Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale





You may have seen stills from this film you may have read a synopsis or two but trust me, you don’t have a clue what this is.  I saw the damn thing at the Abertoir Horror Fest and I’m still having difficulties pinning it down.

The closest film in spirit I can bring to mind is Gremlins: a kids film that’s not really for kids, a horror yarn that’s not really horriffic, a Christmas movie that’s not really about Christmas.  So if it’s not those things, what is it?  Well, apart from being an absolute blast, it’s the story of Pietari, a bright young lad who lives with his dad in a remote village in Lapland.  Trouble starts brewing when an archaeological dig nearby uncovers an ancient grave.  In a short space of time something slaughters the reindeer herd – ruining the livelihood of the frontiersmen and, horribly, it might all be Pietari’s fault.  Worse yet, someone or something seems to be spying on him.  Then his father discovers a skinny old man in their wolf trap and a daring plan is formed to try to save the community.  Pietari has a nasty feeling that there’s more to the old man than meets the eye, though.  It’s just possible that the real Santa Claus has come to town, and the old stories paint him as something altogether more terrifying than a jolly old fat man bringing presents to the kiddies.

If this all sounds a bit cornball to you, then have no fear.  They could easily have gone for gross-out splatter or toungue-in-cheek parody, but the filmmakers raise it far above the B-movie concept.  The story is joyously quirky yet the director plays pretty straight with the lead characters.  You totally believe in their lives and understand the plight they are in when the herd is killed.  Pietari’s father is played beautifully, a study of self restraint and gentle grief.  Careworn, hardworking and intelligent, he is the natural leader of the group and the one who comes up with the Plan.  I suspect the actor is a film star in his native country, at least if he isn’t already he ruddy well should be.  The children also do a phenomenal job.  Best friend Piiparinen, has the right mixture of bravado and uncertainty of the early teens, whilst the actor behind Pietari absolutely nails the precociousness, determination and imagination of a ten year old boy on the look out for adventure.

The movie begins with an English language section at the excavation site, easing  the sub-title-phobic viewers in before switching focus to the spying local children.  It’s a neat device and I found myself quickly forgetting the fact that this is largely a foreign language film.  The characters are vividly drawn and easily recognisable and I think the sense of humour translates brilliantly.  Although I could see an American remake in the pipeline, the joy of this kind of film for me is the cultural difference woven into its fabric.  Whilst there are touchstones you can recognise the filmmakers have different points of reference, alternative ways of telling their story, building character and getting information across which keeps things surprising, funny and a little creepy.  What hollywood studio can you think of that would greenlight a picture in which hundreds of naked old beardies run at the audience?  That’s an image that won’t leave your mind for a while, I can tell you!

It’s not pitch perfect the whole time.  The CorporateVillian (TM) is a bit of a hammy distraction at the start and some of the action-movie moments towards the end ring a little false but by that time you’ll be so caught up in the fun that you just won’t care.

It’s a cracking movie and well worth seeking out.  Check out the trailer on IMDB and the two short films on YouTube (Rare Exports Inc and Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions) and tell me you don’t love this already.


Reviewed by Dion Winton-Polak

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