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Tribeca Film Fest Review - "Sint" (St Nick As A Murderous Bishop)

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 27, 2011 11:53 AM
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Screening in the Cinemania section of the festival is Dutch horror director, Dick Maas’ Sint (or Saint) – a mostly entertaining, though derivative thriller/chiller that reimagines St. Nicholas as a murderous medieval bishop, who’s eventually burned to death by the revolting villagers he'd long tormented. The act essentially curses the village and its people, as the bloodthirsty bishop, promises to fulfill his grisly promise to return and seek revenge against them, by reawakening every 32 years, on December 5th, the anniversary of his death, to kill off their descendants.

That’s how the movie begins – a macabre, action-filled, humorous first 5 minutes.

Fast-forward centuries later, to the present day, as the story of the vengeful St Nick has become the stuff of myth and legend, more likely to inspire laughter when told, than dread.

But, as fully expected, that sense of calm and joy felt by all, over the holiday season, very quickly turns into panic and terror, when the scorned, and scalded Bishop returns on this night, riding his pale undead horse, and carrying a deadly staff, accompanied by his helpers (aka Black Peters) to continue to execute the horrific pledge he made centuries before.

Chests are gorged, heads cut off, limbs severed, as blood becomes the most spilled liquid of the night, as opposed to say, celebratory bottles of wine and champagne, as St Nick and his minions kill indiscriminately - old and young, male and female.

Initially, no one suspects that the myth is more than just a myth, and the murders are pinned on a young man who was associated with those who’d been murdered, and who witnessed the bloody carnage in person, forcing him to realize the reality of the legend, giving a leg-up on the non-believers; no one believes him, except an older discharged conspiracy-theorist police officer, and they pair teams up to rid their city of this curse once and for all, becoming hunters themselves, with the wrathful Saint and his henchmen in their cross-hairs.

Black Peter (or Zwarte Piet in Dutch folklore) aside (although I suggest him up and arm yourself with the info), as I already said, it’s an entertaining genre romp that should please the thriller/chiller fan crowd; sufficiently grisly, but wrapped in a humorous blanket that ensures the movie never really challenges you psychologically so as to become fodder for future nightmares.

It’s ultimately what we’d call stateside, a slasher movie, not-so unlike the hundreds that have been made by Hollywood over the years. So, in that sense, it’s nothing you haven’t already seen before; just in a different setting, and in another language, which, I suppose, gives it a uniqueness to those of us on this side of the pond, who don't consume much media from constituent country. Although I’d add that the idea to turn jolly old St Nick into this murderous bastard was an attractive, if somewhat original hook.

I’m no aficionado of the genre, so there very well could be countless other movies made before this one that featured a blood-seeking Sinterklass.

It’s relatively short, running at just over 80 minutes, with credits, taking place mostly over 1 single night of horror, played out across the snowy streets and rooftops of Amsterdam; so the action moves along rather swiftly, with very brief periods of rest scattered about.

My research tells me that this isn’t the first horror go-round by director Dick Maas, who’s said to have directed “classic” Dutch horror films like The Lift and Amsterdamned, neither I’m familiar with.

Also worth noting, Sint (Saint) was the highest grossing Dutch film of 2010.

I could see a company like IFC’s genre label, IFC Midnight, picking this one up for limited stateside distribution.

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