Christmas Horror: Rare Exports

Oh, the horror of Christmas. 

"Look son!
There be hookers at the North Pole."
Like a fresh blanket of snow on Christmas morning, there's a magical element to Rare Exports. While it may lack the gore that saturates most horror films, the story is very dark, like a holiday version of a Grimm's fairy tales. In the tradition of films such as The Goonies and The Never Ending Story, Rare Exports puts a child through a series of adult situations. There are few comedic moments as writer/ director Jalmari Helander tells his somber holiday tale with a serious approach.

When a young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommili) discovers a secret archeological dig in the Korvatunturi Mountains of Finland, he fears the team may have discovered the ancient grave of Santa Clause. The Santa Clause in question isn't the popular Coca-Cola Santa inspired by Clement Clark Moore's 1832 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas." In Rare Exports, the Helander brothers adapt the dark and mystical tales of European folklore, incorporating the more sinister side of Saint Nicolas.

There is an old world charm to the holiday setting of this film. The movie isn't saturated with an abundance of Christmas decorations, and the limited decor gives the holiday setting a simplistic approach, reinforcing the importance of the holiday as a result. This works well with the story, especially between Pietari and his father. These scenes have a lot of heart, as viewers are introduced to a man dealing with loss and struggling to raise his coming of age son without a mother. There is a nervous emphasis on Christmas tradition as a result. To maintain the value of family, and more important, normality.

"Don't f--- with the man in red and white."
The film has a nice flow, and it doesn’t take long for the story to establish. Helander does a great job building anticipation. It's like a present with your name on it that is placed under the Christmas tree two weeks early. The Finnish landscape provides a beautiful holiday setting for this story, properly setting the mood for this tale of holiday mystery. The lack of humor only adds to the dark storyline as viewers are introduced to the long lost origin of Father Christmas. The ending has some beautifully choreographed scenes. While there are a few CGI dominate moments, the scenes are brief, and do not distract from the quality of the film. It is also important to remember the lead character is only a child, and only so much can be safely reenacted behind the camera. The soundtrack mirrors the film. For a holiday inspired movie, the music is very moody, and composer Juri Seppa's chose to write a completely original score rather than adapting traditional yuletide carols. This further strengthens the film's originality from other Christmas inspired films of terror.

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Rare Exports is a strange yet wonderful film. It's a fascinating tale with an equally original ending that only adds to the mysticism of the film. It’s a nice collaborative effort by all involved. Although the film's star is a child, it may not be appropriate for children who are still sending letters to the North Pole and leaving out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.


-Lee L. Lind