many, however, the tale of St Nick is not so jolly.

According to Saint creator Dick Maas, Saint Niklas was an evil 15th Century rogue Bishop who killed families and kidnapped children, ransacking villages with his cruel band of pirates called “Peters”. Eventually caught and burned alive on his galleon, many believed him to be dead, but evil never stays buried forever. Every 32 (or so) years he returns on December 5th to wreck havoc on the residents of Amsterdam, bringing with him his black and charred Peters to unleash orc-ish hell. And in Saint, that night is tonight.

Sound insane? The premise is pretty bonkers, and due to a cultural misunderstanding, many other countries may be confused by the whole “December 5th / emaciated Santa on a horse / slightly racist black peters” thing…

The main problem with Saint is the characterisation. Who is our protagonist? We originally follow teenager Lisa (Caro Lenssen) and her secret boyfriend Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber), but then we also skip to disgraced police detective Goert (Bert Luppes), whose wild belief that a ghostly St Nick murdered his entire family thirty years ago is seriously affecting his job. There are huge swathes of the film when each one of these characters just disappears – it’s disconcerting and makes it difficult to emotionally invest yourself in anything.

The plot, therefore, is difficult to describe. Basically the mad police detective gets to yell “I told you so!” very loudly as the psychotic, charred ghost of Saint Niklas wreaks havoc on Amsterdam, murdering the residents, kidnapping the children and racing across the rooftops on a burned-up undead horse. The not-so-crazy-anymore detective must stop him before he destroys the entire city… but how do you stop a ghostly psycho bishop from hell? Not easily, that’s how.

Saint is visually exciting and there is always something going on, even if you don’t quite understand it. Director Dick Maas proves he has a fantastic flare for visuals, with a stunning rooftop chase scene (check out the link below), some disturbing scenes in a children’s hospital and many other instances of dread and wonder in the streets of Amsterdam; dark, misty, foreboding and demented – Dick Maas proves he is a great director.

Tragically Dick Maas’s directing abilities are not matched by his writing skills. As mentioned above the plotting is awkward and the characterisations weak, but the script is also tonally awkward. Maas’s humour ranges from being exceedingly dark to lightly comic, but never quite sits right. Is it a comedy? Is it a horror? Whatever it is, it’s bizarre, but so lovingly created you can probably forgive it for its faults.

Overall Saint is a strange little Christmas horror. Awkwardly written but exceptionally well directed, Dick Maas has created a memorable black comedy horror that is enjoyable and compelling, but not quite right. Saint is a missed opportunity to make a classic.

Check out the Rooftop Chase scene here

Check out Boston’s interview with Dick Maas here

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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