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Dark, But Highly Entertaining Christmas Film
AFleet20 September 2010
I just recently caught a screening of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and I was definitely not disappointed. My expectations were relatively high after having seen the two short films previously released in this series, and while this version did stray somewhat from the concepts shown in the short films, it did stay true to the overall feel of the previous incarnations.

Although this film was not particularly deep or thought provoking it was very fun to watch and highly enjoyable. Somewhat creepy in places, this was mainly played up for humorous effect and overall the film displayed a dark sense of humor quite different from any Christmas movie that I have ever seen.

I would highly recommend this film to fans of the original short films or anyone looking for something a little bit different around the holiday season!
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what a wonderful surprise
kingbrutus31 October 2010
I saw this the other day at the London Film Festival and went in with no expectations, not having seen the short films it was based on. It was a fantastic surprise and i would put it right up there, if not in number one position, as the best film festival films i have ever seen. The pace and storyline were top notch and although some of the characters were a bit weak in substance and originality it took nothing away from my enjoyment of the film. This is one i would highly recommend to any film fan except those under 13. Indeed it is one i would be proud to recommend as it has a dark and dry sense of humour and an original twist on the Christmas tale. I will buy the DVD and happily see it again; I rarely say those words these days.
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A superb Anti-Christmas horror fable which adults and over 13 year old will enjoy
theycallmemrglass28 November 2010
Just seen this at a Preview Screening in London.

This was an excellent little Christmas horror film but good enough for older kids above 13 to watch. Its not gory as this is one of those less is more type of films but it is quite creepy. Bizarelly, there is quite a bit of male nudity but its in such a way that you should think nothing of it. It wasn't a big deal to the on screen characters and I suspect somehow that the film makers are not expecting it to be a big deal with us either. But there were a few people in my audience who chuckled loudly and as for me, I did so, quietly, and fleetingly wanting to just watch the film unravel its mysteries.

The child antagonist was absolutely superb playing the typical "why won't the grown ups listen to me" role. How he eventually grabs their attention will have you cheering like hell. The story is well paced and creepy. With a couple of good twists and a sprinkle of humour thrown in the mix.

The soundtrack was pretty bombastic (reminiscent of Michael Giacchino "Roar" track from Cloverfield) which was great but perhaps a little too over used when a bit more subtlety was needed in certain moments of the film.

This film reminds me of my favourite old dark fable movies with child protagonists such as Night of the Hunter, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Lost Boys. In fact I would sum this up as a Stephen King type horror story for the family.

The very ending of the film felt rather overly silly though, which is my only criticism but its not enough to knock any marks off my rating.

This might well turn into a Christmas sleeper hit, if not, perhaps later on, will be a little cult classic
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Without a doubt the best antidote to the usual Christmas claptrap
LrgrThnLf7 December 2010
Very creepy in parts, but with a very enjoyable streak of black comedy, this movie is a must see. The fact it's primarily in Finnish with minimal English did not detract from my enjoyment of the film at all (subtitles are really easy to follow, folks!).

The acting by the lead young boy in the movie is excellent and not at all cheesy and whilst this is not a character driven movie as such, I believe there's enough exposition to carry the plot through without people wondering "How the hell did that happen? Where did that come from? How does he know how to control that vehicle?"

