Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

I’m on a Scandinavian fantasy film kick. If you like unusual flicks, look no further than this Finnish gem by director Jalmari Helander. I’ve never seen a movie quite like it. It’s told from the perspective of young Pietari (Onni Tommila), who is a fanatic about Santa Claus. He reads creepy books with woodcut drawings that depict Santa as a horned evil entity not unlike the faun from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Pietari lives with his father adjacent to a dome-shaped fell in the Korvatunturi Mountains (Lapland, northern portion of Finland). His father herds and sells Reindeer with his buddies. Pietari is a good boy but hangs out with naughty Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) who smokes and cusses.

24 days before Christmas, an exploration firm logs 65 feet of sawdust approximately 1,300 feet into the rocky mass of the mountain. Ice is discovered below the sawdust. They are searching for something encased within the ice. The head of the exploration company gives his staff strict safety instructions: No smoking, no drinking, and no cursing. They create a deep circular shaft into the depths of the mountain and uncover what they are searching for.

Hundreds of reindeer are found slaughtered. Pietari finds human footprints in the snow. His father and friends are convinced the reindeer were killed by Russian wolves. Pietari knows better. They capture a strange skinny bearded man in a deadfall trap. The bearded man likes ginger bread cookies —he responds to Pietari’s presence. The old man bites people. Who is this old fart? This isn’t the Coca-Cola Santa Claus.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) boasts terrific cinematography, which benefits from gorgeous scenery and an equally impressive score. The film features an all male cast, which works for this film. Interesting, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) also features an all-male cast dealing with a thawed entity. There’s some effective CGI work which adds to the charm of the movie. I love films that aim to use special effects for deception. Because the film is presented from Pietari’s perspective, at times the movie reminded me a bit of Ishirō Honda’s under-rated kiddie flick All Monster’s Attack (1969). I wondered if this was Pietari’s dream. “Rare Exports” is not a kid’s film due to the profanity (and some nudity), but the story requires some bad language to get Santa stirred up.

This is an odd moody film and difficult to categorize. I’d lump it in the cult film category. It’s not comedy, but it is “black humor”. There are horror elements present. It’s a bit like a Guillermo del Toro flick. I liked this film a lot. The ending tanked a bit for me, but the quirky, off-beat story kept me entertained.

Thanks Troy.



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