If you have any experience of Dutch director Dick Maas’ previous work, you will most likely know what to expect with his Yuletide schlocker Saint. If, however, this is the first time you have heard his name, his homage to 1980’s slasher films starring Huub Stapel, (Amsterdamned (1988)), Bert Luppes (Farewell Pavel (1999)) and Egbert Jan Weeber (Bollywood Hero (2009)) is as good an introduction as any to this individualistic filmmaker’s take on the slice ‘n’ dice genre.
December 5th, and Amsterdam is echoing to the sound of ‘slay’ bells ringing, as it’s terrorised by a murderous incarnation of the legendary Saint Nicholas (Stapel). It’s left to Goert (Luppes), an ex-cop with more reasons than most to want to stop the killings, and high school misfit Frank (Weeber), who becomes involved after his friends are systematically made into mincemeat by the killer Santa, to end the mayhem before ‘Bad’ Saint Nick, makes this a holiday season to to dismember.
That the majority of people outside the Netherlands have probably never seen Maas’ work (unless you’re a diehard fan it is notoriously hard to get hold of), or any of the cast either, is a shame as, if Saint is anything to go by, everyone involved is surprisingly good. The fact that there’s not much originality to the story (ok, so good Saint Nicholas hasn’t been given homicidal tendencies before, but as a general entity killer Santas are nothing new), doesn’t detract from the film. The Christmas carnage feels fresh being set against the pristine backdrop of a snowy Amsterdam, and the whole production is carried off so slickly and with such clear relish by those involved, that you forget John Carpenter gave it to us all before with babysitters in jeopardy in Halloween (1978) and murderous goings-on upon mist shrouded boats in The Fog (1980).
On the downside there is a disturbing emphasis on child killing, particularly in the scene set in the children’s hospital. However when the perpetrator of these grisly events is a cassock wearing zombie backed up a hoard of the undead, the age and gender of his victims ceases to have much relevance.
Saint adds a dash of blood red colour to the saccharine Yuletide image so often portrayed in the cinema and will hopefully draw wider international attention to Maas’ hitherto unjustly neglected work.