Review Index



This recent entry in the Holiday Horror sweepstakes is a highly commercial, action-oriented extravaganza from Finland. Itís far from perfect but impossible not to enjoy.

The Package
     As with many modern foreign films, RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE was clearly made with the lucrative American market in mind. Itís scored and paced like a Hollywood actioner, and much of the dialogue is in English. And itís already (as of December 2010) made a minor splash in the U.S. Iím unsure of the status of the inevitable Hollywood remake, but I am certain an Americanized redo is in the pipeline!
     Incidentally, this film actually functions as a prequel of sorts to a couple of shorts by its writer-director Jalmari Helander: RARE EXPORTS INC. from 2003 and THE OFFICIAL RARE EXPORTS INC. SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS from 2005.

The Story
     In a remote outpost at the North Pole, an American-led drilling expedition is underway. Among the small handful of people living in the area is the young Pietari, who has the idea that the drillersí intent is to unearth Santa Claus. The Santa Claus heís thinking of, however, isnít the jolly guy we know--the ďCoca Cola SantaĒ--but an evil demon who kills children who arenít nice. Years earlier Santa was hunted down by irate villagers and interred in the very area now being drilled.
     The drilling does indeed unearth Santa, as evinced by the many slaughtered deer carcasses that turn up in the area. On Christmas day Pietariís father and a colleague dig up the corpse of a withered old man with a long beard--who inexplicably comes back to life and tries to attack them. Pietari believes theyíve found Santa Claus, but in reality the withered old man is simply one of Santaís none-too-jolly helpers.
     The REAL Santa Claus is frozen in a giant block of ice, which is currently being thawed out by radiators stolen by his helpers. Said helpers, who number in the dozens, have also kidnapped several children, including Pietariís best friend. Clearly some drastic action must be applied before Santa Claus is fully thawed and allowed to do his dirty work!

The Direction
     Expect to see writer-director Jalmari Helander gobbled up by Hollywood in the near future. Heís turned out an exceedingly slick and bombastic film that revels in elaborate CGI packed action and horror set-pieces that belie the obvious low budgetÖeven if the storytelling often leaves something to be desired. In other words, itís a very Hollywood product, complete with a plucky kid in the lead (well played by Onni Tommila) who wouldnít feel out of place in a Disney flick.
     In keeping with that fact, the violence is never very intense (although there is a fair amount of full frontal male nudity) and the anti-Holiday angle never as subversive as the premise might suggest. In essence, RARE EXPORTS is much closer in tone and feel to something like GREMLINS than SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT or BLACK CHRISTMAS.
     In the end, of course, this film works simply because itís fun and entertaining. Jalmari Helander clearly aims to please above all else, and for the most part pulls off that goal with admirable finesse.

Vital Statistics

Oscilloscope Pictures

Director: Jalmari Helander
Producers: Anna Bjork, Francois-Xavier Frantz, Petri Jokiranta, Knut Skoglund
Screenplay: Jalmari Helander
Cinematography: Mika Orasmaa
Editing: Kimmo Taavila
Cast: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Per Christian Ellefsen, Tommi Korpela, Jonathan Hutchings, Rauno Juvonen, Ilmari Jarvenpaa