If you're sick of plots involving candy canes, people stealing presents and grinchesque characters tamely threatening the holiday season, then this is the movie for you!
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Absolutely unmissable for me
efaston8 February 2011
For me this is one of those films that I just instantly took to heart, it has the sort of implicit comedy that you expect from the Cohen brothers, and a theme which really plays with your ideas of horror. It does help if you have a bit of background in Finnish mythology, there's no explanation, even in the subtitles, of the yule goat, and the word Joulupukki's close links to old stories about a sort of mischievous Christmas devil. It does introduce some of the old stories, but doesn't explain how they are actually commonly known history pertaining to Father Christmas in Finland, and weren't made up for the film or anything like that. Other than that, the film is visually beautiful, musically dramatic to at least the extent that Danny Elfman had ever achieved for Tim Burton, and has a sort of dignity that something with an undercurrent of comedy rarely has, relying on its ability to be funny without trying, something that Quinten Tarantino and the Cohen Brothers often leave us slack jawed over. I definitely recommend it.
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A Future Cult Classic
gordonmackenzie5 December 2010
I've just seen this film with my Finnish girlfriend who was delighted with the pin-sharp Finnish black Humour running through it. The acting was good but the young boy deserves great credit making his role believable. It is nice to see an alternate Xmas film doing what is a very limited run in Britain. There is much joy to behold in this film from the beautiful locations, the music score which enhanced the film and made it feel a much bigger picture and not forgetting an edit that did not add any silly modernistic cuts/editing style. I thought the ending just about summed up the film, dark black humour Finnish style, I hope this becomes a wee cult classic in the future. Go see it!
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never heard about it, how could i have missed this one?????
ops-5253510 February 2019
This is a film about santa clause, a very mysterious film, not for children under 7, but could safely be seen by the rest of the family. its a finnish language horror flick,with a majority of norwegian acors(the elves) that has been recorded in troms norway- the land of the northern lights.

a funny, mysterious,shock jolting and entertaining movie with very good and natural acting all over. the special effects are brilliant, and the filmography are really enchanting,so are the landscapes and sceneries,that makes the background for this fine story. there are so many surprises and twists based on anekdotes and legends about santa clause,so when things happens ,you start giggling cause you reckon the words and sayings fromj when you were child..

its well known that finns are great entrepreneurs, and the succesful product that they make, wrap up and sell all over the world are just typical and at the same level as nokia, waertsila and vodka.

do watch this before x-mas,it really boosts the spirits,and makes the old grumpy man smile, and his wife to spill her coffee from shock jolting. highly recommended
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Where Being Naughty Or Nice Is It A Choice Between Life Or Death
samuel-legassick8 December 2010
Full review here: http://thewildbore.blogspot.com/2010/12/rare-exports- Christmas-tale.html Finland isn't known for it's film exports, so here truly is a 'Rare Export' but should we return it? It's not exactly in the spirit of Christmas is it? This film is rather a prequel to two short films that the director made in 2003 and 2005 (both I will stick at the end of this article) where Santa isn't the merry old fat man we've come to know and love but is rather a beast of the wild that is tamed and exported around the world. But deciding that some short films weren't enough, Jalmari Helander decides to make a feature film about his 'hunters' before the events of Rare Exports Inc. & Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions. I have to put this film into context because when viewing the film, not knowing much about it, it seemed very strange afterwards but now it kind of makes sense. However, it might be worth watching without seeing the videos included here, but it's your choice. Either way, the story is about how some corporate diggers are excavating something from a mountain near a remote village in the snowy outdoors. But it is a young boy who works out what is buried beneath and is taking every precaution just in case, whether it's taping cardboard to your bum or carrying around a shotgun, he's not taking any chances. I read somewhere that this harks back to the kiddie films of the Eighties like The Goonies where the kids were always right and the adults were idiots, but this has much more of a horror element to it. In fact, it is very funny in different places for different reasons but always keeps a dark, sinister edge whether it's the weird wooden dolls, the crazy rich excavator or the creepy Santa they find, there's always a tinge of horror at all times. The film is very well directed and, like many have said (mainly because of the snow) reminds people of The Thing, but all the set-up's are there and around the whole thing is the myth of Santa Claus (or Claws in this case). It makes for a very exciting, disturbing experience that is set around a time where people are supposed to get together and for someone who doesn't really enjoy Christmas, like myself, it makes a welcome distraction to all the 'niceness' of the Christmas season. The acting is, for the most part, very impressive and the end sequences with hundreds of naked old men running across the mountains is both funny and breathtaking at the same time. The film finds a great balance between horror, terror, humour and remembering that it shouldn't take itself too seriously, the gag is that it's about Santa after all. I always found something creepy about a fat, old man going into children's houses at night and giving them presents, seeing if they've been 'naughty or nice' and this plays on people's insecurities especially at a time where paedophilia is all over the news these days. It also has a rather serious, dramatic edge with an obviously painful father/son relationship, a man who is frustrated with the world and a 'coming-of-age' element about sacrifice and becoming independent. It could also be seen as a war of male generations, the son against the father, and the father against his own father, which in this case is represented by Father Christmas, it would make sense seeing as there is no females in the whole film but rather a world of manly hunters where soppy things like Christmas have no place. Overall, the film is enjoyable and the last five minutes is rather strange but makes sense once you see the short films. It might have a few plot holes but has been well thought out, perfectly directed and for something that could have so easily been one big joke, remains an impressive piece of work that the director clearly cared about. I recommend that you forget the usual Christmas ho-ho-Hell's and delve into a dark place where being naughty or nice is a life or death decision.
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A very enjoyable Christmas movie
BerzerkerX5 December 2010
I haven't yet seen the short movies, but what i've heard is that this is a prequel to those short movies, so it won't matter.

