It’s that time of year again for the go-to rotation of tired Christmas films. Leave Home Alone on the shelf and check this out. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is one of the best Christmas horrors to be released. Ever.
The story is thrilling, interesting and exciting. Twists and turns along the way keep you constantly on your toes and the excellent cast keeps you invested. It’s a surprisingly smart take on Santa Claus and Christmas, one that doesn’t come across as a parody even though it has some well-placed humorous moments.
Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, the film is based on the 2003 short film “Rare Exports Inc.” and its 2005 sequel “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions.”
The film begins in Finland with a drilling team’s discovery of the resting place of who we endearingly call Santa Claus…more than 1,500 feet below the surface in a man-made mountain functioning as a tomb. A child witnessing this discovery rushes home for the opening credits, during which he researches “The Truth About Santa.”
That’s on the bookshelf of every Finnish household, right?
This ancient folklore-rich tome has all of the charming imagery of some anti-Bible. Its pages depict various devil-horned Santas as decrepitly ghoulish or frighteningly muscled, beating a child’s rear with a stick as it bleeds like a scourge-riddled Jesus-back, preparing Christmas stew by adding a dash of naughty child to a boiling cauldron, and similar such macabre.
A group of Finnish locals planning to harvest reindeer meat on Christmas Eve day finds the local herd slaughtered to such extremes that they question “what manner of wolf would do this?”
The young boy finds a bare footprint, human, beside a reindeer carcass. “He was hungry,” the boy thought. All the while the drilling team is being introduced to their precious “cargo” – which is still alive and, like a mogwai, comes with safety instructions whose consequences are significant.
“Rare Exports” is a very rare type of film indeed. It combines elements of “John Carpenter’s The Thing” and “Night Of The Living Dead” and any number of legitimate Christmas movies and weaves them into a funny and scary little parable about what the holiday means to children.
It’s even a sort of coming-of-age story as well because our hero, young Pietari, begins the film as a very innocent little waif who carries around his teddy bear and ends the film as the one person who figures out what is going on and also devises a way to stop Santa and his army of (very strange) elves from wreaking havoc worldwide.
Director/writer Jalmari Helander has done something special with this movie. He’s made what should be a perennial Christmas classic for horror fans that should appeal to non-horror fans as well.
His script is deadly serious even though the subject matter really can’t be taken seriously. It’s very foreboding at times, but it’s also very funny as well. All of the actors take the material very seriously also. I can’t imagine how they were able to keep such straight faces during some (purposely) ridiculous scenes.
The ending is reminiscent of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” in a sense. But all of these pieces fit perfectly in the story. There’s not a false note spoken in the script at all and in the end it all makes sense in a ridiculous sort of way.
It’s really hard to describe the film any more than I have without ruining it for you. But trust this film snob when I tell you it is like no Christmas movie you’ve ever seen before.
Find Tim Bynum online at thefilmsnob.reviews and on Instagram & Facebook: @the_filmsnob.