Starring Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila and Tommi Korpela
A team of reindeer wranglers are fed up with a foreign team of excavators who are blasting a nearby mountain. When they go up the mountain to see what is going on, they discover that a legendary myth is real, alive, and not at all what they expected it to be.
This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.
The film opens with the supervisor of an excavation team bringing sawdust to his employer after finding several dozen feet of it inside a mountain they were hired to dig into. After handing out new rules that must be explicitly followed (no smoking, no swearing, generally just being nice) the employer gives a speech about his life’s dream coming to fruition. The mountain they stand upon is not actually a mountain but a gigantic man made burial site from a very long time ago. It’s December 1st and they have twenty four days in order to procure the prize.
Nearby, a small Finnish community of hunters are getting ready for the reindeer season. Two of the local boys, Pietari and Juuso, have come back from spying on the excavation team and Pietari is convinced they might’ve found Santa Claus but doing a little research shows that their version of the legend isn’t the same as the jolly elf that delivers presents to boys and girls. Much to his father’s dismay, the boy prepares for the worst without letting on what he’s really thinking because who would listen to such tripe from a child?
The reindeer hunt is a disaster before it even begins as the hunters discover hundreds of reindeer carcasses all over the place. Infuriated by losing out on money and food for the winter, the hunters are determined to confront the excavation team on the mountain whom they believe are involved. However they find the site to be deserted, everyone is gone except for one old, extremely weathered, extremely naked man. They think it’s a dead body until it starts to move whenever Pietari is nearby then he man gets very bitey. Once Pietari lets his father in on who he thinks the old man is, they put together an unlikely scenario: Santa is real, Santa is evil and they currently have him tied up in their truck.
The film has a slow build after a very interesting opening. The filmmakers do a great job of keeping us in the dark on what’s really going on until even the main characters realize what has happened. The main story is about the strained relationship that Pietari has with his father, Rauno, after the mother passed away. Rauno has a lot on his mind with having to make sure he can meet his reindeer quota as well as feed him and his son through the winter. Rano works in his butcher shop constantly leaving Pietari to do whatever he wants by himself, which is probably why Pietari is always getting involved whether Rauno wants him around or not. But it’s Pietari’s curiosity, and belief in Santa, that keeps him one step ahead.
Roger Ebert called Rare Exports a mix between a Santa Claus origin story and John Carpenter’s The Thing and that’s a nice description of what you’re getting into. There’s a lot of tension built up throughout and instead of going for a multitude of jump scares, the filmmakers just keep the tension built as the movie goes on. There is a subtle hint of dark humour sprinkled throughout to ease the tension on occasion. The film isn’t very bloody but the few times it chooses to be violent should make you jump when you least expect them to happen.
Rare Exports is a European import that was a Norse, Swedish and French production (and yes, it’s subtitled.) The filmmakers had previously made two short films on the German-based evil version of Santa Claus, Krampus, and this was their big screen take on that legend. From looking at the beautiful mountainside to enjoying the twisted take on a beloved holiday character, there’s not much to say that I didn’t like. In fact, Rare Exports will no doubt become required viewing for me over future holidays alongside the likes Home Alone, Die Hard and Gremlins.
Story: 8 – A small hunting community must deal with a creature that’s been sealed in a mountain for hundreds of years but now on the loose.
Blood: 5 – A little light on the red stuff but the film isn’t about being a gory mess, it doesn’t need it.
Nudity: 3 – Without giving anything away story-wise, you’re getting a heads up on probably seeing several naked old men in the movie.
Overall: 8 – A fun and unique film to watch, definitely recommended for your holiday pleasure.