The movie is very enjoyable to watch and easy to recommend to families to watch (families who have kids at least 13 years old). It's little bit scary for kids and has pretty dark humor, but it's still good hearted film. Especially the ending. The acting is great, especially Pietari's (Onni Tommila) performance is great. Even though it's a cliché that the adults won't believe the child, it doesn't matter, because the film makes you aware that the adults will eventually know what they're dealing with. The music is also great. Only criticism i have for this movie, is that it didn't do or show things you really wanted or expected and that the CGI-effects aren't so great in some parts of the movie and they should have been shorter so they wouldn't give you that awkward feeling that not-so-good CGI-effects give you.
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Absolutely loved it
jcb-937-46105830 December 2010
This is a great movie. It would have been impossible for Hollywood to have made this movie. They would have needed a huge special effects budget, and the continuity people would never have allowed it through. They would have played it as a goofy comedy. Thankfully it was made in Finland. If the Americans decide to do a remake, make sure you see the original first.

As it is, it is thoroughly clever, and wonderfully naively charming. The director had an idea, and chose an optimum path to realise that idea - a very tricky feat.

I'm from Australia, but I couldn't help wondering if Finnish people and New Zealanders are similar.

BTW, count the women who appear in the movie.
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KiltedGreen23 December 2010
Most of this film is dark, curious, mysterious, scary and gritty and pulled me into its chilly and desolate landscape almost from the start. It feels very much like its own film until about 20 minutes from the end when it's as though the original writers and directors left and Hollywood jumped in and took over. Suddenlty we had the usual types of crazy things happening, special effects, cheesy hero type behaviour and machinery appearing which doesn't seem credible within the context of the rest of the film. I don't mind a film being fantastical as long as it's consistent within its own story. The end of this film was really unsatisfying for me.

A real shame.
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Enjoyable, surprising and original Christmas Tale
flamesnoopy3 December 2010
Having seen this in the movie theaters, and being pleasantly surprised, I feel I am finally early enough to throw a little review. If you expect a movie with well built characters, and/or can't stand violence (which isn't rough at all, actually, very tame) you probably find yourself disappointed after you have watched it. But if you take it light heartedly, and manage to ditch the idea of this being an instant classic, you'll enjoy it.

The humour is great, and as a (proud!) member of the Finnish nation, I liked it. A lot. When movies like Tropic Thunder and Zombieland lack in that department (I did not laugh once when watching either of those films), Rare Exports deliver. Some of the stuff might be hard to understand if you don't get the language, but there is plenty of other type of humour available as well.

As I said already, the characters aren't that well built, but that is not what they attempted, or even wanted it seems. Instead, it brings and original storyline, which doesn't follow the usual movie scheme. I doubt you have ever seen anything like the Rare Exports, and I would suggest everyone to give it a try.
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weak in some details, satisfying idea.
martin-graupner7 January 2011
unfortunately the idea of this film is pretty satisfying on the one hand but the storytelling is not consistent enough. the parts don't fit very well together. there were too many questions for me, that haven't been answered. too many details remained unclear. too much deus-ex-machina kind of pushing things forward finally. and moreover, the picture could be -- for my taste -- be a bit darker. and -- to make the specific turn plausible -- the persons and there behavior could be even more absurd. it is this switch of the mood, that is (a little!) disturbing -- so that i could not get rid of the feeling, that the authors wanted to be successful with this multiple genre kind of story telling and switched from horror to comedy. that didn't work! it really didn't. the switch should stay on a logical base. there's none. the switch remains surficial.

