If you’ve ever been disturbed by the idea of an overweight man (who’s been observing your behavior for the past year) sneaking into your home when you’re asleep to leave you things he thinks you want, then prepare yourself for a severe spike on the Santa Claus Creep-o-Meter when you watch Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. It’s a Yule-tide tale so harrowing, you’ll think twice before you hang up your stockings this year.
In American pop culture imagery, we usually see our beloved Santa flying through the sky in a glorified sleigh led by a team of airborne reindeer en route to deliver presents to everyone who has been good this year. But this dark Finnish fantasy film shows a bloodthirsty side of Mr. Claus you don’t want to see in your living room. This version of Saint Nicholas may as well be a spawn from the depths of hell, eating little children who’ve been bad. Let’s just say finding coal in your stocking is the least of your problems if you land on the naughty list. However, it’s undeniable that this demented depiction of one of our favorite holiday heroes breathes fresh air into the hackneyed holiday film genre.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is based on director Jalmari Helander’s short films, Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions (2005). It is set in the Korvatunturi mountains in northern Finland, where an archaeological dig exhumes the real Santa Claus who has been preserved in a block of ice. The film follows Pietari, the 10-year-old protagonist, whose moments of childlike wonder are balanced out with a savvy sense of intuition. He realizes that the town is in danger, before anyone else knows what’s going on, and decides it’s time to do something about it.
The film draws you in immediately, without too much expository excess and the beautiful scenes are filled with colossal mountains and pristine, gleaming snow that offset the dark nature of what takes place in this winter wonderland. But if you don’t like geriatric nudity, don’t see this film. Santa’s elves aren’t exactly the cute, pointy-eared characters you’re used to seeing in cartoons.
If you’re looking for a heart warming Christmas movie, Rare Exports isn’t it. Granted, it has it’s uplifting moments, and there are definitely scenes that will have you laughing, but the whole of the film is more bizarre than your typical holiday fare. But strangely enough, Rare Exports has the trappings of a twisted holiday film that might just become a cult classic.