“He’s making a list and checking it twice; he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice”…Santa Claus is coming to town in Jalmari Helander’s creepy Finnish fantasy Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), released this week on DVD and Blu-ray. The premise is a very unique and enjoyable twist on the Santa Claus myth that draws on Finnish traditions of St. Nicholas and completely debunks the largely glossy, Coca Cola-swigging, commodified Father Christmas that has saturated modern culture.
Deep in the Korvatunturi mountains of Finland, a mining company begins an excavation funded by a mysterious figure, promising one of the greatest finds in human history. Looking on at the project is a young boy, Pietari (Onni Tommila), who comes to learn that what they are actually searching for is the real Santa Claus. Hairdryers, radiators and – most worryingly of all – children begin to go missing in Pietari’s village. Met with these disturbing facts, Pietari and his father realise that what has been unearthed does not come to spread good will to all mankind.
The problem with Rare Exports is that it relies too heavily on the strength of its central idea of inverting Santa, whilst ignoring plot holes and a disjointed narrative. This absence of a great story really lets the overall film down. With such a strong concept, you would expect a strong story to go with it.
The special effects are also problematic, particularly in the scenes of the mining excavation and the closing helicopter sequence. Yet, this is not a film to be taken too seriously. Rare Exports should be taken for what it is – namely, an enjoyable offbeat horror offering a quirky take on a classic myth with some entertaining ideas.
If you don’t go in expecting anything too complex, you may well find Helander’s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale easy viewing and great fun. It will certainly make a great antidote for those dealing with an over-saturation of goodwill from the usual Christmas fare of Miracle on 34th Street (1994) (on a quick aside watch the much superior 1947 version) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) because – as good as they are – we all need a little down time from decking the halls.