anyway, the film is not bad. it's a nice idea, placed in a great landscape. the actors are funny. you can give it a chance.
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It's... weird.
Pjtaylor-96-13804425 December 2020
'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)' is weird. Not weird in the quirky sense, just weird. It has a bizarre plot but it takes itself almost entirely seriously, it's increasingly outlandish but it it's never playful, it's dark and gritty but it's never tense or scary... it's difficult to describe, really. It isn't quite a comedy, despite being absurd; it isn't quite a horror, despite being grim. It sits in an odd sort of limbo between genres. Who is its intended audience? I'm not sure that even it knows. I can't see it being a cult classic because it isn't 'bad' enough, but I can't see being a critical darling because it isn't 'good' enough. It has a decent atmosphere and it's fairly compelling, but it doesn't seem to move past its initial stages and a huge chunk of its plot is portrayed as a montage just before its end credits. Like I said, it's weird. It's a fairly decent effort, though, and I don't think anyone can claim that it's generic. 6/10
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Arguably THE BEST Christmas horror film of all-time!
a_chinn27 April 2020
Offbeat is putting it mildly when describing this horror film about a group of Finish reindeer herders who uncover the hidden burial plot of the heinous mythological creature known as Santa Claus. The unfrozen monstrous Santa being revived is one thing, but when his "elves" come to his rescue, things get seriously hairy! Wildly entertaining and must see to be believed. Not for the kiddies though.
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Great Christmas Horror
dar041730 January 2020
One of the best Christmas horrors movies I have seen. Very dark and eerie with great acting all around and a original script.
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A perennial favorite.
speelbergo19 December 2019
My wife insists we watch this every year and it gets better every time. Still waiting for the inferior English remake
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This time you'd really better watch out!
Hellmant10 January 2011
'RARE EXPORTS: A Christmas TALE': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Bizarre fantasy / horror Christmas film about the original Santa Claus, an evil monster who captures and kills naughty children. Supposedly there's several old tales and myths about Santa Claus really being an evil child killer, this movie takes liberty with them. It's based on a 2003 short film called 'RARE EXPORTS INC.' which was a big hit on the internet and caused it's filmmakers to make a 2005 sequel titled 'THE OFFICIAL RARE EXPORTS INC. SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS'. The director and co-writer of the shorts films, Jalmari Helander, once again directs and writes this feature film along with the co-writer of the short films, Juuso Helander. The film is a Finnish film, with a few short scenes in Enlish.

The story begins twenty some days before Christmas atop a Finland mountain where an archaeological dig is underway. The reindeer herders who live below are upset about the excavations, especially when the majority of the reindeer they make a living on are all slaughtered (they think by wild wolves disturbed by the blasts). The son of one of the herders Pietari (Onni Tommila) believes he knows what's really going on and begins looking into old legends and myths about the original true Santa Claus, an evil being who kills children rather than rewarding them. He believes the archaeologists have unearthed Santa and when children and supplies go missing on Christmas Eve it looks like his suspicions are true.

The movie is dark and somewhat frightening but it's also very comedic and by the end of the film becomes very tongue in cheek. It reminded me a lot of the fantasy / horror kids films I grew up on, where a young boy is the only one who truly knows what's going on and it's up to him to save the day. It's a little darker and more explicit in some ways than most of the kids films I'm talking about though. It is rated R and contains male frontal nudity, foul language, frightening images and a little violence (although not much). It's a pretty unique and original film going experience and definitely worth checking out, although not obviously for kids (even though it seems like a kids film a great deal of the time). I wish I had seen it before Christmas rather than after though and then I would have enjoyed it even more. Oh well, there's always next year on DVD.

