Welcome to Monster Movie Madness, where we take a look at flicks and films dealing with threats and things that aren’t exactly human. Hell, most of ’em aren’t human at all—and those are the really fun ones!
No. Not another Krampus movie. I went deeper than that, to the precursor to the Krampus myth, good old Saint Nicholas! Prepare yourself for a holiday flick filled with guns, bloodshed, and very tall hats, as we take a look at Saint (2010).
Written and directed by Dick Maas.
Warning: this review may contain spoilers.
December 5, 1492
The Dutch village is small, as are the children leaving treat-filled shoes on doorsteps. The hat is tall on the bishop’s (Huub Stapel) head as he rides his white horse, surrounded by his pack of ten weapon-wielding ruffians, into town. They take what’s in the shoes—pocketing the gold, eating the food, and drinking the wine—but it is not enough. Kicking in doors and slipping down chimneys, these dark bandits ransack the homes, taking what they want (including children, each carried in their own individual sack) as their sanctified leader watches, smiling, from the saddle. They leave behind a notice, knifed to a door, demanding tribute in gold, livestock, and young women, though whether this is a ransom for the children or a simple “or else,” I’m not certain.
It all becomes academic when the villagers, led by (according to his hair, at least) their local friar, slip out to the bishop’s ship in the harbor—pitchforking, axing, and shoveling the guards left on the beach along the way—and set it ablaze. The villagers watch from shore as the ship burns to the waterline, Bishop Niklas screaming and cursing them as the flames take him beneath the fat, full moon.
December 5, 1968
The full moon hangs low over the house as, inside, four children (two boys, two girls) stand before their treat-filled shoes, singing a song to Saint Nicholas. Dad (Rinus van de Geissen), hearing a noise that distracts him from his television program, shouts for the oldest child, 10-year-old Goert (Neils van den Berg)—pronounced “Hoort”—to go out and check on the pigs. As Goert puts on his shoes to go, one of his sisters asks where St. Nicholas will put his present. “He’ll have to wait,” Goert replies, slipping on his coat and heading out to the barn.
Goert calms the agitated animals, but on the way back to the house, sees what has the beasts so upset: ten dark men are just climbing out the chimney and dropping to the ground, finished with the business of taking what they want from the home and slaughtering Goert’s family. The last thing Goert sees before they vanish into the night is a rearing white horse atop the roof, its robed rider wearing a suspiciously tall hat. The boy enters his house to find bloody carnage in their wake, and his mother, still struggling in the last moments of her life, though eyeless and tongueless. Mother gasps her last. Goert begins to scream.
Amsterdam, December 5, present day
Meet Frank (Egbert Jan Weever). Frank just got dumped by Sophie (Escha Tanihatu), publicly and rather embarrassingly, in class while they were doing some sort of “Secret St. Nicholas” thing. That’s okay with Frank, though, because he’s got another girl already lined up—Sophie’s friend Lisa (Caro Lenssen)—and besides, he’s set to play St. Nicholas at a party that evening and have all the first-year students sit in his lap.
Also meet a nameless pair of water policemen (Peter Bolhuis and Casper Gimbrère), stuck in the mouth of the harbor with engine trouble. Another boat is on the way, though they may have difficulty finding the stalled craft in the thick fog that has rolled in. The scent of smoke suddenly fills the air, and the policemen worry that their boat has caught fire, until said boat is cut in half by what appears to be a rocket-powered schooner as the scorch-sided but seaworthy vessel barrels into the harbor.
Bishop Niklas has come out to play.
Finally, meet Goert (Bert Luppes), all grown up and a police officer—though maybe not the pride of the force; his hair needs cutting, his face needs shaving, and he puts five rounds through the wrapped St. Nicholas present his laughing coworkers have thoughtfully left on his desk. The gunshots elicit a meeting with his chief inspector, where rather than apologizing for unwrapping a gift with extreme prejudice, Goert attempts—just the latest of several attempts, apparently—to have a ban put on all St. Nicholas festivities this year, owing to the fact that there will be a full moon that night. A full moon on December 5—something that happens only once every few decades—means that Bishop Niklas, the basis for the St, Nicholas myth, will rise up from the dead with his ten black and burned men, to fulfill his curse, stealing whatever they can lay their hellish hands on and killing whomever they find. It’s all in Goert’s report, which the chief inspector has on his desk, ignoring it while he gives Goert a one-month suspension.
