So now that 4th of July is over, let’s move on to Christmas. Yes, Christmas.
Ahhh Christmas. That glorious time of year when fresh snow is on the ground, communities festively decorate, families gather for joyous celebration, and… the giant, evil, horned Santa Claus destroys everything in his path.
Okay, maybe Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale isn’t quite the Norman Rockwell Christmas tale. But then again… maybe it sorta is, too. Rockwell meets Spielberg thru Burton, anyway – with a slice of del Toro thrown in for good measure.
What started as two short films – Rare Exports, Inc (2003) and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005) – grew in popularity online. Both shorts follow a group of Finnish men who hunt and “train” wild Santas. Yes, wild Santas – for international export to all areas of the world in need of their yearly “Santa Claus”. The feature film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is the prequel story – explaining what those Santas really are, for one (hint: they’re not Santa); but also introducing a monstrous, several-story-high, Santa-like goblin creature with a hideous countenance and Loki-oversized demon horns. This Santa Claus is nasty – much closer in appearance and myth to Krampus than any Saint Nick tale. Yet despite its often horrific tone, Rare Exports is a delight of a picture. It’s lovingly crafted with numerous breath-taking visual moments and ingenious sound and visual effects. It was made with about $3 million (American) and looks as good as bigger-financed Hollywood productions – maybe even better. (That’s right, I said it.)
Yet the core of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is the performances of young Onni Tommila as our little hero Pietari (Pee-eh-TAR-ee) and his father Rauno (played by Omni’s real-life dad, Jorma Tommila), as well as Rauno’s group of pals. Rauno and his friends are simple reindeer herders, until an American excavation team comes to dig up the large, semi-creepy mound overlooking their tiny village. There they uncover the sleeping, frozen giant and all hell begins to break loose – first, a mass of reindeer are found slaughtered and the men fear how they will support their families without the annual Reindeer Round Up. Then local children begin to disappear as things get much worse. Only adventurous little Pietari knows what’s going on (he paid attention to the old stories!), so he and his best pal Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) investigate… only to end up smack-dab in the middle of everything.
How this film goes from riotous (yet loving) parody to touching Holiday tale is something you’ll have to see to believe. The unexpected events are part of the film’s charm, right along with its loopy humor and deadpan delivery – so I won’t spoil them for you here. Check it out for yourself – prepare to marvel and wonder why you haven’t heard of it before… and then go ahead and make room for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale on your annual Holiday Horror list.