Watch our review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffxjYiwLUko
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"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus..." - NOT!!!
dee.reid25 December 2011
If you think that just because "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is another holiday-fantasy tale about jolly old Santa Claus, you best turn away from this flick right now. A Christmas-themed horror film is really nothing new in the cinema-verse - see "Black Christmas" (1974) as one pristine example of Christmas-themed horror - but "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" takes the most famous figure of Yuletide celebrations, Santa Claus, and flips over just about every popular modern notion of St. Nick on its head.

That the film is from Finland, spoken in mostly Finnish (with some English-language dialogue) with helpful English subtitles for non-native speakers, shot with icy-blue hues by Mika Orasmaa and is first and foremost a horror film, should give you a few helpful clues that this is anything but your typical holiday fun at the movies. While Santa Claus figures prominently in writer-director Jalmari Helander's film (an extension of his two previous short films "Rare Exports Inc." and "Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions"), this isn't your typical jolly old St. Nick. This film is anything but.

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is a horror-comedy film set a few days before Christmas in Northern Finland. Helander's film centers around mostly Pietari (Onni Tommila), an adorable and precious young boy living with his stern but loving reindeer-herder widower father Rauno (Jorma Tommila, Onni's real-life pop) who has somehow or another gotten it into his head that St. Nick is out to get him. This is no child's imagination running wild. He's right.

On the top of nearby Korvatunturi Mountain, a multi-national excavation team has made a fundamental discovery: they have found the perfectly cryogenically preserved remains of the real-life Santa Claus. Not jolly old St. Nick, mind you, but the REAL Santa Claus! Apparently in ancient Finnish folklore about Kris Kringle, the name given to him is "Joulupukki," which means "Yule Goat." Joulupukki is almost indistinguishable from the popular international image of Santa Claus (or the "Coca-Cola Santa Claus"), but the film plays on the darker legends surrounding the figure that was originally known to the Finnish people as a large, demonic, horned goat-man hybrid, and was a brutal abductor, torturer, and killer of naughty children. Of course, all this was before his "mysterious" metamorphosis into his friendlier, current form.

The premise of this feature may appear to be hogwash on the surface to some people, but I begin with reassurances that just about every line spoken here about Santa Claus/Joulupukki is based on thoroughly, solidly researched Finnish folklore. I know this because as soon as I began looking into the production background of "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale," information about Joulupukki and what he means in Finland started popping up almost immediately. Don't believe me? Just Google "Joulupukki" and see what happens.

Soon enough, herds of shredded reindeer appear all over the countryside. Then, several children from around town, including Pietari's best pal, mysteriously vanish without a trace. Pietari soon begins donning hockey pads and a helmet and sporting his new hunting rifle over his shoulder. He's convinced that the dead reindeer and missing children are both somehow connected, and that Santa Claus is behind it all. He soon lures his disbelieving father, and his two friends Aimo (Tommi Korpela) and Piiparinen (Rauno Juvonen) into his scheme to capture Joulupukki.

When I wrote my review for "Bad Santa" (2003) back in 2004, I wrote that because it was such a vehemently anti-Christmas black-comedy movie, it also doesn't help matters much that the word "Santa" is in fact an anagram of "Satan." Whatever evil connotations you can take from simply rearranging a few of the letters in the word "Santa," they'll definitely come rushing up to the surface when watching "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale." But it's not entirely a horror film; there's also some amusing black comedy arising from the whole set-up.

Take for example a scene in the middle of the film, where Pietari, Rauno, Aimo, and Piiparinen have managed to capture one of Joulupukki's evil "elves," and he's swinging from a meat hook in Rauno's butcher shop, and the four are passing a plate of gingerbread cookies back and forth between each other as they contemplate what to do with him. These "elves" are actually more in-sync with the popular Coca-Cola image of Santa but like their horned master, they're nasty, vicious killers - at least when not in the presence of children and are otherwise passive and harmless. The scene is amusing because it's so sublimely ridiculous, and no one has a clue about their next move.

There are other laughs here, too, but thankfully the humor here never crosses into full-on camp territory, like its inevitable American remake will do. The film takes the dark Joulupukki legend and runs with it, and never plays up the camp aspects of the story in an effort to fish for cheap laughs out of the audience.

