Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Dick Maas
Cast: Egbert Jan Weeber, Bert Luppes, Caro Lenssen
I tend to find excessively absurd enjoyment out of damn near any holiday themed horror piece, but Saint (also known as Sint) left me feeling far more perplexed than fulfilled. There are some wonderful qualities on display, but there’s a jumbled story beneath the glitz, and I’m having trouble deciding if the disorientation within the script is a result of mediocre writing, or a murky translation job… or a few too many beers in my belly at the time of watching. Given the fact that the film’s focal flaws can be best detected in the dialogue of the picture, I’m inclined to believe there are some hiccups with the dubbing.
In fact, this is probably some of the worst dubbing I’ve seen. It’s common fare to find stiff actors, it’s a completely different experience when the actors are great, but those enlisted to translate the picture via last minute overdub are stiffer than a 13 year old boy at 7 a.m. The whole ordeal feels like two entities battling each other, and the stellar onscreen performances are nearly muted by the nauseating English dubs. It’s all too damn conflicting, and there’s no other way to say it.
The story focuses on the legend of St. Nicholas, and in this particular rendition, the man has a vile history. See, rather than the generous image we typically manufacture here in the U.S., these Dutch fellas have concocted a dark, disturbing account of St. Nick, painting him as a plunderer of small villages and murderer of families (whenever the fifth of December happens to coincide with a full moon). After a dwindling community fights back and burns St. Nick alive, vengeance becomes the obvious path to travel. Folks aren’t going to dig their Christmas gifts anymore.
It’s actually a really fun idea to play with, and aesthetically the film is a fucking blast. There are some absolutely mesmerizing shots of Amsterdam, shrouded in a thick winter snowfall. Dick Maas and Guido van Gennep do a great job of making bright colors dance in contrast to the sleek black backgrounds of what should be joyous holiday nights. The visual effects are well-executed, fully engaging rather than obnoxious or embarrassing. A few fun nods are tossed in the mix, and while not every scene resonates, a quick tip of the hat to George Miller’s Mad Max, and a nice little tribute to Rick Rosenthal and John Carpenter’s Halloween II work quite well.
Dick Maas knows how to bring vibrant colors, terrific surroundings and fine set pieces to life. He’s also very, very capable of syphoning high caliber performances from relatively green performers. Unfortunately, I don’t think he had much control of the English dubbing process, and ultimately, that’s the pic’s greatest flaw. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be such a glaring weakness, but in this specific instance, it transforms what seems a solid script into an often convoluted mess. It sucks to see dubbing degrade impressive performances, but hey, it happens.
If you’re afforded the opportunity to catch this one with English subtitles, rather than dubs, I’d strongly, strongly recommend you seize the chance. It’s practically guaranteed to make for a drastically superior viewing experience. And even if the language barrier isn’t the deeply rooted problem, the movie still looks seriously awesome (the reason this one earns a 3-star rating rather than a 2.5) enough to hold the viewer’s attention.