Last year’s Rare Exports showed us the horrors of a malevolent Santa through the perspective of a young child and though it wasn’t a family film thematically, it had an Amblin-like whimsy to it that successfully melded fairy-tale lore and small town life. Sint, the latest depiction of European holiday mayhem, is the antithesis of Exports, opting for slasher conventions and explosions over childhood charm.
Saint Nicholas – an inspiration for Santa Claus – get his own holiday on December 5th, when children in the Netherlands place coins or hay (the latter for his horse) in their shoes, hoping the kindly religious man will leave them presents. Writer/director Dick Maas, however, presents him as a tyrannical bishop, burned to death by angry villagers after he pillaged their town. The Krugerized Catholic figure returns every December 5th when the moon is full, seeking vengeance by kidnapping children and slaughtering everyone he comes across with the help of his trusty steed and zombie pirate henchmen. The church and government have done a remarkable job covering his tracks every 30-something years, but missed a loose end during Goert’s (Bert Luppes) childhood when the undead bishop murdered his entire family before disappearing into the night. Now grown and a cop, Goert’s lifelong obsession has been tracking down the mythical figure and destroying him once and for all.
Using American slashers as a template, Maas introduces a classroom full of raunchy teens to produce a few laughs (dildos are given as gifts, dirty poems are read aloud) and create a lull in the tension. After his girlfriend publicly breaks up with him, two-timer Frank (Egbert-Jan Weeber) heads home to dress up as Sinterklaas and, along with a few of his buddies, head to a festive party to earn some extra cash. Getting lost on the way, the group – of course – bumps into Saint Nicholas and his thugs, who have only just begun their reign of undead terror.
Though the formulaic nature is somewhat distracting (even when it is played for laughs, it feels a little stale), Sint never slows down action-wise, keeping the blood flowing, limbs flying and heads rolling almost non-stop during its brief runtime. As frantic as the action is, the editing is even faster, using an almost dizzying speed to cover-up the rather nasty green screen work on display – specifically in the film’s big action set piece which involves the police chasing Nicholas as he rides his horse across Amsterdam’s rooftops. Luppes steals the show as the renegade, reminding me of a Dutch Brad Dourif, both in appearance and off-kilterness.
Sint is a ridiculous film that you’ll either be into or not by the mere mention of its premise. As over-the-top as it is, it could have been a little more insane – I kind of wish St. Nick would have ridden horseback with a Gatling gun, mowing down everything in his path – and the third act is abrupt and anti-climactic. Still, there’s something to be said about zombie pirates with hooks and spears charging down the streets of Amsterdam with a dead bishop in command, wearing a gaudy Mitre.