Continuing with the not-so-wholesome Christmas movies . . .
This is the best evil Santa movie you’re probably ever going to find.
An excavation in the Korvatunturi mountains leads to the discovery of an ancient evil, which is really bad news for the excavation crew — but is also pretty bad news for the reindeer herders who live with their families nearby.
1. That’s kind of a shitty summary, but I don’t want to give too much away. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale isn’t full of twists and shocking moments, but it does have a few surprises that I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone. As such, the non-spoiler portion of this review will likely be (relatively) short.
2. I first heard about this movie — I don’t know, maybe a year ago? At the time, it was marketed as an extremely good horror comedy from Finland, and while I agree that it’s a really enjoyable comedy . . . I’m not so sure I would call it a horror, exactly. I mean, it does have horror elements — evil monster, mysterious deaths, some blood spatter and light gore . . . but it still reads more to me as a fantastical family adventure, albeit one that comes with creepy old men, dead reindeer, and the occasional severed pig head.
3. So, let’s talk about that family shall we? At least, let’s talk about our protagonist, Pietari . . .
. . . there’s something off about this kid.
I don’t know what it is, exactly — I mean, he’s funny, but he’s also just a little, well . . . off. Pietari is the only one who knows what’s really going on, and he spends the whole month trying to prepare for Evil Santa Claus. (He researches the true origins of Santa in a few books that he clearly found in Hell because, seriously, where does a ten year old even find these kind of books? Clearly, the libraries in Finland are way more badass than the ones in America.)
Anyway, while his affect occasionally unnerves me, I do love Pietari’s resourcefulness — it’s sort of like a more badass Home Alone story — as well as his little battle outfit (pictured above). You can’t actually see it, but along with knee pads, elbow pads, and shoulder pads, he is also wearing badly constructed cardboard butt pads.
4. In Roger Ebert’s review for Rare Exports, Ebert called this kid a dead ringer for Ralphie in A Christmas Story. While I think dead ringer is a bit excessive, I can see what Ebert means. (Also — Ralphie has also struck me as a tiny bit off over the years, so maybe there’s something to that.)
Personally, I couldn’t stop thinking of Kodi Smit-McPhee from Let Me In.
Sometimes I can’t help but cast for an American remake — not because I want one, necessarily, but because that’s just how I am with faces. If you’re curious, my remake would have Kodi Smit-McPhee, Viggo Mortensen, a young Willem Dafoe, and a guy who would — depending on the scene — be either played by Jeff Bridges or Simon Pegg.
5. Also, this movie has no women in at all. That’s not a complaint at the movie itself, but I bring it up because if a movie has no female characters, it’s not a big deal, but if a movie has only female characters, it’s some big feminist story. I was reading this interview with Adrienne Kress, and I really connected with what she said about women being seen as gender first, people second. (Also, I really want to see an all-women remake of Ocean’s Eleven now — or, no, not really a remake, but a heist movie ala Ocean’s Eleven with an all female cast. That would be awesome.)
6. Rare Exports is a really short movie — it’s only 82 minutes long — but it feels like the perfect length. I’m not sure how much I really have to say about it, but I did enjoy it quite a bit, and I think it’s the kind of movie that will grow on me every time I see it. Sometimes, you can tell. Besides, that ending . . . the ending is the best part of the movie, and considering that so many endings seem to be letting me down this year . . . I’m all about praising good conclusions.
7. Oh — here’s a thing —
When you need to give any kind of speech — inspirational, motivational, humorous, whatever — it is never acceptable to stand with your back to a giant cliffside.
Seriously. This is not okay. I was hoping a giant shark would jump out of nowhere and eat this guy, Deep Blue Sea style.
8. Finally, before spoilers . . . the difference in human experience can be vast. Case in point: in the movie, Pietari runs across the snow to his father’s shed without a shirt on. There’s no monster currently chasing him, by the way — he could totally put on a shirt or a jacket or, hell, even a godamned scarf to cover up his bare chest in the freezing cold, but no; he’s totally, heh, chill with the temperature. (Because he’s a godamned crazy person.)
