December 5, 1492. Former bishop Niklas and his gang have gotten away with too much. The villagers have had it up to here with their antics, like looting and killing, so they kill them off. Yet for every year after that coincides with a full moon, they return as ghosts with murderous intent.
The film then inverts all the holiday traditions of the Netherlands: Sinterklass is not a jolly fat man, he’s a killer with a sharp staff that he won’t hesitate to use. His elves, the Zwarte Pieten, don’t have faces blackened from the soot of chimneys, but instead they have been burned alive.
The last time the real Sinterklass came back was in 1968 and hundreds of people were killed, including the family of Goert, who is now a policeman. That traumatic event has been covered up by the authorities and the Catholic Church, who want Saint Nick to remain pure.
With another full moon coming, Goert tries to ban all Sinterklaas events and increasing police manpower, but he’s laughed off and sent on leave. But of course, Sinterklass arrives and brings horror with him.
Directed by Dick Maas (The Lift, Amsterdamned), the film looks gorgeous, with a crushed black color palette and really intriguing angles. If a gore movie can be lush, then by all means, this is it. The scene where Sinterklass reveals himself to the children in the hospital, as well as a chase across the rooftops with Sinterklass on a horse, are just plain gorgeous. As we watch the evil saint fall through floor after floor of a building, then onto a police car, then stalk the hero, it really gets across just how frightening the villain is.
Even watching the film in its native language, I was easily able to define the storytelling and stayed interested throughout. It was interesting to learn of another Christmas myth and then see the more malevolent side of it.