In some of the reviews that I've read about this film, none have really spoken out about what I find most compelling about "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale." What is most interesting about this feature is that it is told almost entirely from Pietari's perspective, and as usual the adults are almost completely oblivious to the unspeakable evil that's afoot. And also like the best stories told from a child's perspective, you get a truly great performance out of Onni Tommila, who definitely has a future as a child actor - if that is his chosen life's route - and his on-screen/real-life father Jorma. The two have a chemistry on-screen that just can't be faked by two other actors in identical roles. They make up the deep emotional core of an otherwise darkly comedic horror film.

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is an anti-Christmas horror movie that you can watch on Christmas Day and wake up on December 26 and not hate yourself for doing so.

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Not your everyday (christmas) movie
sandtrail_neelix9 August 2011
This is one surprising movie.

That it isn't a Hollywood production is clear from the very beginning. Nothing is clean, clear-cut, perfect English or filled to the brim with CGI. But that doesn't make it in any way a bad movie. To the contrary. It is this rawness that helps you get the feeling you are really up there in the harsh winter of northern Finland.

The story is also just a bit off the beaten track for any Hollywood production. This is definitely no Coca-Cola Santa we are talking about. The pace of the story is just right, if you ask me. The small bits where there might have been some more tempo gives you just enough time to form your own misconceptions about how the movie will progress. Only to be shaken awake once again, and hugging the edge of your seat with your buttocks.

Besides the nice story, the amazing landscape is by itself a wonder to behold. To bad you don't get to see to much of it. Also, the music is of a very high standard, underlining the mood very well.

Downsides to this movie? OK, the acting is not the very best I have ever seen, but good enough to not irritate. Oh, and they used some easy way outs for scenes that would have cost them loads of money. They just don't show them and leave it up to you to fill it in. But again, this doesn't irritate.

All in all, a very nice production definitely worth watching. Just don't be hoping to see several nice long Finnish blonde ladies frolicking in the snow. Then you'll be sorely disappointed. :D
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You're a mean one St. Nick
moviemanMA4 January 2011
Earlier this year, I came across a trailer for a film called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. An outrageous looking film about the discovery of the real Santa, only he is a bit nastier than you could ever imagine. I thought that perhaps this was a hoax, only to discover the writer/director Jaimari Helander had made two short films about the same subject, made in 2003 and 2005, both of which are available on Youtube. To say I was pleased is a gross understatement. The shorts were so demented and incredibly well done that I found it hard not to love them.

So, I anxiously awaited the opportunity to see the feature film version. So, a week after Christmas, I found myself settling down to watch it. I was not disappointed.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale opens with the discovery of what we assume to be the real Santa Claus, in a remote Scandinavian part of the world. Near the dig site is a small village, where reindeer (go figure) are one of the primary exports and sources of money. Pietari, the son of one of the locals, is convinced that there is something odd going on, and believes that Santa Claus is the cause of it. His father doesn't listen to him, nor the local children. After reading up on the "true" origins of Santa, whose history isn't as clean or as white as the snow. We are made to believe that Santa robs children from their homes if they have been naughty.

When things go awry for the reindeer, Pietari fears that he is to blame, and will be the likely target of Santa. Being Christmas Eve and all, he is extra cautious, especially when an old man is discovered in one of the wolf traps. This old man, whom the men believe to be one of the American workers from the dig site, is stranger than strange, and believed by Pietari to be the Santa Claus the diggers were looking for.

Yes, it sounds odd, but trust me when I saw this film is extremely entertaining. It's not off- putting or grotesque but more bizarre and engaging. It has the same charm that the previous short films had, in it's creative storytelling and odd portrayal of the iconic Santa Claus. It's not an offensive portrayal but so far fetched that I never saw it as a an attack on Christmas. It's a dark, dark comedy of sorts, masked as a horror film.

Comedy might not be the best word, because there are sight gags or anything like that, but it's because of the story I would consider it a comedy. What separates this from say Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus (other than stupidity versus intelligence) is the quality of the writing, care for the characters, and the outstanding production quality. With a budget of just under two million euros (about 2.5 million American) they make a film that looks like it cost ten times as much, maybe more. What little computer effects were used pay off in the end.

