My Netflix Queue is Outrageous 6: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports Poster

I’m not anti-Christmas, exactly, I love the frenzied gift hunt and ensuing exchange that takes place every year.  It’s the only thing that makes winter worth enduring.  But when it comes to Christmas-themed entertainment I usually couldn’t be less interested.  The music is awful, the movies are mostly bland and boring, and I can’t even summon up the barest hint of nostalgic love for the old stop-motion Rankin-Bass specials anymore.  Even the holiday-themed horror movies have grown tired.  I mean, how many times can anyone possibly enjoy the same old retread of the “a bunch of people get murdered around Christmas and sometimes the killer is dressed like Santa” routine?  For many years, the only movies I will accept as part of the annual “Christmas spirit” process have been Die Hard, Home Alone, and Gremlins.  End of list.  Thanks to Netflix, I have been assured that it’s not this hopeless everywhere in the world, and unique Christmas entertainment does exist.  At least, it does in Finland.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale delves into some territory that I’m surprised isn’t exploited more often.  Given a rich mythological history in which Saint Nicholas is said to have performed feats including but not limited to turning meat pies back into the dead children from which they were made, and in which he has bested opponents ranging from demons to Greek gods in single combat, it’s a sad state of affairs when American screenwriters can’t come up with anything scarier than “mall Santa gone awry”.  In this film, writer/director Jalmari Helander casts Santa as an ancient demon who hunted and killed naughty children until he was eventually sealed away by distraught parents.  Encased in a giant block of ice and buried under rocks that eventually became a mountain, the real Santa fell into obscurity and gave way to the benevolent “Coca-Cola Santa” we celebrate today.

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The film opens with a team of American excavators digging into the top of a mountain, under the pretense of conducting seismological research.  They hit something unusual, at which time the man funding the dig issues a new set of rules for the crew: No Several days later, the locals embark on the annual reindeer hunt which will sustain their small community for the year to come, only to find that their quarry has already been slaughtered en masse.  They blame the diggers and their explosions for driving wolves down from the mountains, but a single young boy named Pietari knows the truth: Santa Claus has been awakened from his long slumber, and nobody is safe.  Pietari’s precautions against the impending Santa attack range from the esoteric to the practical; he not only staples shut the final window on his advent calendar, but also places a bear trap in the fireplace for good measure.  The unusual nature of the situation when compared to other horror films does a lot to muffle the usual “Why won’t anyone listen to him?” that is the focal point of my thought process during any horror film involving children.  I’ve seen enough of these things to trust a kid who says his dreams are trying to kill him, but an ancient and slumbering holiday evil is a hard sell, and it’s believable when said kid just takes matters into his own hands.

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It’s probably important to note that Rare Exports isn’t a pure horror film, in the strictest sense.  It seems to be more of a horror/comedy hybrid that I’m sure loses a fraction of the comedy in translation.  Imagine watching Zombieland without understanding the language or knowing what a Twinkie is (was?), and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.  It’s one of those rare films that comes along where I feel like I might be missing something here and there due to the subtitling, but it’s unique enough that I give it the benefit of the doubt.  It’s incredibly refreshing to see a movie take Santa lore in a new direction, and even more so to see a Christmas-themed genre movie that aspires to greater heights than “killer in a Santa suit”.  If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to get you in the holiday spirit this year, I honestly couldn’t recommend anything better than this.  When  Hollywood starts mining the work of others to come up with a new and daring Christmas product for American audiences, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rare Exports is one of the first things they remake.

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About Ryan Searles

I like watching movies, and then talking about those movies. Sometimes I write things about them, which you should read. Other interests include boxed wine, video games, the works of Harlan Ellison and HG Wells, and being a general curmudgeon.

Posted on December 12, 2012, in Movies, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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