Do not feed the Santa Claus
Happy Christmas Eve to all those who celebrate the holiday! If you don't, like me, Happy Tuesday Eve! 'Tis the season for gift-giving, face-stuffing, and terrible music. There are plenty of holiday horror movies out there, but Christmas seems to be the go-to holiday for horror. Most Christmas horror movies are slashers, which is a bit disappointing. Why not a vampire Christmas movie with Santa biting naughty children or a psychological horror Christmas movie where Santa plays mind games with bad kids. Actually, those sound like awesome movies. No one steal them! Trademark! Trademark!There's so many Christmas movies to chose from that I actually went in a different direction for today's review. Something a little colder. Something a little international.
Rare Exports is a Finnish Christmas horror movie written and directed by Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports Inc., Viimeinen Pisara). A man named Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen, Hotel Caesar, Elling) is leading a secretive excavation in the Korvatunturi mountains of the Finnish Laplands. His team drills deep into the mountain and discovers something strange: sawdust. Riley explains that people of the area would bury things in sawdust. He reveals that they are in fact on the largest burial mound in the world. As the crew digs deeper, young Pietari Kontio (Onni Tommila, Last Cowboy Standing, Eetu ja Konna) and his sort-of friend Jusso cut the fence surrounding the mountain and spy on the crew. Pietari thinks that they may have discovered Santa Claus, but Jusso makes fun of him. Pietari lives with his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila, Priest Of Evil, The Cradle), a butcher who is having difficulty raising his son alone. When the annual reindeer flock fail to show up in the village, Rauno, Pietari, Jusso, Jusso's father Piiparinen, and their friend Aimo discover hundreds of reindeer slaughtered right outside the fence surrounding the mountain. They blame Russian wolves for killing the reindeer and Pietari thinks it's his fault for cutting the fence. The men go up to the mountain and discover the crew is completely gone. Pietari is afraid that Santa Claus is now free and will come after him because he has been naughty. The next day, Rauno discovers that something has fallen into his wolf trap outside their home. It is not a wolf, but an old, naked man. With help from Aimo, Rauno brings him into his butcher shop and discovers that the an is an American named Brian Greene. Pietari sees the man and runs away, so Rauno has to give chase while Aimo watches the man. Pietari is picked up by the sheriff who is on his way to Piiparinen's home. A series of strange robberies have been occurring all over town, including heaters, hair driers, ovens, and now Piiparinen's potato sacks. Also, all the town's children are now missing. Back at the butcher shop, Aimo has his ear bitten by the old man. The three men and Pietari take the old man and try to ransom him to Riley. It is revealed that the old man is not alone as hundreds of similarly old, naked men surround them. They are, in fact, Santa's elves, who have kidnapped all the children and are thawing Santa out of his icy tomb. How will Pietari and the men stop Santa from awakening and spreading his reign of terror?
At least the kid likes hockey
Well, I wanted something different and I got something different. The concept of an evil Santa Claus isn't a new one as several countries traditions are steeped in Santa snatching up naughty children. Sounds like a great idea for a horror movie, right? Unfortunately, Rare Exports doesn't really focus on horror enough. There are a few scenes throughout that skirt the edges of horror, but never reach a full scary potential. Instead, we get a little bit of fantasy, action, and adventure. The story is decent, if a little predictable and moves at a quick pace. I was happy that movie is mostly in Finnish, with a little English thrown in. Finnish is such a unique language and was nice to hear rather than having a bad dub on top of it. The cold, snowy mountains of the Finnish Laplands are a beautiful, if bleak, backdrop for the film, truly giving the audience a sense of isolation and hopelessness. One strange thing in the movie that I noticed was that there are no women in the movie. Absolutely none. Why is that? Pietari doesn't have a mother and we're not given any explanation as to what happened. It's briefly touched upon, giving the movie some much needed emotion, but nothing more.
The biggest disappointment of the movie is that we never actually see Santa Claus. What a tease! Instead we get dirty, old naked men running around with pick axes and other weapons. Now, some people may enjoy that, and there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not the type of horror movie I was expecting. I would much rather have had an evil Santa terrorizing people, much like in Sint. Another issue I had with the movie is with the character of Pietari. He goes from the typically annoying kid in a horror movie and does a complete 180 into the hero. The switch comes pretty quickly and without much warning, making it hard to believe. In about 80 minutes, he goes from walking around in his undies and constantly ignoring his father to saving the entire world. At least give us an inkling that he is capable of saving the day. The movie has some humor, keeping things a bit lighter than I would have liked.
Grandpa got into the box wine again
Rare Exports had a lot of potential, but didn't really live up to the good idea. There are some touches of horror, but nothing particularly thrilling or scary. There is a little bit of action, some adventure, and a bit of humor, all of which actually take away from what could have been a scary movie. I was greatly disappointed that we never actually see Santa in action. Instead, we get his old, naked elves. The movie does showcase the natural beauty of Finland and the uniqueness of the Finish language. If you're looking for a fun Christmas horror movie, I'd say look elsewhere. Rare Exports is probably good for people who don't want to watch Rudolph and Frosty, but still want something with a little holiday spirit. It's a decent movie, sans old naked men, but it's not a particularly good horror movie.