Per Christian Ellefsen
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Rare Exports (2010)
8th Dec 11
The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax!
Along with Tucker And Dale Vs Evil, the Finnish cult hit Rare Exports is a rare genre film that pays affectionate homage to past favourites while finding a charm and style all of its own. It doesn’t overplay its tips of the hat to With its memorable kid-centric American movies of the 80’s (Gremlins, The Goonies etc.) and plays its outlandish concept relatively straight. With its disarming blend of menace, authentic juvenile characters and low-key humour, the movie resembles the festive episode of the excellent Spanish anthology series 6 Films To Keep You Awake.
The English-language prologue is marvellously portentous, conveying a sense of tension and wonder without revealing much at all, as a group of excitable scientists appear to unearth something extraordinary in the Finnish mountains. Nearby, impressionable pre-pubescent Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his pal become convinced that they are living right at the immense burial site of the real Santa Claus. Pietari’s research reveals that the real Santa, far from the jolly generous fat man of legend, was actually a powerful inhuman creature who tore naughty kids to pieces (so he wasn’t all bad) and wound up buried in a block of ice in the mountains. Soon all the other kids in the area have vanished and the reindeer kept by Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) are slaughtered.
This low budget movie gains considerable production value and atmosphere from its magnificent snow-covered backdrop and an exuberant Danny Elfman-ish score by Jurri Seppa and Miska Seppa. The most refreshing thing about it, however, turns out to be the presence of kids that look and act like real kids as opposed to the airbrushed cloying fuckers we have become accustomed to in contemporary Hollywood flicks. Onni Tommila’s heartfelt, natural portrayal of the Elliott-esque juvenile protagonist is at the movie’s core. The lovely interplay between him and his widowed on-screen dad provide moments of unforced pathos without nudging the movie into sentimental territory. As in the 80’s movies the movie pays quiet, loving homage to, it’s the kids who are at least two steps ahead of the adults all the way.
The tone is perfectly judged, with a finely sustained underlying sense of wry humour (“My wife’s hairdryer!”) aligned to sinister riffs on conventional Christmas mythology. Debuting director Jalmari Helander pulls off powerful visual coups like the field of massacred reindeer, the hangar full of sacks containing “naughty” kids and the hordes of naked, armed, ancient “little helpers”. The movie captures terrific visual moments that simultaneously capture the huge anticipation of Christmas for kids who Believe coupled with their associated fears, none more so than the towering, ominous door marked simply “24”.
Avoiding simple, throwaway nastiness while offering a potent sense of threat throughout Rare Exports is a rare beast indeed. Admittedly, it does seem to be really getting going just as it ends, but the lengthy build up and climactic action really are so good you will be in a forgiving mood.