Saint (2010) - original title "Sint" "Your Parents have told you that he doesn't exist" Maybe something was lost in the translation but I thought they told us he does exist. Of course thatg is the happy Santa here in USA. This Movie's Christmas gift giver has a whole different scene over in Amsterdam and giving gifts ain't it. The legend as seen through the first scenes is that Saint Niklas is the head of a band of pirates. We see their ship in the harbor near a small village. He riding his horse and carrying his crosier he leads his men into the village, Amsterdam 1492. The people of the village have left out goods for him to collect but he is there for more than provisions. His men slide down chimneys of locked houses and knock in door. They pillage and kill and most of all steal children to take to Spain. I don't know why Spain? its just part of the story. Accept it so we can move on please. In the scene we are watching the villages rise up and fight back. They set the ship on fire and it seems that the bishop and his men perish. Still they didn't get the kids off the boat so...hmm. The curse that now comes from this has to do with the date of the uprising. It is said on any December 5th that falls on the full moon brings back Saint Niklas (Huub Stapel) and he and his men (called"Black Peters" because of the soot from sliding down chimneys) takes his revenge on Amsterdam.
Its December 5th 1968 and its a full moon. Four kids stand around their wooden shoes by the stove chanting a Saint Nick poem. Mom and Dad are busily preparing for Christmas and it is a very nice scene. The pigs out in the barn are making a lot of noise though so Dad send the oldest boy Goert (Neils van den Berg) out to check on them. On his way back he see old Saint Nick on his horse and on his roof, unfortunately for Goert his whole family has been murdered. I am normally put off by two establishing time periods in a row but here it works, the first showing the antagonist and establishing the revenge curse. The second establishing the trauma of the protagonist setting up his motivation for the modern day story.
Our Main characters are Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber) and Lisa (Caro Lenssen)are in the same class in high school. Permissive sexual attitudes are on display when the secret Santa gift giving includes many dildos. Boy I guess things have changed since I was in high school. Poor Frank get his gift a Dear John letter from his now former girlfriend Sophie (Escha Tanihati) who kicks him to the curb with a poem and a box full of his things. Some things apparently never change. It appears that Frank had sex with another girl and Sophie found out. Little does she and her friend Natasha (Madelief Blanken) know that Lisa is the girl Frank cheated with. The three are friends and their dialog is very interesting as they walk home after class. This background is to establish that Frank and Lisa are in "Like" and there is an interest between the two. Also a conversation about it being December 5th and a full moon lets the characters do a modern retelling of the legend of Saint Niklas. The other character development is to bring us back in touch with Goert (Bert Luppes) who is a cop for the Amsterdam Police department. This is the first December 5th full moon since his family was slaughtered and he is trying to convince a strangely reluctant police chief to do more to protect the city. Goert has prepared a detailed report of what to expect but it is apparent from the reactions of the other cops that no one takes him seriously.
We come back to Sophie who is an unwed Mother? (Maybe it could be a little brother?) We see that although an atheist she is not safe from harm from the Saint. In an effective scary scene we start off the movie proper. It is a shame that she has to die too soon.
With the players in place all we have to do is wait for sundown and the arrival of the esteemed Saint. Frank who is dressed as he for the Christmas celebrations heads our with his black face painted friends for a night on the town. The party they are supposed to get to seems impossible to find even with a GPS. A bit of commentary on the endless nature of construction of Amsterdam's streets leads them to an encounter with the real Saint Nick. It is a good thing about this film, there is a tongue and cheat social commentary running through the film that is interesting and effective. Light and on the fringes it does not beat you over the head but it is present throughout.
The run in with Saint Nick and his boys highlights another important part of the film, it is not afraid to use gore. Both of Franks friends are killed in this encounter and Frank while escaping some some pretty gruesome damage to the Black Peters. These effects are great including cutting one in half at the waste. As he drives away from the bad guys he is surrounded by cops responding to the ruckus and since the arm of a pirate is still attached to the door of his car, and he is wearing a Saint Niklas outfit he is mistaken for the killer and arrested. Complicating his plight is that Sophie is dead and little Timmy missing and since she so publicly broke up with him that very day he really looks rather guilty.
All of this action and scary fun is mixed with the story of Goert as he tries to kill the immortal Saint. His story arc that intersects with Frank is to blow the bastard up on his ship ending the plague of deaths. This is no easy task though and before the end there is some scary scenes and action to be had. The best bit is Saint Nick showing up at a pediatric ward of a hospital. The kids react with such excitement before the terror sets in. It is a nice scene and one of the failings of the film is that there was not more of that. The scares that are in the film are great and I found myself wanting more of them. Instead we get a giant CGI set piece of the cops chasing Saint Nick as they speed through the streets of Amsterdam he rides across the rooftops of the city. When he finally comes crashing down, oh I loved the twitching arm it ends up just a way to bring Frank and Goert together and set up the climax sequence.
Mixed in with the action are these little bits about the city government. The first thing I thought watching it was if the Saint and his men came back every December 5th when the moon is full that boy that's a lot of killing over time. Since the first time the event happened was 1492 it leaves a lot of dates that could be visiting days. How does nobody know this is happening. How many full moon December 5ths have there been in that time period? I could not let that go so I investigated so and was disappointed to find out that the dates used in the movie were not full moon dates. Since they were establishing characters I get why but still. Recent Dec. 5th dates with a full moon wwere in 1949, 1987, and 2006. The next two though are pretty far out in 2063 and then 2082. Enough of this side track though, even with the dates used in the movie there is no way that December 5th body counts would have gone unnoticed. Lucky for us writer / director Dick Maas explains it as a cover up.
The final plan to do away with Nick is also not particularly well thought out by the characters. It is a decent idea but the line establishing the destruction of the ship Niklas arrives in and his death are not really established. So even when the climax happens you are left wondering, at least for a bit, if it will do the trick. Set up for a sequel in 2063 I am looking forward to seeing.
I really enjoyed the film it had humor and at times was scary, decent action pieces although some of the CGI was a bit suspect. When all is said and done this was a fun Christmas movie to watch.
Rating (6.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.