(2010) director Jalmari Helander
Adapted from a pair of short films into a feature-length one, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale offers a potentially dark and comic take on the Santa Claus mythology. Unfortunately, as a feature film, it loses sight of what made the original short films funny and successful.
The short films are mock documentaries about a group of Finnish hunters who track Santa Clauses, as if they were naturally occurring fauna of the region. These Santas are wild beasts who have to be captured and then trained to let little kids sit on their laps (without eating them) before they can be shipped off all over the world. And a lot of bad things can happen if they are not handled properly.
Reprising roles from earlier films, the group of men are cast as isolated reindeer hunters, living on the edge of the wilderness, bordering Russia. And an American company has come to dig up the long-lost original Santa Claus, who has been buried in ice below a mountain for centuries. Somehow, a little boy has all these books about how the original Santa was actually a monster like something from a Goya painting, a giant who didn’t deliver gifts but doled out punishment and ate little children. The boy recognizes that unearthing this Santa is a bad thing.
When “the monsters” finally show up onscreen, they are a bunch of old men, running around in the snow naked. These are the equivalent creatures that are hunted in the earlier films, but here they are said to be Santa’s elves, minions trying to free the giant Santa beast from the ice in which he is encased.
The giant Santa never makes the scene. He gets blown up while still in the ice.
So, you have a movie about a vengeful dangerous Santa (who never gets defrosted). It’s not without its humor or its moments. It’s not unlike Trollhunter (2010), another Scandinavian horror film based on indigenous mythologies pressed into the modern world. But I can’t help saying that I felt a little bit disappointed by it. And then I watched the short films and realized that they were better than the feature itself.
My advice: watch the shorts, forgo the feature.