Meanwhile, in an effort to not use my heater all the time, I am bundled up on my couch in a hoodie and a blanket and another blanket, and it’s all of 61 degrees in my apartment.
Finland and California? Not so similar.
I created a Spoiler Section mostly to write about two things. First, the old creepy guy that you think is Santa?
Well, turns out, he’s not Santa. He’s one of Santa’s creepy, naked, old elves . . . and there’s actually a shitload of them running around. They’re the guys killing reindeer and kidnapping children and whatnot while Real Evil Santa is busy thawing. This isn’t, like, a Big Twist or anything — jaws don’t drop; the world doesn’t shake — but I wasn’t expecting it, and I thought it was cool.
Unaware of this, Pietari, Pietari’s Dad, and Pietari’s Dad’s friends take the elf that they’ve captured and dress him up as Santa. They want to sell him to the Evil American Bastard who ordered the whole excavation in the first place. (This is the same silly sonofabitch who stood with his back to the cliff. Seriously, if a gigantic shark had eaten him right then, or rather, Santa flying on a gigantic shark had eaten him right then? I’d have been SO FREAKING HAPPY.)
Now, if this seems like a crazypants plan, well, it kind of is, but the guys need the money. With all the reindeer dead, the herders have no way to feed their families. The guys ask for “85,000 dollars,” since that’s how much the pack of reindeer was approximately worth. (Plus 22% VAT.)
Of course, all hell breaks loose when the other naked elves come a’killing — Evil American Bastard, for instance, takes a flying axe to the head. Prior to this, Evil American Bastard kept trying to tell people to smile and say polite things, so as not to vex the evil monsters . . .
. . . but this doesn’t appear to help out much — or at least, no one ever uses these rules to survive.
Anyway, this is when Pietari takes charge — and in some ways, his sudden gung-ho attitude feels a little bit out of character. I mean, the transition just happens so fast — Scared Kid to Awesome, Kick-Ass Kid — although, to be fair, he was always fairly resourceful. (Favorite example of this? Rigging the chimney with a bear trap.) And it’s not like he doesn’t have self-confidence . . . Pietari never once seems to consider the idea that this whole evil Santa theory is cuckoo for cocoa puffs . . . but I don’t know. It still feels a bit sudden.
Either way, Pietari’s kind of fun as he orders the grown ups around: he and Piiparinen go up in a helicopter, leading the elves away from the warehouse where Evil Frozen Santa is busy thawing. Pietari plans to have the elves run through this electric animal pen which will fry all their asses. In the meantime, Rauno and Aimo will rig the warehouse to explode, killing Evil Santa and leading to happy endings for all.
Unfortunately, Pietari’s electric animal pen is closed, so he decides to sacrifice himself by jumping out of the helicopter and opening the gate. (There’s not enough room for the helicopter to land, so Piiparinen won’t be able to save him.) Thankfully for Pietari, though, Rauno and Aimo blow up the warehouse, and Evil Santa is kind of like an Evil Alien Queen. While the elves don’t die, they immediately seem to realize that they’re out of a job and stop charging at Pietari in favor of standing there like useless, naked lumps.
And now that the men have hundreds of these naked elves on their hands — worth, in total, about 16,800,000 . . . plus 22% VAT — they quickly decide to train the elves, making each and every one of them a “newly discovered” Santa Claus . . .
. . . and once they’re ready, the men quickly stuff them in boxes and ship them away to various countries as rare exports.
This whole ending is so made of win. I was enjoying myself until this part, but the ending really does pull everything together, and I laughed pretty damn hard at the assembly line. It’s easily my favorite part of the whole movie.
Interesting. Less of a campy horror like I expected — really no winking or nudging anywhere in here — but still very funny and enjoyable. Think this one might grow on me. Could become a great Christmas classic, for those of us who are less inclined to annual viewings of White Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.
Jorma Tommila, maybe? (Rauno — Pietari’s Dad)
Get the fuck out of Finland. Or, okay, fine — in every bloody, nearly-murdered by Ancient Santa disaster, there is always room for profit.