Rare Exports: A rare twist on the Santa Claus mythos

Hard core believers in the magic of Santa Claus be warned. This movie does not do Ole St. Nick any favors. Horror afficionados however, will get a kick out of this unique tale that puts a rare twist on the Christmas tale of the well loved icon. From the creative mind of Jalmari Helander based on a short film that he produced with his brother Jusso Helander, Rare Exports is a film from Finland that focuses on a small community of reindeer herders who try to save Christmas from the dangers of the “true” Santa.

Onni and Jorma Tommila play the role of Pietari and Rauno Kontio, a father and son who live near the mountain of Korvatunturi near the border of Russia and Finland (The two are also father and son in real life). In their spare time, Pietari and his best friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) sneak into the area of an ongoing project that uses minerals excavation as a front for digging up what is believed to be the biggest burial mound in the world to unearth a mysterious cargo. Pietari, who is fascinated by the alternative legend of Santa Claus believes that the team is digging up the grave of the evil Santa who whips and makes stew out of children who have been naughty for the whole year. Nobody believes him until Christmas day when Rauna’s wolf pit traps a skinny bearded man at the same time the children throughout the village disappear along with ovens, stoves and other appliance. This also comes after an unexplained massacre of reindeers in a manner so feral that the hunters initially believe it to be the work of wild animals.

Rare Exports is one of those films that truly piques the interest because it dares go where none others have treaded before. It goes all Grimm Brothers on the legend of Santa Claus, which is so directly in contrast to what people know that true believers, mostly children will find it hard to reconcile with the possibility. Based on this tale, Santa is not the potbellied and bearded jolly old fellow that brings presents during Christmas day to children all over the world but rather a giant horned predator that kills naughty children with the aid of his elves to punish them for their offenses. Rare Exports even goes so far as to present Santa’s elves as Santa replicas except skinnier, creepier and roaming the frozen woods naked, which is totally weird. And because of the remoteness of the location, it is left up to a handful of herders and a child to put a stop to Santa’s awakening and the nightmare that would result from it.

Come to think of it, the movie was not entirely a horror offering but rather a fantasy of sorts. It was very different from traditional films where children were sheltered and protected by their parents in the face of danger but rather portrayed children as empowered and smart enough to think of an offensive against an army of mythical and deadly creatures that threaten their home. However, I’m not a big fan of children carrying weapons but I do respect the culture that they were brought into so it was quite understandable.

The film was very simple and very subtle, but it was great because of its originality and unique concept. It was a lot of fun to watch, even with the extra effort of reading subtitles. Plus, the logo was also quite nice. Still, this is not recommended for impressionable young children as this might traumatize them from Santa. We don’t want that on our conscience, do we?