James Reviews Jalmari Helander’s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale [Theatrical Review]

“This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.” 

Before going into the screening for Rare Exports, all I knew about the film was the following: It had an evil Santa Claus. It was a horror comedy. It was from Finland. And Oscilloscope were the ones that picked this film up for American distribution. Usually I’ll check the trailer or read tons of news, but this was a rare time for me, going in almost blindly to a film that still intrigued me. It made me feel like I was a kid again. And after leaving the screening, I still had that sort of nostalgic glee because Rare Exports is the type of killer Santa Claus movie this world needs today.

It’s Christmas Eve and at the top of Korvatunturi mountain, a great discovery has been made. The original Santa Claus has been found and you better be nice. If you’re naughty, you won’t live for much longer. We also have a young boy who has been researching about Santa Claus, seeing the signs of the evil Saint coming to his window and trying to warn the others but nobody wants to listen to a young kid. All the reindeer have been slaughtered, which is the town’s only source of money, the alpha males decide to go to the site where the Americans have been blasting the ground, because they must be to blame. And then we get a naked old man who falls into a wolf trap the boy’s father set up and that’s when things get very strange. The old man isn’t dead. He’s gaining his strength back, loving the smell of gingerbread and children. Is this Saint Nick, ready to wreak havoc on the world again?

To tell you anymore would truly spoil the film and the mystery it unfolds throughout. The movies looks beautiful with some of the best sound design in a film I’ve heard in awhile. The reason why the movie works is because everyone is taking the film as seriously as possible, with a wink every so often to let us know that the film has that underlying humor. It’s kind of like Dead Snow, but instead of Nazi zombies we have an evil Santa Claus. It’s also a sign that other countries are starting to take over the mantle for genre films again. Some of the best horror is coming out of Europe, Australia and Asia right now, and as a film fanatic it makes me a happy camper.

This film feels like a throwback to Fred Dekker and Joe Dante’s films for kids and grownups alike. Films such as The Monster Squad and Gremlins were films that had all the scares you needed to keep the horror fans at bay but were a great gateway into that genre for the young ones as well. Ever since the whole landscape of the ratings system made those films all but obsolete, I was one of those fans hoping there would be films in theaters that my future kids could enjoy like I did. Rare Exports balances this all too well, a sly humor throughout without breaking that smile, even when the scary bits come through.

I tend to go for the atypical Christmas fare when it comes to film and music, and this film fits that bill perfectly. It throws the red suited fat man in the grave and gives us what we all secretly knew about Santa Claus. He’s an evil child killer, who doesn’t give you toys but instead torture, torment and ultimately death. Even in such horrible times, the father and son in this film have a broken bond, stemming from a mother lost, and this crisis does bring them together. And that’s what a Christmas film should have sometimes. It never loses that heart we associate with the holidays and Helander is giving the audience a film that will resonate with our inner children.



And watch the original shorts the film are based on.




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