Remember, remember the 5th of December! Have a bloody good holiday with “Sint”, an Amsterdam import that offers a new take on a Dutch tradition.
25 DAYS OF HOLIDAY HORROR (DECEMBER 5): SINT
These days, there’s no lack of holiday horror. From BLACK CHRISTMAS to KRAMPUS, from RARE EXPORTS to GREMLINS, you’ll be decking your halls with gore and bodies for most of the season. Yes, Christmas, now more than ever, has been well represented in the horror world. But not everyone celebrates Christmas in quite the same way.
For some, the real celebration is about chocolate letters, marzipan, and a bishop on a horse. For some, the fun is all on December 5th. And there’s plenty of fun to be had — as long as the 5th doesn’t fall on a full moon…
SINT rewrites the Netherlands tradition of Sinterklass, imagining the Bishop Saint Nick as a murderous pirate, killing those who do not pay him homage and accompanied by a barbarous crew of helpers called “Black Peters”. As the story goes, On December 5th during a full moon, the villagers fight back. They kill the pirates and set fire to Saint Nick’s ship. Saint Nick is burned to death.
500 years later, there’s a full moon on December 5th, and Saint Nick is back. Burned and horribly scarred, he kills adults and children alike with the help of his evil underlings. Only Frank, a local teenager, and Goert, a disgraced cop, believe the myth and work try to destroy Saint Nick once and for all.
There’s a bit of a learning curve for those of us not familiar with the customs of Sinterklass, and some cultural traditions that may be hard to choke down. The concept of Black Peters, originally Muslim slave traders, has Dutch teenagers dressing up in blackface alongside the standard Santa costume. Writer/Director Dick Maas has wisely made the real Black Peters ethnically ambiguous, their faces charred black from the fire.
SINT is at once foreign and extremely familiar.
The opening of present day intones shades of HALLOWEEN with the bad girl babysitter and her horrified best friend. From there, the tone shifts to a monster movie, complete with a vast countrywide conspiracy and demon horses falling onto cars. Such a shift makes the film uneven, although the sight of a bishop and his horse tearing through the rooftops of Amsterdam is something to behold.
Though the makeup is stellar, and the special effects formidable, by far my favorite scenes are the smallest ones. The pediatric ward of the hospital. The quiet hearthside of a rural cottage. A bored girl talking to her friend on the phone. These sequences are gleeful in their slasher sensibilities. Maas builds suspense simply but effectively. A muddy footprint. Some frightened livestock. Then pow! It’s an absolute delight to watch those intimate moments of holiday cheer end in carnage.