Tribeca 2011 Review: SAINT
Before I start my review of this killer Santa movie, I’d like to clarify one thing. This is not the Santa most of us know and love. There are no reindeer. There is no sleigh. There are no elves. This is not jolly old St. Nick. The film doesn’t even take place on Christmas. Instead it is about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas. While I probably would have enjoyed this movie more if I knew about the Dutch tradition beforehand, the flick is still a fun ride.
Here’s the official description listed in the Tribeca guide:
The film’s titular saint was in fact a murderous medieval marauder, ultimately slain by the villagers he tormented, only to swear a ghostly revenge on their descendents every December 5—the anniversary of his death. Centuries later, the story has settled comfortably into innocuous folklore, until a bloody encounter with the ghoul himself forces local teen Frank to believe in Santa all over again. Teaming up with a fellow believer, discharged conspiracy-theorist cop Goert, it will be up to Frank to save the city of Amsterdam in an all-out bloody battle against the wrathful “Sinterklaas” and his minions.
This Dutch horror comedy blends elements of THE FOG & A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with other well-known genre conventions. All of the characters are typical horror fodder. Even the idea of a killer Santa isn’t wholly original. But it all works for the most part. My biggest complaint with the film is that parts of it are so incredibly well done that the rest of the film pales in comparison. This contrast causes it to feel like two films cut together; one an insanely fun Raimi-esque horror-action-comedy and the other a horror film that takes itself far too seriously.
It could be that some of the Dutch humor was lost on me or some of the jokes just fall flat but there are times where the momentum slows down far too much. The reason this is such a problem is that the action set pieces are immensely fun. The special effects for the most part are fantastic although some of the CGI could use a bit of work. The opening scenes revealing St. Niklas’ origins and Goert’s backstory are set up perfectly. Other scenes such as the Black Peters (evil elves in black face) attacking Frank’s friends and the rooftop horse chase are equally incredible.
If writer/director Dick Maas chose to cut out a few of the slower scenes and amped up the insanity, he would have a true cult classic in his hands. But as it stands now, this film is still destined to be a holiday favorite. It is already a major success in the Netherlands and I have a feeling IFC Midnight will do quite well with it stateside.
Jerry Cavallaro – www.StuckLikeChuck.com