Synopsis: Young Pietari lives with his stern reindeer-herding father Rauno in arctic Finland. On the eve of Christmas, an enormous excavation at a nearby mountain disturbs the locals and captures Pietari’s curiosity. When Rauno’s reindeer heard is mysteriously slain and the children in town go missing. Pietari realizes that the dig has unearthed the evil Santa Claus of local lore – who no one wants coming to town.
Pietari’s father rounds up a posse and captures the nightmarish creature in an attempt to sell him to the misguided leader sponsoring the dig. But Santa’s freakish elves will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader, and what ensues is a fantastically bizarre holiday adventure testing the bond of father and son and pitting man against mythology.
Rare Exports 8.0
eyelights: Santa. Santa’s helpers. the mood. the pace.
eyesores: the dorky kid. the silly, nonsensical ending.
I had been looking forward to ‘Rare Exports’ for a long time. I knew very little about it, but got this sense that it was fun and worth checking out. So I picked it up the moment that I could. Unfortunately, given that it’s a cult film, it took a while.
The thing is, I knew that I might be disappointed.It has happened before. I had the same initial impression of ‘Død snø‘ after its release: reviews were pretty good, it had built up a pretty large cult following… and yet I was left quite unimpressed with it.
The same cannot be said for ‘Rare Exports’, however.
It’s an absurd little film, but I loved it: it revolves around the discovery of the “original” Santa Claus, a Finnish creature that doesn’t give gifts to good children – it kills the naughty ones (and naughty people in general).
In this version of the tale (‘Rare Exports’ is based on two extremely popular short films from 2003 and 2005), our heroes are deer hunters whose livelihood is in jeopardy when a foreigner starts excavating the nearby mountain. When they find all the deer slaughtered, the hunters take it upon themselves to try to discover what’s happened.
What lay in wait would turn their eggnog sour and chill even their acclimatized Finnish blood!
One of the things that I like about ‘Rare Exports’ is how slow-paced it is for a suspense/horror film. It takes its sweet time building up the mood by weaving together the interpersonal relationships. By the time that the picture finally puts the boot in, we care enough about the characters that what happens to them matters to us.
Except for that annoying dorky kid.
I can’t explain it, but he annoyed the snot out of me. He takes the place of a Corey Feldman-type character, but in a less cool, more annoying way. He was great in the second short, but this expanded role didn’t work for me. Still, he was nonetheless a key component of the plot and his relationship with the father helped shape the film.
Another great thing is that ‘Rare Exports’ is spooky, eerie, but it is not violent or gross enough to be horrific. In fact, it could easily warrant a PG-13 rating. I suspect that it might become a favourite of younger audiences, who will grow with it as word gets around. I have a good feeling that it might end up being as popular as ‘The Lost Boys’ or ‘Shaun of the Dead‘ or over time.
Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as funny as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was. Or ‘Gremlins‘. In fact, ‘Rare Exports’ is only mildly funny. I found the first ‘Rare Exports’ short funnier, quite frankly. If anything, it’s an amusing film with a few laughs scattered here and there – the joy that one derives from this piece is mostly in its unusualness, in its fresh blend of two well-worn genres.
Still, that’s a minor grievance when you’re having fun.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
The same thing could be said for the film’s many inexplicable plot points:
-Why did that foreigner want to have Santa excavated? Who is this guy? What does he want?
-How did the original peoples manage to trap Santa and his helpers in the first place? How they caught Santa is explained briefly, in sketchy terms, but what happened to his helpers all this time?
-Who are the helpers? It is suggested that they were once men (as recently as in the 20th century, based on the papers that were found), but what happened to them since?
-Why did the helpers kill all the reindeer? That seems a bit random, doesn’t it?
-How could the Finns transform the helpers into functional Santas if they can’t speak? Even with months of conditioning, there’s no way they would be able to interact with real children in a safe way.
-Who would pay to buy a scrawny, foreign Santa? And how would that shipment make it through customs? Wouldn’t this be akin to human trafficking?
Well, who cares if you’re having fun?
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
In truth, ‘Rare Exports’ isn’t at all meant to be taken seriously: it’s merely a genre film that’s based on a quirky premise – so there’s no reason to fuss so long as it’s well made. And it is. One could hardly reproach it for its quality.
Personally, I think that it’s a gas.
And I’m obviously not alone, based on what I’m seeing online (even Roger Ebert loved it). No doubt that it will be a permanent addition to many people’s Christmas-time counter-programming, to offset the cutesy holiday fluff that is instantly zapped at us every year.
‘Rare Export’ is a rare treat that’s just perfect for this season’s cretins.
Of which I am one.
Date of viewing: December 10, 2012