Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010 1hr 24 mins)
As we prepare for Christmas, with eggnog, presents, The Sound of Music (which I love), and a lovely Christmas tree, some of us forget the scary, age-old traditions and lore of this popular holiday. In the Victorian era, telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was common practice, and Christmas itself is rife with watered down pagan traditions of Yule and the Winter Solstice, as well as the many versions of Santa Claus.
One of these versions comes to us in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. The director, Jalmari Helander, expanded two incredibly popular short films he created in 2003 and 2005 that were originally gifts for clients. This is my new Christmas fave, and I hope he comes out with more material soon, because this movie is pretty brilliant. A word of warning: if you plan on seeing this movie, please don’t watch the shorts beforehand. They are huge spoilers to the feature film.
In rural Lapland, a hunter Rauno (Jorma Tommila) and his son Pietari (Onni Tommila), prepare for 2 things: Christmas and the big round-up. Each event has its problems. Christmas is not exactly joyous for the duo as Pietari’s mother is no longer with them, and also because Pietari does his research and finds out Santa isn’t as nice as everyone thinks. The big round-up has a lot riding on it as the local hunters need to capture as many reindeer as they can to make money from the meat. This is their main source of income for the winter months. Only problem is a mysterious excavation of the nearby mountain may have disrupted the amount of reindeer expected. And Pietari thinks it has also unleashed that not-so-nice Santa. He feels responsible because earlier, he and his friend cut a hole in a fence to the site so they could watch the workers blow up the mountain. He is certain that nasty Santa came through and will terrorize the village.
When the hunters find a mass slaughter of reindeer, they blame the excavation for the hole in the fence and wolves for the slaughter, and head up the mountain to bust some heads. What they find is an abandoned site, which leads to a series of bizarre events, started by Pietari’s father discovering a naked, filthy, blood-thirsty Santa-like man who is appeased by gingerbread and the smell of children. What they soon find is that Santa has some naked, nasty friends that start taking the village’s children and, um, heating implements. Pietari feels terribly guilty and wants to put things right. This kid is a mini Finnish Bruce Willis. He dons his gay apparel of hockey helmet and padding, and his cherubic face is grimly set as he battles the Christmas baddies. And the trio of hunters who want payback are pretty bad ass too, in a bumbling hilarious kind of way. I can’t tell you anymore because it will give too much away. I’ll only say that it reminds me of all the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and it focuses on the Finnish legend of Joulupikki. I love that the setting is in Lapland, where the original Santa’s Village is located, and we get a taste of the O.G. Santa! You must watch this film because it is, to me, the best action/horror/comedy Christmas movie I have seen in a long time. Actually, I think it’s the only action/horror/comedy Christmas movie I have seen of its kind!
Have a Merry, Scary Christmas!!
Most Memorable Line: When the excavation crew hot-foot it off the mountain, the foreman screams into his walkie “Don’t you understand, the “cargo” still has a pulse!”
Most Memorable Scene: It’s actually the last set of scenes, but I can’t tell you about them. My close second shows Pietari stapling the door to December 24th shut on his advent calendar. Just making sure that Christmas doesn’t come and that bloodthirsty Santa doesn’t make it in. (This is also a clever clue to some later action!)