Rare Exports : A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a fantastic Christmas horror film produced in Finland in 2010. Written and directed by Jalmari Hedlander, and loosely drawing from the German legends of Krampus, the film is a sub-titled treat for all of us horror fans sick of seeing the same old Santa slashers over and over again.
Based on an original short film called “Rare Exports Inc.”, conceived by Mr. Hedlander in 2003, this fantastic feature takes a great twist on the tale of Santa Claus filled with dark humor and clever characters.

The film opens with scenes of a team of workers directed by a scientist, drilling into the center of a huge mountain on the Finnish/Russian border. Upon the strange discovery of sawdust deep in the mountain, the scientist gives an inspiring speech, describing to the blue-collar diggers that they are in fact standing on a “sacred burial ground”. He orders them to wash behind the ears, watch their language, and ready the dynamite to rob this grave.
They are ordered to keep digging and adhere to a strict set of rules.

Young Pietari and his friend Jusso witness this after sneaking into the restricted area where the diggers are working over-time. Pietari is a precocious and tough young motherless lad, who thinks nothing of wandering around pants-less in the snow toting a rifle.
He still believes in the legend of Santa Claus, but his research has dug up more sinister stories of Saint Nicholas…

Pietari tells Jusso that the real Santa Claus tears naughty kids to pieces, until not even their skeletons are left. Through his research, Pietari has learned that the Sami people got angry with his grinch-like behavior and lured ancient Santa out onto the ice. When it broke beneath him, trapping him in the frozen lake, the villagers waited until summer then dug out the huge block of ice and buried it under a huge pile of rocks.
That pile of rocks eventually became the Korvatunturi Mountain, the very same mountain being dynamited and pick-axed.

Soon, strange things begin to happen.
Local children start disappearing, and household items like hair-dryers and are coming up missing all over the village.
Pietari’s family business revolves around the herding and butchering of reindeer, and the seasons crop turns up slaughtered and mutilated.
Footprints appear outside Pietari’s window.
An illegal wolf-trap outside of Peitari’s fathers house springs and catches a strange trespasser…

The film goes wild from here on out, turning into an oddball mix of comedy, slow dread, and gleeful weirdness. Pietari’s father and his blue-collar buddies are tough and resourceful men, and only want what is owed to them, so they of course concoct a scheme to make back the money they lost from the reindeer.
Things do not go according to plan.
I really don’t want to spoil the interesting twists and turns of the second half of the story, so here is a quick look

I had a great time with this film. It strikes a precarious balance between goofy goodness and serious storytelling. The cinematography is great, especially in the climactic scenes where young Pietari takes charge and becomes the man with the plan.
The only small gripe I might have is with the uneven tone of the film as a whole. The first third has a whimsical fantasy tone with a touch of underlying darkness that Tim Burton’s films used to have.  The second half goes pretty dark, as the main characters decide their course of action in a working-class way, and the creepy “Santas” are a pretty disturbing image. Then the climactic scenes feel like they were shot by Steven Spielberg (with a lot more old man cock involved), complete with a swelling orchestral score. Finally, we are left with the great punchline of the film, which is lifted directly from the original short films you can watch below.
All in all, this is a great foreign flick to watch this time of year, maybe in a dark holiday marathon sandwiched between Gremlins and the original Black Christmas.
Check in here to Watch Your Language in the future for more features on great foreign films you should look into, if you are not afraid to read a little…
Grade : B+

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the film was inspired by the director’s own short film, Rare Exports Inc. However, the feature film kind of works in reverse of the shorts, building up to what you see in the great short films embedded below.
If you have not yet seen the actual film, I would recommend checking that out first, then coming back here to dig in to the shorts. Watching the shorts first may lessen your appreciation of the “punchline” of the actual movie, in my opinion. The choice is yours!
Check it out right here :

And, for your further enjoyment, the very awesome 2005 sequel short, “Safety Instructions”. What you are about to see now may traumatize you for life, but the story must be told…

 

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