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Saint Nick (aka Sint)
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by Jay Seaver

"Santa Claus is coming... to kill."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Believe it or not, two movies came out in Europe last year where the real Santa Claus was a murderous supernatural monster. Finland's "Rare Exports" zipped through the festival circuit and appeared in the U.S. at the same time it was released in its native land; the Netherlands' "Sint" took a more conventional path, waiting to be picked up for distribution and then spending a couple months on demand before being released on video as "Saint Nick". It's not bad at all for a holiday slasher for those who could use a break from non-stop good cheer this Christmas.

In the Netherlands, the traditional day of gift-giving is December 5th, on the eve of the feast of Saint Niklas. However, as we see in the prologue, the story of Sinterklass has a bloodier origin than is generally known, and as a result, every time there is a full moon on that date, the vicious Niklas and his "Black Peters" return to wreak havok on Amsterdam. In 2010, high school students Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber), Sophie (Escha Tanihatu), Lisa (Caro Lenssen), Hanco (Joey van der Velden), and Sander (Jim Deddes) are planning on going about their business without paying much mind to that urban legend, but Goert (Bert Luppes), a detective who saw first-hand what Niklas is capable of on his last visit in 1968, is preparing for war.

Though it goes off in a couple other directions at times, Sint is at its heart a teen slasher movie, and rest assured, Amsterdam-South's high school will be down a few students by the time class is back in session. It's almost amiable as such things go, with the teenagers being the expected horndogs screwing around behind each others' backs, but not really being malicious or spiteful about it. They are, for the most part, likable enough but not anybody the audience is going to get so attached to that audiences find their being hacked to pieces tragedies rather than a way to give them the gore they paid for.

It is more fun that just a generic supernatural spree-killer movie with some holiday trimmings, of course. The Dutch Saint Niklas has always been more of a stern, imposing man than the "jolly old elf" we know in America, and though Huub Stapel doesn't have much in the way of lines (besides growling) and is well-covered in the sort of make-up that makes it clear that fire and blades were involved in this ghost's death, he carries the sort of arrogance that a corrupt fifteenth-century bishop might, even if he has devolved into a mindless force of murder. He's an imposing figure on Niklas's equally monstrous steed, which leads to one of the film's most impressive sequences as the police on the streets try to keep pace with the monsters on the rooftops. Bert Luppes makes for a good monster-hunter opposite him; Luppes and the film go the route that just because Goert knows what he's talking about doesn't mean he's not nuts, and it works; he also pairs off nicely with Egbert Jan Weeber's Frank.

For all the times Sint works, though, there's also a sense that writer/director Dick Maas bit off a little more than he can chew. There are a couple of very impressive set pieces - the one that shows us the genesis of Goerts grudge against Niklas is quite nice - but there are also moments when Maas's reach clearly exceeds his grasp. It seems like the budget ran out before he could do much with Niklas's ship, for instance. Possibly related - as this ship is how Sinterklass would take naughty children with him to Spain - is how the movie seems to completely drop threads which imply that some kids were taken instead of killed, and doesn't do much with another angle.

Maybe, like many folks who make horror movies, Maas dreams of a franchise; he's left himself some room to build a bigger mythology. If that's the case, he's certainly got time to make sure that "Sint 2" is a little tighter than the first; it's about twenty years until there's another full moon on December 5th.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22376&reviewer=371
originally posted: 12/21/11 13:07:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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USA
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  DVD: 20-Dec-2011

UK
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Australia
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Directed by
  Dick Maas

Written by
  Dick Maas

Cast
  Huub Stapel
  Egbert Jan Weeber
  Caro Lenssen
  Bert Luppes
  Christopher Parren



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