Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) (84 minutes)
Directed by Jalmari Helander.
Written by Jalmari Helander, Juuso Helander, Petri Jokiranta and Sami Parkkinen.
Starring Jorma Tommila, Onni Tommila and Peeter Jakobi.
Sometimes during the holiday season, the same nine or ten Christmas movies that appear on television can get quite stale. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale has a very different take on a Santa Claus than your typical holiday film, VERY different. As the film’s young protagonist Pietari says, “The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax.” In this movie, being on Santa’s naughty list gets you a far more severe punishment than just a lump of coal in your stocking.
The film is set in northern Finland and opens with a foreman of a drilling crew nervously asking about findings from deep within a mountain of ice. The American financier is excited and hands the foreman a laminated sheet that reads:
“No Smoking, No Drinking, No Cursing, No Loitering, No Cavorting, No Arguing.”
With a completely serious face, the financier tells the foreman, “These are your new safety instructions.” The viewer can already imagine a sort of Christmas-themed The Thing scenario and the suspense of an imminent encounter with what lies beneath the ice begins to grow from this very first scene.
Rare Exports focuses on a young boy named Pietari and his father Rauno, who is a struggling butcher in small town in the mountains of northern Finland. Pietari and his friend Jusso decide to spy on the mysterious drilling crew. The hole that the two boys cut in a barrier fence proves to be a fatal mistake after the crew’s foreman later breaks the rules and curses. On Christmas day, all of Pietari’s friends seem to be missing and his father Rauno discovers that something (or someone, rather) has fallen into his wolf trap he had set a few days prior. All hell breaks loose as the evil that was uncovered by the drillers begins to reveal itself.
The Santa Claus origin in Rare Exports is one that isn’t as jolly as other stories. In fact, this Santa is one that you would absolutely not want to come down your chimney on Christmas eve. According to legend, this Santa captures and brutally punishes all of the children who are naughty. Luckily, he was entombed in an icy prison when the villagers tricked him into running out onto thin ice. This block of ice was then buried under a mountain until it was unearthed by the greedy drillers. Santa’s “elves” are also not the sweet, rosey-cheeked halflings that are portrayed in other films either. Santa’s “little helpers” are hellbent on helping Santa find those on his naughty list. Rare Exports even features an origin story for shopping mall Santa Clauses that is simply too great to spoil here.
I watched this film on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. Similar to the recent film, Krampus, Rare Exports is a playfully dark Christmas story. The tone of the film is almost akin to an old fairy tale. Most movies with a similar tone fall flat because they are far too self-aware, the viewers almost feel as if the writers are sitting next to them whispering “Did you get it?” during every scene. Rare Exports pulls off what a lot of similar movies can’t in that it doesn’t rely on the ironic humor to carry the film. The film is not necessarily an A+ horror film or an instant classic Christmas film, but it is a well-executed movie with a wonderfully original story that is certain to entertain.