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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

DECEMBER 18, 2012

GENRE: HOLIDAY, SLASHER
SOURCE: STREAMING (NETFLIX INSTANT)

I really wish I loved Sint (aka Saint Nick in the US), because on paper it sounds like everything I could want from a holiday horror film: turning one of its icons into a murderer, removing the usual minimum age requirement on victims, and a structure that borrows a bit from Halloween (also: under 90 minutes). But the execution didn't quite live up to my imaginings, and while I still enjoyed watching it, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed that it ultimately wasn't the sort of kickass movie I'd be recommending to everyone I know in time for the holiday and adding to my yearly traditions - I'm just going to keep telling you to watch Inside, instead.

Before I continue, I should note that Netflix only offered the dubbed version of the film, and it was quite a bad one at that. Everyone had that weird detached sound you get out of poorly made video game cut-scenes, and many of the voices didn't seem to match the actor's appearance (that one bald, Bruce Willis-y looking guy in particular). So it's possible that it may have dampened my enjoyment somewhat, and Netflix really should offer both options if they want this service to eventually remove the need for physical discs entirely (and for the record, I usually prefer the dub, but this one was just shockingly bad).

But even in its native tongue I would have been bummed at how unfocused it was. Early on we meet a typical Final Girl like character, who sticks out from her group of friends (a more promiscuous girl, a trio of guys), but writer/director Dick Maas curiously sidelines her for almost an hour - she finds one of the others dead and then we don't really see her again until the movie's almost over. It's sort of refreshing to focus on a guy hero in one of these things (at times the character seems to be aping Jason Goes To Hell's Stephen, of all people), but I kind of missed her presence, especially since the "hero" was kind of a dick.

Also, it seems like one of those movies where they designed some setpieces (some better than others) and then figured out how to connect them later, which has never worked out (Mission: Impossible 2, aka the worst one in the series, was a famous example of this). There's a great bit where Nick is terrorizing from the rooftops as cars chase him below, but there's no real reason for it to exist, and it could be removed from the movie with barely even an effect on the continuity, let alone the plot. Likewise, the (superior) sequence where two of the three guys are offed is terrific, but it happens so quickly that we're not really invested in either of the other guys' lives, and mainly just seems to exist to give the hero a reason to be involved, which wouldn't be necessary had Maas not forgotten about his girlfriend.

It also takes time away from the movie's Loomis type character, a cop whose family was killed the last time Nick terrorized the area (he only comes out if there's a full moon on December 5th, which is less silly than Halloween 6's thorn constellation nonsense at least). He gets one of the best bits in the movie - blowing away a Christmas gift that he thinks is from Nick (and it also has a payoff, as his boss uses it as the "last straw" in forcing him on vacation) - but is also absent for stretches when we focus on the kid. Once they team up it's all good, but there's a little too much time spent getting everyone together.

Luckily, it has a lot more action than the usual slasher, as Nick has these demon henchmen things that actually do most of the killing, as he's more of a big boss type who will stand around looking awesome but stay out of the fray more often than not. The designs on these guys are pretty awesome (as is Nick's), and it was a nice surprise as I figured this would be more like Silent Night Deadly Night, with Nick showing up and killing off the teens one by one as the cop closed in. Hell it's barely even a slasher movie, more of a gory action flick, but I think that worked in its favor since we've seen the standalone "killer Santa" movie enough times for a while.

Plus I liked how much Maas seemed to be influenced by Carpenter. In addition to the Halloween stuff I already mentioned, the backstory is somewhat reminiscent of The Fog, and the cop teaming up with a "criminal" thing is Assault on Precinct 13-y (or Ghosts of Mars, if you're nasty). He also composed the film himself, it's shot in 2.35 like all Carpenter films, and there's a little bit of an anti-authority bent, so if they ever get that Escape From New York remake off the ground, maybe he should be given a crack at it - he's got the chops, and with a solid framework already in place, he might not be as susceptible to Nick's biggest issue - the spotty storytelling and occasional abandoning of key characters.

Of course, I say this like he's some new hotshot - the guy is almost as old as Carpenter himself, having been making films since the 70s (he gave us the 1983 killer elevator movie The Lift, as well as its 2001 remake and 1988's Amsterdamned, which I've been meaning to see for 20 years since reading about it in "Fangoria"). But hey, for a 60 year old guy, this is a pretty lively flick, and if he has followed in the footsteps of Carpenter and some others of that era, this should be one of his WEAKER films, no? If that's the case, I'm definitely up for seeing some more... just as long as they're in their native language.

What say you?

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