Contributor; London
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Santa Claus imagined as a slasher icon. Not someone dressed up as Santa Claus, but Saint Nicholas himself, wielding an ornate but sharp staff with which to lop off many a head. That's the premise of Dutch director Dick Maas' mythical horror flick, Saint (Sint).

Saint Nicholas is a disgraced bishop who travels through the countryside in the middle ages with his band of thugs, murdering, pillaging and generally being a horrific threat to man, woman and child. When the villagers fight back and set fire to his ship, he vows revenge. Every 5th December full moon he'll return to reap his vengeance. Having killed the family of policeman Goert (Bert Luppes) in 1968 when he was just a child, the Saint's next coming is due to be met with a little more resistance as the nervy copper readies himself.

Maas turns modern day Amsterdam into a mysterious wintry land in which to stage his mythical slaughter - it's a glossy but still atmospheric view of the city we don't often get. St. Nicholas resembles something like the Toxic Avenger crossed with The Pope. On Horseback. When he arrives in the present day with a band of murderous 'black Peters' the pace quickens and never lets up until the final head rolls. It's a remarkably pacey movie, with some entertaining set pieces as the disfigured bishop gallops across the snowy rooftops, and his army of Peters swarm around helpless teens. There's a good dose of humour and little time to stop and think.

Saint is a very slight film, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - there's no baggage, or extraneous plotting. However, you can't help feeling that there's more to be made of an evil undead Santa Claus. He whizzes in and out, and one shot in particularly of him emerging from the shadows to accost a carload of teens is foreboding and striking. Yet there's a nagging feeling that he's underused.

Whatever Maas does next will no doubt be worth a watch and the man has talent. With strong effects work, it's a breezy, fun ride while it lasts, but it's not something that will linger in the mind long. And that's a bit of a shame given the potential of Saint's creepy premise.

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Jan BosmansStephanie GhysEls OlaertsFred Van KuykHanne VandersteeneShort

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