This is the sort of demented horror brilliance that could only hail from Europe.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a Finnish film from director Jalmari Helander, presents its own warped take on the jolly Christmas saint. In this version, Santa Claus isn’t so nice. Hell, he’s downright nasty—and he means business.
Twitch Film—always reliable when it comes to finding the weirdest movies being released—has the trailer, and they describe the film as “a throwback to the dark children’s adventure films of the early 80s”. The movie will have its North American premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Hopefully it fares better than the Nazi zombie flick Dead Snow, which was another snow-based European indie horror-comedy with an ingenuous hook, but without the strong execution to back it up. Rare Exports at least looks to be more distinctive than that film, and the self-serious tone throughout the trailer gives me hope for a comedic horror outing that doesn’t feel the need to constantly remind the audience that it knows how ridiculous it is.
The trailer is below.
Director Jalmari Helander adapted the film from a couple of award-winning shorts he made, titled “Rare Exports Inc” and “Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions”. I’ve included those below.
“Rare Exports Inc”
“Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions”
The TIFF website has the official description for the film:
Way up north in Finland, right on the border with Russia, lies one of Santa Claus’s ostensible homes. For the last couple of months an international team of “archaeologists,” working for Subzero Inc. and led by a weird Brit (who bears an unsettling resemblance to the Nazi officer in Raiders of the Lost Ark), has been mysteriously digging away at a large hill, wreaking havoc on the environment.
The locals, mostly Samis and Laplanders, are furious. The annual reindeer round-up, which happens a few days before Christmas, has been ruined, dealing a devastating blow to the local economy. Especially annoyed is Rauno, a single father who’s struggling to make ends meet and deal with his imaginative, physically underdeveloped son, Pietari. Though he doesn’t totally fit in with the community, Pietari is insatiably curious and notices things that others don’t. Specifically, he’s realized that the dig is somehow related to Santa Claus, but this isn’t exactly the Santa from animated Christmas specials or nineteenth-century American doggerel. This Santa is, to put it mildly, a little harsher.
A modern-day take on one of our most cherished fantasies, Jalmari Helander’s Rare Exports (based on the highly touted shorts he made for and broadcast on the web) explores the moral universe of fairy tales and our relationship to them. The classic examples – those collected by the Brothers Grimm or written by Hans Christian Anderson – are characterized by a ruthless, grisly morality, one that feels too brutal for our collective ethos, but somehow still holds power over our unconscious. (Why exactly would someone as altruistic as Santa Claus work clandestinely?)
Jalmari Helander is well-versed in and respectful of the tradition he manipulates. Like classic fairy tales, Rare Exports boasts a lone parent with personal troubles, a child who’s perhaps too perceptive for his own good and an instantly identifiable villain. Told with just the right amount of gore, chill and humour, Rare Exports is a bracing fantasy that satirizes our attachment to the genre – our need to believe and propagate myth.