Last year the Finnish horror Rare Exports covered similar ground, showing the extreme side of a character known for punishing the naughty, but while Exports was more like a monster movie, Saint leans towards the slasher. Resembling a low rent mix of The Fog and Halloween, it opens with the beginning of the legend - it features a character who survived a tragic encounter with the killer, there are horny teens (one even looking a bit like Nancy Loomis from Halloween), there is a wrongly accused character that no one believes and a cop who wants to ban holiday celebrations. All staples of the Holiday-based killer subgenre.
The cast generally feel a little broad and unconvincing, but Bert Luppes's Goert makes for an interesting presence. His overly jittery performance does him no favours but his hangdog features manage to sell the 32 years of trauma his character has carried with him, since his deadly first encounter with Sinterklaas.
Egbert Jan Weeber's Frank is an interesting variation from the usual US-based teen lead. Firstly, he's not a girl. Secondly, he's a bit of a player. If he were in an American slasher he would be more likely to be the token douchebag who dies late in Act 2 than the hero.
The film is short, clocking in at less than 90 minutes, so it wastes very little time getting into the action. Throughout the build up of the first third the presence and danger is always present, and when and his gang of Black Petes make their presence known it is an impressively staged bit of bloody chaos. The make-up effects are commendable and while the gore effects are cheap, and therefore appear dated, they only add to the film's charm when you see an obviously rubber face impaled by a blade. The green screen work fares less well and several visual flourishes make for an ill-fit.
While the initial flashes of violence are handled with confidence, the film eventually slows to a crawl, the script relying on exposition far more than the concept requires and some of the more pointed stabs at humour don't hit their target. However, Saint gets a bullseye when it comes to the kills and the way it cleverly transplants US-based genre tropes into a new foreign context.
The ending is clumsy, once again relying on exposition and sacrificing any form of exciting set piece to close out with. What starts out as an interesting, fresh take on a thoroughly overused genre wears out its welcome.
Of the two killer Santa movies, Rare Exports is the more streamlined and consistently entertaining, Saint is an admirable attempt at something interesting but the execution is left severely lacking. I am afraid the only gift worth leaving in this film's stocking is a piece of coal.
Saint will be released 31st October on DVD.