A Finnish film with the odd bit of English dialogue, Rare Exports is a Christmas movie with elements of mythological horror to it, directed by Jalmari Helander (Big Game), based on a short film of his named “Rare Exports Inc.” from 2003. If you’re after something that little bit different in your festive films this season, then this might just do it for you, because if this film is anything, it is different.
It’s Christmas time in Finland and the ground is covered with thick white snow and ice. Ahhhh, lovely. I feel Christmassy already. A group of archaeologists are on a dig, financed by some sort of corporation, to exhume the original Santa Claus who is buried beneath a big ole mountain. A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) finds out what is being dug out of the mountain and so he begins to take precautions which include wearing hefty hockey gear, carrying a gun around and taping some thick cardboard to his backside. His father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila), is a hunter who makes his living from hunting deer and selling them on. When children begin to disappear from the local area and hundreds of deer are found slaughtered and half-eaten, the hunters begin to investigate what is going on, with their concern being due to the money they will lose out on due to the deer being killed and left to rot. They initially blame the archaeologists, but when they find a scrawny, wild-eyed and bearded man, Pietari tells them that they have found Santa, and so they decide to put Santa in a cage and sell him back to the corporation as a way to get the money they lost on the deer-hunting debacle. We soon realise that the Santa they they have in captivity isn’t really Santa at all, but merely one of hundreds of his elves who will do anything to free their leader, a gigantic horned creature who is frozen in a block of ice in a warehouse. With children all bagged up to feed to their not-so-jolly superior, it is up to Pietari, his father, and their fellow hunters to try to solve the situation, save the children and stop the horde of hundreds of naked bearded elves from defrosting Santa Claus and unleashing his mythological demon-ness upon the world.
Now, if you’ve got your head around that synopsis, and you actually believe me that this is actually what the film is about, then let’s get to the review portion. The performances here are top notch in the sense that it all played straight down the line, seriously, and as if this were actually happening. It reminded me in some ways of Dead Snow with its elements of humour, completely insane storyline, and serious way that the characters attempt to confront the situation, regardless of how irrational it is. Oh, and there’s snow. Lots of snow. The creepy Santa-elves add the horror element to the film, as well as the scenes in which the lead character, the young Pietari, is investigating the history of Santa, looking through books which portray him as a demonic presence with horns who punished children, and even eats them. It’s a really unique take on a Christmas movie, that’s for damn sure. The locations are great and the story just goes from preposterous to bizarre to more preposterous and more bizarre as it goes-on, and that is part of the fun here. If you want something completely bonkers but fresh, then this will tick those boxed, surely.
There were moments where I thought that the build-up was being dragged out too much, leaving less time for the craziness to ensue, and I was also a tad disappointed that we didn’t get to see a certain big something towards the end of the movie. I won’t go deep into that, because I don’t want to spoil things. The horror side of things was very subtle, something I had expected to see more of really, but that’s okay. I did have fun here, and I was impressed with the visuals as well as the story itself, which when you actually think about it, is pretty creepy and unsettling. Santa is a jolly, friendly, happy and giving soul, but what if he wasn’t? What if he came out on the 24th of December and spent the night abducting the naughty children of the world, punishing them, and feeding on them? Now, that’s the stuff of childhood nightmares.
Various laugh-out-loud moments, some genuinely creepy concepts, and locations that look great, Rare Exports is that little something unique for your pile of annual Christmas flicks. It isn’t done that often, so when someone makes a film like this, it is definitely worth taking 90 minutes of your time to check out. Make sure you’re not on the naughty list this year, that’s all I can say. Sheesh.