When creating a Christmas-themed horror film there are certainly a lot of different approaches you can take. Perhaps the most interesting and unconventional though, is the storyline for the Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, which goes far beyond the standard Santa-themed slasher to bring you a story that is relentlessly bizarre and incredibly engaging.
High in the Korvatunturi mountains a foreign company unearths the ancient, frozen body of the original Santa Claus. However, this creature is a far cry from the jolly, westernized version of the endlessly generous elf that we’ve all come to know. This Santa doesn’t just give presents, he also demands the blood of the children who have misbehaved and with his army of creepy elves at his command he’s sure to get it. Now, it’s up to a young boy (Onni Tommila) and a small band of reindeer hunters to try and save Christmas, and the world, from Santa Claus.
While the idea of Santa as a demonic, otherworldly creature that rewards good children and severely punishes the bad may seem strange to many American moviegoers it certainly wasn’t created in a vacuum. The film itself was actually preceded by two shorts by writer/director Jalmari Helander Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions (2005). It also draws inspiration from classic figures of European Christmas mythology such as Joulupukki and Krampus.
Right from the opening scene it’s clear that this is a well-made film. Despite the very modest budget of 1.8 million Euros it boasts gorgeous cinematography, flawless performances and high production values. As the wonderfully strange story unfolds, Helander immerses the audience in the bizarre and surreal world he has created with well-defined, unconventional characters and an unpredictable plot that will hold your attention throughout. This is a clear example of an artist-driven project that was created without the kind studio tampering so prevalent in Hollywood films, which is why this is far more entertaining than the cheap clutter that litters much of the American box offices year after year.
Now, I should mention that this is by no means a straight horror film but rather a bloody, genre-blending mix of horror, fantasy, thriller and comedy elements that make for a unique experience that is well worth the time. So, strap on your kengät and put the Reikäleipä in the oven because it’s time to indulge in some quality entertainment from the land of reindeer. A rare export indeed.