#257 -- 13 Days of Creepmas Day 11: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Director: Jalamari Helander
Contains some spoilers
Today brings us another foreign film that focuses on the myth of Santa Claus. It's a little different from the last one I reviewed, Saint Nick, but at the same time it's very similar. The myth behind jolly 'ol Saint Nick is that he was actually a monster. He would punish naughty children by boiling them in a cauldron, or ripping them to shreds so that absolutely nothing remained. After a while, villagers grew tired of him, so they led him to his death by burying him underneath some ice. When winter was over, they dug up the ice block he was encased in and buried it underneath a bunch of rocks. In modern day Finland, that burial mound is known as the Korvatunturi Mountains. When a group of excavators unearths the ancient burial ground, they unleash with it a horde of strange beings.
The story focuses on a young boy, Pietari, and his father, a local reindeer herder. Pieterari and his friend witnessed the beginning of the excavation, and Pietari became obsessed with the legend behind Santa Claus. He did some research and learned of his evil ways, and when all of his friends started disappearing, he was certain that Santa had returned to punish those who had been naughty. His father found a sickly old man trapped in a wolf pit, and Pietari was sure it was Santa Claus. Later on in the movie, we learn that he was only one of Santa's elves, and that the real true form of Santa was far more disturbing.
I went into this expecting a horror movie and, if you've already watched it, you probably did too. That's what we were meant to think. But if you haven't yet seen it, don't be mistaken. It's not a horror movie. There are some elements of horror, though I'm stretching it a bit just so I can justify having it on my horror movie blog. It could be categorized as a fantasy/horror, but mostly it's just fantasy. It's almost child-friendly, if not for all the old men running around naked.
The movie was filmed beautifully, a trait I find pretty much synonymous with foreign movies. The scenery was beautiful, and it definitely looked good. The legend behind Santa Claus was interesting, but that is nothing new. I'm always interested in stories that take something familiar, and twist it up until it becomes completely foreign. The relationship between Pietari and his father was also interesting. You could definitely see love there, though they did seem a little distant, and I found myself feeling certain that the death of Pietari's mother had something to do with that (though they never relayed the whereabouts of his mother, I simply assumed). The "elf" they found in the wolf pit was certainly disturbing, and not only because he was a gross, naked old man. He didn't speak, hardly ever moved, and he piqued my interest.
I'm going to start with something fairly simple. If you, like me, cannot stand animal violence (or carcasses) in any way, shape, or form, there are some parts of this movie you'll find offensive. One is the pig's head Pietari's father hangs up as bait for some wolves. The other is the rest of the pig, which Pietari's father hacks up in his barn. Another is the hundred-some reindeer that are slaughtered which is the first sign that something in the village is amiss.
I understand that it's part of the story, and I'm not mad about it. But it was definitely something that I didn't want to see.
Old-man balls. If you're opposed to full-frontals, especially those of really old men, then..yeah, you'll have some issues.
And my biggest issue...The true form of Santa. I was so intrigued by this, and I so desperately wished to see it. When they finally discovered him, he was still encased in ice. It was huge, and the only thing we could see of it were the two giant horns protruding from it. Does that sound bad-ass, or what? I'm not sure what he was exactly, but I'm guessing he was some sort of giant, ancient Minotaur or something. Or at least, I'd like to believe that because Minotaurs are awesome (not as great as Centaurs, but great nonetheless). Unfortunately, though, they blow it up before we get to see anything. Huge disappointment.
Rare Exports certainly wasn't what I expected. It was marketed as a horror movie, and it was on all the Christmas horror movie lists...But it's more of a fantasy. That's where most of my disappointment comes from. When you go into a movie expecting something horrific, and you don't get that, you're bound to be disappointed by it. I think if I had watched it not ever having heard of it before, I would have enjoyed it more. That being said, it's really not a bad movie, and I'd definitely recommend that you watch it. It's a different look on the mythos of Santa and his helpers, and it's far from dull. There are some slow moments, but it will pique your interest enough so that you don't become bored with it. Just don't go into it expecting a horror movie, because you won't get it.