Growing up, my family always kind of celebrated Saint Nicholas in December. It was a strange sort of tradition, not something that was ever really explained to me. We’d just wake up and there would be gifts in our stockings on the 6th. I suppose it was just a leftover “thing we do” from my mother’s family (who were from Brannenborg and Zachodniopomorskie).
I never really “got it” but I really enjoyed it. Especially because a lot of my friends didn’t. It was some wacky thing my mom was obsessed with when we were kids.
So really, what better way to celebrate this, er, holiday I have a vague understanding of than watching a Dutch film about dear, jolly Saint Nicholas?
Much of the Sinterklass (the Dutch name for Saint Nic) lore is ripe for the horror movie treatment. Exhibit A: The endless amounts of Krampus movies that were churned out in the last decade. Many of Saint Nicholas’s “companions” are really rather terrifying or a bit offensive. And clearly, it was an well of inspiration for Dutch icon Dick Mass.
In 1492, the 5th of December, Niklas terrorises a town with his cronies in tow. Fed up with the attacks, a group of villagers seek retribution and set fire to Niklas’ large ship.
And for every 23 years later after, a full moon on the 5th, Niklas begins to rise from his watery grave to attack once again. In 1968, his team kill of an entire farm film except for one small boy, Goert.
In the present day (2010), Frank is a young boy stirring up his own sort of trouble. After being dumped publicly by his girlfriend Sophie, Frank and his friends get dressed as Sinterklass and two Zwarte Piets before heading out into the night before debauchery.
Only their fun is over before it even begins. On their way to the party, the boys stop and attacked by a group of ghouls. Frank’s friends are promptly torn to bits. Frank, on the other hand, manages to get away in the car. But he’s promptly stopped and arrested.
Frank later learns about the shenanigans going on in Amsterdam that night. Several people, including Sophie, have been brutally killed by someone dressed as Sinterklass. And Frank seems the most likely suspect?
He is later moved, where the police transporting him are stopped by the ghouls. They’re also promptly killed off, one is even crushed by Nic’s horse (!). Before Sinterklass can get to Frank, the Saint is attacked by a man wielding a flamethrower.
After the older gent fends of Sinterklass, he introduces himself to Frank as Goert.
Goert is a policeman in Amsterdam, hellbent on ending the Sinterklass’s crime-spree after his family’s murders. He tells young Frank that he plans to set fire to the Sinterklass’s boat, ending his reign of terror.
Frank decides to go along with. I don’t know – seeing is believe, the spirit of the season, etc. The two men set off together to find the ship, hoping for the best and knowing they’ll get the worst.
Sint will appeal to a certain type of horror fan. Anyone who already enjoyed A Christmas Horror Story and the like will certainly enjoy this. The idea alone to twist jolly old Saint Nicholas into a brutal killer will delight many. There are a few fun deaths, though not very terrifying or imaginative.
I, personally, didn’t enjoy it even half as much as Maas’s De Lift. But I do always lean towards older, mouldier cheeses. If you’re looking for a film that you’ll talk about for years afterwards, watch that classic. Otherwise, Sint is fairly standard affair that you might just forget about later.