It’s been nearly two months since the month of October bid us farewell. And as the trees bowed and their curtains of leaves dropped so did end the month of all things spooky. Amidst drowning our sorrows in copious amounts of eggnog and butter rum wouldn’t it be nice to have a dash of something spooky to add to your sugar and spice?
If you look hard enough the Christmas season has a decent offering of the macabre. The Nightmare Before Christmas alone bridges the two holidays together seamlessly and in a timeless and always enjoyable way. You also can’t forget the classics like A Christmas Carol (the Muppets version being the definitive one, of course). But sometimes we yearn for something new. Or maybe even something darker.
I know the urge to deck the halls with blood and make sure your neighbors are hanging with care runs rampant during this stressful season but before you all go Jack Torrence on the world why not take another swig of that delicious butter rum and que up Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale on your Netflix account?
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a rather brilliant lump of coal for your stocking hung by the fireside with care. How else to explain an R-rated Santa Claus origin story crossed with The Thing (1982)? Apart from the inescapable that the movie has Santa and reindeer in it, this is a superior horror film, a spot-on parody of movies about dead beings brought back to life. Considering the foreboding Finnish landscape, the extensive reindeer carnage and that notably tall, emaciated, naked elderly elf, it’s readily apparent that Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is no twinkling Hallmark ornament of a holiday romp.
The Santa at the center of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is not the sort Mommy is likely to be kissing beneath the mistletoe (or anywhere else) this year. Rather, the focus of this bizarre Finnish fairy tale — as black as anything the Brothers Grimm could have dreamed up — is a sinister old codger who chews off ears and whose demon minions kidnap innocent children. Ho ho no!
Drawing on ancient Scandinavian mythology, Jalmari Helander’s feature debut (spun off from two of his short films) is a thing of frigid beauty and twisted playfulness. It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus preserved in a mysterious block of ice and sprouting a gigantic pair of horns. This particular Santa is not the one you want coming to town.
Soon children from a nearby village begin to disappear, and a group of reindeer hunters finds its annual crop slaughtered in the snow. Only little Pietari (Onni Tommila) knows who’s responsible; now he must persuade his gruff father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila) to help him fight back. Together they capture the mythological being and attempt to sell Santa to the misguided leader of the multinational corporation sponsoring the dig. Santa's elves, however, will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare - a fantastically bizarre polemic on modern day morality.
Cocooned in a genuinely goose-pimply atmosphere and awash in marveling music, this Edward Gorey meets-Joe Dante fable turns Santa (Peeter Jakobi) into a savage troll and his elves into naked, wrinkly graybeards.
Kids will love the diminutive, motherless hero and a plot that’s completely bonkers; adults will enjoy the exuberantly pagan images and deadpan humor. Tots, on the other hand, will probably never sit on Santa’s lap again. So--for those of you want more grave than gravy in your Christmas--RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE is a re-imagining of the most classic of all childhood fantasies, and is a darkly mischievous, bracingly original and thoroughly captivating Yuletide import soon to be required perennial holiday viewing.