We have an interlude with Sophie, babysitting her little brother, Timmie (Julian Maas), at home. The interlude doesn’t last long, and neither does Sophie nor Timmie, as Bishop Niklas and the gang get the holidays started the old-fashioned way: with housebreaking, theft, and murder.
The action returns to Frank and his two friends, on their way to play St. Nicholas and his assistants. Lost, they run into another St. Nicholas, this one gone so far as to ride a white horse. And he has ten assistants, not two. And they smell and look strangely . . . burned? Things go rapidly bad for Frank and his friends, though Frank manages to escape in the car . . . the blood-smeared, disembodied-arm-hanging-from-the-trunk car. The police look askance at the car, especially since they’ve received reports of people being attacked and killed by some guy dressed up as St. Nicholas, and here they have a guy driving a bloody car, dressed as St. Nicholas. A guy whom one of the victims humiliated publicly just that afternoon.
The police are driving their supposed spree-killer from the local jail to the prison when they become involved in the high-speed chase of another St. Nicholas, this one riding a horse across Amsterdam via rooftops. The chase goes as one would expect when the police unknowingly come up against a seemingly indestructible supernatural entity, and once again lucky Frank rolls out of the wreckage of his transport car—right in front of a pissed-off Bishop Niklas. Niklas is about to unwrap Frank’s heart like a gift, but is interrupted by Goert, who bursts on the scene to rescue Frank and drive off Bishop Extra-Crispy.
Can these two men, the only people in Amsterdam who believe in Bishop Niklas and understand the danger, stop this tall-hatted hooligan from hell and his burnt-bodied bully boys from raining down blood and pain and way too much holiday spirit upon thousands of unsuspecting Amsterdammers?
Okay, this film was fun, but may not be for everyone; it’s a Dutch flick with English subtitles, and some people shy away from subtitled movies. Those subtitles did let me know, however, that Hollanders use the F and S words, and that when they do they pronounce it pretty much the way we do. Nice to know some things don’t change, eh? Also that “Secret St. Nicholas” scene happens in what looks like a high school classroom to my American eyes, though the kids all looked to be at least college age—and a good thing, too, since they’re apparently allowed to give a lot more sexual aids as gifts in schools in Amsterdam than I think we do in the States.
The acting is good, and it isn’t hard to keep track of the emotions in a scene even while reading the dialogue flat off the screen. I’ve never heard of anyone in this film (this is my first foray into Dutch movies), but I can’t think of a single performance that looked phoned in.
The special effects were a bit of a mixed bag. Niklas’s helpers are usually hidden by shadows, or in motion, so though they may be simply men in decent Halloween masks it’s very hard to tell; and the one time we get a good look at Niklas himself he, rather unfortunately, looks just a bit like an angry old man puppet. The chase scene with the horse running from rooftop to rooftop is phenomenal, though, and every blade-piercing-the-body bit was quite well done. The violence in the action scenes is a little over-the-top, almost spoofy, but it works within the film as a whole.
Should you watch Saint (2010) this holiday season? It’s up to you—but if subtitles don’t make your eyes cross, and you like action/horror crossover with a little comedy thrown in once in a while, then this might make a nice break from all the saccharine Christmas movies and trendy-to-watch Krampus flicks everybody’s touting these days. Like I said above, this one’s kind of fun, and that’s really all we want from our holiday movies, isn’t it? Entertainment. And a more than a little blood. And dildos. And fire, yeah, some fire would be . . .
If you’ve got a film you’d like to shout out about, a monster movie you feel the world’s just got to see, please, let me know about it in the comments below—or if you’re shy, you can always shoot me a line through the Contact page.
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I do love me some monster movies.