out of Five
Running time: 77
An enjoyably dark Christmas adventure with striking character design and a terrific central idea, but the script doesn't seem to know what to do with it, so the action dips in the middle before rallying for a decent climax.
What's it all about?
Directed by Finnish film-maker Jalmari Helander, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale stars Onni Tommila as young Pietari, who lives with his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) in a recession-hit reindeer slaughterhouse near the Korvatunturi mountain. When Pietari witnesses a nearby American science expedition going horribly wrong, he realises that they have unearthed Santa Claus from his prison beneath the ice – the real, evil, naughty-child-eating Santa Claus, not the cuddly, red-suited, white-bearded version.
Together with some of his friends, Rauno captures a feral-looking Santa Claus (Peeter Jakobi) after finding him naked at the bottom of their wolf trap and they determine to sell him to the highest bidder. But is Evil Santa Claus behind the slaughtering of the town's livestock and the recent disappearance of the local children or is there some other force at work?
The character designs are excellent – Jakobi makes an extremely disturbing Santa Claus (he actually looks something from a Grimm's Fairy Tale-type book) and there's strong support from Onni and Jorma Tommila. The film is also beautifully shot and makes strong use of its stunning scenery (though it was filmed in Norway, not Finland).
The central idea of the film is extremely strong and the script has fun with the notion of selling Santa to big business, commercialising Christmas etc. There's also a terrific score and the climax of the film is both exciting and delightfully surreal.
That said, Helander doesn't really know what to do with the middle section and once Santa is captured, the action slows down and sort of stumbles around a bit before rallying for the climax. There's also a peculiar absence of women in the film, and the sight of thirty-odd naked Santa-like elves (or are they Santas?), complete with in-your-face full-frontal nudity, ensures that the potential child audience for the film should be kept well away in case of permanent trauma.
Despite a dodgy middle section and the copious Santa nudity, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is still better than any Christmas themed movie Hollywood has churned out in the last 30 years or so. Worth seeing.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (tbc)