Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holiday Horror: Saint

* spoilers *

Saint Nicholas is known in Amsterdam to be a benevolent figure that gives presents, but he is actually a corrupt bishop killed in 1492 for terrorizing and killing the native people with his gang. In modern day, Saint Nicholas Day falls on a full moon, causing an undead Saint Nick to return and kill as many people as he can. It's up to a random idiot teen named Frank and a cop named Goert whose whole family was killed by Saint Nick during the last instance on the full moon in that day. Can they save Amsterdam from being torn apart by this undead Saint? Can he even be stopped?

Saint is a dark comedy that puts our idyllic view of Saint Nicholas into question. Instead of a jolly old man giving presents or even the Saint Nicholas who resurrected the dead and performed other miracles that the Catholic Church has revered. This version of him has little to do with the others as a charred zombie with a disfigured face. When he's actually present, his feast is a bloodbath instead of a feast for exchanging gifts or poems and rewarding virtue. He has followers known in mythology as Black Peter, a troubling dark skinned version of Krampus that punishes the sinners as a foil to Saint Nicholas. The portrayal is definitely racist and it was jarring to see people in black face dressed up as this figure. The horror version of this is in a large gang of charred people who followed him in life. The smell of their burnt flesh follows them everywhere and acts as the only warning to their attacks.

The film has two heroes: seasoned cop Goert and teenage Frank. Goert's family was killed by Saint Nicholas and he's been compiling evidence of his regular attacks ever since. It's his mission to expose the saint and the holiday for what they are instead of what the Catholic church and the city officials try to feed the public in the name of peace and control. I liked his straight forward attitude, but his decision making was pretty suspect in the end of the film. Saint Nicholas's boat is full of the children of the town that he kidnapped and Goert's solution to the problem was to destroy his boat with the children on it. He's obviously supernatural, so that may not work in the first place plus he actively murdered many innocent children.

Frank is the most unlikeable of the heroes. He is a typical teenage guy (who looks at least 25 like all the teens in the movie) who cheats on his (also cheating) girlfriend Sophie and is spectacularly dumped in front of his class. In a very telling scene, he approaches the girl he was cheating with named Lisa for sex and she rejects him. He pathetically tries to guilt her into it by saying he came such a long way and insults her when she says no. I don't want this guy succeeding at anything. He's a grade A douche that I would rather see torn apart by Saint Nick than having super awkward sex with the same girl he pressured then insulted at the end of the film. Earlier in the film, he's arrested for killing Sophie, but the police harrass Lisa and imply that Frank is justified being angry after being dumped. I do not like the misogynistic element of the film that blame the women for everything and a guy like Frank comes out successful in the end instead of gutted like the worm he is.

Saint is an overall fun film that takes the slasher formula and adds a very different version of Saint Nicholas than we are used to. The beginning of the film and many of the kills bring to mind such other slasher films as Halloween. I had a few problems with the film, namely in Frank, the supposed protagonist. None of the characters except Goert are truly likeable and even he allows who knows how many children to perish on Saint Nicholas's boat. The kills are innovative and fun to watch, but I didn't really care when most of the people died. The best parts of the film are the zombified Saint Nick and the Amsterdam landscape.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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