Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
Running Time: 80 minutes
Release Date: 7 November 2011
Language: Finnish (Subtitles in English)
Rare Exports is a feature length movie from Finland, based on an original short idea from the same director. Set in the Korvatunturi mountains in the lead up to Christmas, an archaeological dig has unearthed the aeons old original Santa Claus, who is nothing like the Coca-Cola created Santa that has been accepted as the template for jolly old Saint Nick. At the same time, a group of local hunters have found that their yearly yield of wildlife that they sell on to subsidise their livelihoods have been slaughtered. The local children begin to go missing, replaced in their beds with wicker effigies. Radiators and ovens are also disappearing, along with potato sacks, to create a strange little mystery to besiege the locals.
Then, Rauno (Jorma Tommila) and son, Pietari (Onni Tommila) find an old man who has fallen into their wolf trap, who is naked and carrying one the wicker figures. When Rauno and two of his friends try to first dispose of the body and then, when they realise that he’s still alive, interrogate him does the truth begin to become clear. The men realise that they have Santa Claus in their midst and decide to sell him on to cover their hunting losses. When the trade goes awry, they realise that the man isn’t Santa at all, but one of his elves. The real Santa is somewhere else, protected by the rest of the elves.
The film is not a horror film per se, but is better described as a dark fable or fairy tale. There is a real lack of tension, but that is not to say that the film fails in its attempts to become a Christmas classic. Most horror films set during the holiday season fall into the trap of becoming nothing more than another entry into the slasher sub-genre like Black Christmas, with titles such as The Thing being the exceptions to the rule. The film is understated and makes full use of the snowy peaks and surrounding countryside. At times, the cinematography is almost dreamy, echoing moments from Christmas classics such as Gremlins. As a result of offering something different, Rare Exports does succeed in being a future cult classic in the making. There are no real scares to be had here, but that does mean that if your children can deal with watching a subtitled film, then they will probably enjoy it too.