Today: June 11, 2024
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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Cinema Review

Don’t be misled by the seemingly innocent title; this is no
typical feel-good Christmas tale of divorced parents who reunite for
Christmas or a chubby Santa with a white beard and a sleigh. This is a
new type of Christmas tale. And, it’s about time too. Author/director,
Jalmari Helander, has made a fantasy/horror film about the supposedly ‘real’
Santa Claus; and he’s nothing like the cute and cuddly made-up one in
the Coca Cola adverts. This feature length film is actually a prequel to
his hugely popular shorts – Rare Exports Inc (2003) and Rare Exports
Inc – Safety instructions(2005) – which have more than one million
downloads on You Tube.

The film opens in a blustery, cold and perfectly Christmassy Finland,
where American scientists are looking to uncover the secrets of
Christmas in a quiet rural town north or the country. A little boy named
Pietari, the son of a local slaughterhouse-man, is also hoping to
discover the truth about Santa Claus, despite his older friend telling
him there is no such thing.

As the un-wanted Americans begin to dig deep into the ground of a
nearby mountain a sequence of strange events begin to occur. Starting
with the ruin of the local annual reindeer cull – something that must
seem appalling to city children across the Western world. Pietari, his
father, Rauno, and other local hunters hop on their ski-mobiles and head
down to a wooden circled lair, which they use to coax the reindeer in,
slaughter and sell for a handsome sum. However, instead of a prosperous
Christmas, rations and poverty lie ahead when they discover all 200-odd reindeer have been mysteriously killed.

Angry, the men head to the American’s cordoned off plot to demand
payment, only to find it deserted. What on earth’s going on? Only the
much dismissed Pietari knows, because he never lost faith in Santa
Claus; but instead discovered a more sinister one, one that kidnaps and punishes naughty little children and generally doesn’t like being messed with.

The isolated and icy plains of the Finnish mountains are the perfect setting for a Christmas horror that spins the idea of Santa Claus on its head.
Helander also delves into the relationship of Pietari and is father,
who clearly loves his son, but is unable to show him the same love as
his late wife. While Pietari, played excellently by Onni Tommila, is
clearly a terrified little boy seeking his father’s approval.

Despite Peitari protestations that it really is Santa Clause and his
helpers causing the towns devastation, the adults, quite logically,
dismiss him – until, one-by-one, the village children disappear. As the
horror part of the movie goes full throttle it’s obvious that the
villagers are not only fighting against a dark Christmas force, they are
also at odds with the elements and their dying way of living. However,
courageous Pietari has an ingenious idea that may just save them,
provide a new livelihood and create Christmas as we now know it.

The appeal of Helander’s film is its originality and the idea that a Christmas movie can be a horror as
well as having a feel good factor to it. Excellent acting, a few
laughs, enchanting landscapes and some jump-out-of-your-seat moments
complete this unique little film. Plus next time you see Santa at the
Shopping mall you’re guaranteed to see him through different eyes.

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