DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) dir. Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila


By Greg Klymkiw

While it is an indisputable truth that Jesus is the reason for the season. the eventual commercialization of Christmas inevitably yielded the fantasy figure of Santa Claus, the jolly, porcine dispenser of toys to children. Living with his equally corpulent wife, Mrs. Claus, a passel of dwarves and a herd of reindeer at the North Pole, Santa purportedly toils away in his workshop for the one day of the year when he can distribute the fruits of his labour into the greedy palms of children the world over. Is it any wonder how we all forget that Christmastime is to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Baby Jesus H. Christ?

In the movies, however, we have had numerous dramatic renderings of the true spirit of Christmas - tales of redemption and forgiveness like the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra's immortal It's a Wonderful Life and Phillip Borsos's One Magic Christmas, but fewer and far between are the Christmas movies that address the malevolence of the season celebrating Christ's Birth. There's the brilliant Joan Collins segment in the Amicus production of Tales From the Crypt, the Silent Night Deadly Night franchise and, perhaps greatest of all, that magnificent Canadian movie Black Christmas from Bob (Porky's) Clark.

And now, add Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale to your perennial Baby-Jesus-Worship viewings! This creepy, terrifying, darkly hilarious and dazzlingly directed bauble of Yuletide perversity takes us on a myth-infused journey to the northern border between Finland and Lapland where a crazed archeologist and an evil corporation have discovered and unearthed the resting place of the REAL Santa Claus. When Santa is finally freed from the purgatorial tomb, he runs amuck and indulges himself in a crazed killing spree - devouring all the local livestock before feeding upon both adults and children who do not subscribe to the basic tenet of Santa's philosophy of: "You better be Good!" A motley crew of local hunters and farmers, having lost their livelihood, embark upon an obsessive hunt for Santa. They capture him alive and hold him ransom to score a huge settlement from the Rare Exports corporation who, in turn, have nefarious plans of their own for world wide consumer domination. How can you go wrong if you control the REAL Santa?

There's always, however, a spanner in the works, and it soon appears that thousands of Claus-ian clones emerge from the icy pit in Lapland and embark upon a desperate hunt for their leader. These vicious creatures are powerful, ravenous and naked. Yes, naked! Thousands of old men with white beards traverse across the tundras of Finland with their saggy buttocks and floppy genitalia exposed to the bitter northern winds. For some, this might even be the ultimate wet dream, but I'll try not to think too hard about who they might be.

All cultures, of course, have their own indigenous versions of everyone's favourite gift-giver and this eventually led to the contemporary rendering of the Santa Claus we're all familiar with. Finland, however, absorbed in considerable wintery darkness for much of the year, insanely overflowing with rampant alcoholism and being the birthplace of the brilliant Kaurismäki filmmaking brothers, is one delightfully twisted country. It's no surprise, then, that the Finns' version of jolly old Saint Nick is utterly malevolent. As presented in this bizarre and supremely entertaining movie, Santa is one demonic mo-fo!!!

Directed with panache by the young Finnish director Jalmari Helander (and based on his truly insane short films), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is one unique treat. It's a Christmas movie with scares, carnage and loads of laughs. Helander renders spectacular images in scene after scene and his filmmaking vocabulary is sophisticated as all get-out. In fact, some of his shots out-Spielberg Spielberg, and unlike the woeful, tin-eyed JJ Abrams (he of the loathsome Super-8), I'd put money on Helander eventually becoming the true heir apparent to the Steven Spielberg torch. Helander's imaginative mise-en-scène is especially brilliant as he stretches a modest budget (using stunning Norwegian locations) and renders a movie with all the glorious production value of a bonafide studio blockbuster. The difference here, is that it's not stupid, but blessed with intelligence and imagination.

While the movie is not suitable for very young children, it actually makes for superb family viewing if the kiddies are at least 10-years-old (and/or not whining sissy-pants). Anyone expecting a traditional splatter-fest will be disappointed, but I suspect even they will find merit in the movie. Most of all, Moms, Dads and their brave progeny can all delight in this dazzling, thrilling Christmas thriller filled with plenty of jolts, laughs, adventure and yes, even a sentimental streak that rivals that of the master of all things darkly wholesome, Steven Spielberg.

You have hereby been warned:
You better watch out,
you better not cry,
you better not pout,
I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town,
with razor-sharp big teeth,
a taste for human flesh,
he knows if you've been bad or good,
and he likes to eat kids fresh. Hey!
Or in the words of Tiny Tim: "God Bless us, everyone."

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is currently available in a superb Bluray and DVD from the Oscilloscope Pictures (and distributed in Canada via the visionary company VSC). I normally have little use for extra features, but this release is one of the few exceptions. It includes Helander's brilliant shorts and some truly informative and entertaining making-of docs.This is truly worth owning and cherishing - again and again!

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