Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Directed by: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
19th-century fairy tales, for many years, have been the source of a lot of material for Western film-makers, most notably the Disney adaptations of “The Little Mermaid”, “The Snow Queen” (“Frozen”), “Sleeping Beauty” and more. Most of these works come from either Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm and the stories have been softened to a certain degree to make them more family friendly.
“Rare Exports”, whether intentional or not, aims to return the favour and takes the “legendary figure of Western Culture” (Wikipedia) in Santa Claus and recasts him in a way that John Carpenter would be proud of. Parts of the film are actually quite reminiscent of “The Thing”, and even though it predates it by six years this makes for an excellent companion piece to this year’s hit Netflix series “Stranger Things” except with a much darker, uniquely Nordic black sense of humour.
The idea of a malevolent Santa has roots in the Krampus legend, but director/writer Jalmari Helander decides to amalgamate the two into the creature that we see for most of the film. To keep this as spoiler free as possible, the basic plot is this: In Lapland, an excavation crew have come across something strange on the mountain. Under orders, they continue to dig and dynamite the site to see what it is they’ve found. It’s after this, on Christmas Eve, that strange things start to happen. Convinced that there’s a perfectly rational explanation for the occurrence, a father and son team Rauno and Pietari attempt to trap whatever is terrorising the locality.
If there’s one thing that Nordic/Scandinavian films and TV shows do well, it’s the bleakness of a land completely covered in snow and the feeling of pure isolation associated with it. When you throw in a horror movie creature to the mix, it makes it all the more terrifying because there’s nobody around to help when everything goes to hell. We’ve seen this with “Let the Right One In” and TV’s “Fortitude”, and it’s on display here in spades. The fractured relationship between father and son is well played by the two leads and while there are serious moments, the tone of the film never shifts from it’s cleverly played black comedy/horror style.
While “Rare Exports” might be a difficult title to track down (it’s not on Netflix UK and Ireland, nor is it scheduled anywhere over Christmas – as far as I can see), it’s definitely worth the effort. At 82 minutes, if flies by and the quirky premise doesn’t have time to outstay it’s welcome. It’s funny, creepy and so well shot that you can feel the cold in your bones. You better watch out.