I realize I have put a lot of praise on a such a silly, nonsensical film, but for such an outrageous film like this, it succeeds greatly. It's a fun, twisted, good time of a movie, and I hope you get to watch it, or at least watch the shorts and make up your mind to see the feature. You won't be disappointed.
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Movie Review: 'Rare Exports' is a darkly entertaining Finnish export
d_art1 April 2011
Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, based on a series of his short films, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale takes place on the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, Korvatunturi mountains, where an archaeological dig may have unearthed the real Santa Claus. However, this may not be the plump, white-bearded Santa Claus most are familiar with, but the much meaner creature from Finnish folklore. Young Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter/butcher by trade, capture the old man/creature and attempt to sell him to the company sponsoring the dig. Meanwhile, all the local children begin to mysteriously disappear while Santa's "elves" will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity.

From the beginning, I really liked the mood of this film. Admittedly, I haven't seen any of the short films that Helander had made before this. Throughout this film, there's a sense of tension and mystery, but with good amount of dry humor thrown in. Ever since the dig, strange things begin to happen in the small town--electrical objects are stolen and children disappear. I really liked how the film never reveals things too soon, but allows the story to progressively present itself. While most of the film is in Finnish, there are occasional English speakers in the film, who play their parts with just the right amount of over-the-top gusto.

The film works similarly to a horror film, with well-timed pacing and build-up, and perhaps finally the eventual uncovering of the mysterious, impending horror. With harsh language, dark humor, some gore, frontal nudity (of old men), and some creepy moments, it's certainly not for little children (Think Pan's Labyrinth). Director Jalmari Helander confidently balances the horror and the humor of this tale expertly. The horror elements, while mostly tongue-in-cheek, are there, but the film is closer to a thriller, and the humor is sharp. I'm reminded of Bong Joon-Ho's The Host. As such, this film shares many elements of a monster movie, but it isn't really about the monster—it's the characters and their relationships with each other. The story unfolds in a diabolically clever way, which works in conjunction with its occasionally labored build-up. Advertisement

A good amount of the film's focus is on the relationship between Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila), who operates a bankrupted reindeer slaughterhouse. Rauno, who appears to be a widower, tends to be very protective of Pietari and often keeps many things to himself. Onni Tommila plays the young Pietari with much confidence, allowing us to see this strange, surrounding world from his point of view. Jorma Tommila is excellent as the loving father, played with a realistic blend of emotion, restraint, and subtlety.

The icy, white, wintery locale of this film is gorgeous and one can tell that there has been a good amount of production value involved, while avoiding looking glossy or fake. There's good attention to small details that keeps things feeling real. The orange lights, the rich, saturated colors of reds and blues play off and contrast with the snow marvelously. And, firey explosions certainly look great in the snow. The film's pumping soundtrack brings good amount of tension and weight, almost with a hint of that Danny Elfman/Tim Burton-like fantasy atmosphere. Still, the style of the film is generally realistic, and even if very strange, surreal things do happen, the feel of it is not as aesthetically Gothic as, let's say, a Burton film.

While the thematic elements of the film aren't anything new, I loved the film's original take on the Santa story. It doesn't ever feel like a lazy "wouldn't it be cool if…" gimmick, but there's actual weight to the story. It isn't trying to redefine something, but it is simply telling a story which happens to be quite strange. Strange it is, indeed….but it feels wholly original.

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A Christmas Staple
realfandangoforever23 December 2018
181223: As of now, a Christmas staple alongside esteemed others like The Polar Express (2004).
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Some cheer and some screams for your holiday mood.
spicy_bee23 December 2018
How i decided my rating Onni Tomila - 1 Jorma Tomila - 0.8 Other cast - 0.5 Story - 0.8 Screenplay - 0.8 Thriller - 0.7 Plot twist - 0.7 Comedy - 0.4 Family and drama - 0.4 Violence and gore - 0.7 Ending - 0.8 Total - 7.6

Throughout the movie i kept trying to figure out why they named it as such but i wasn't disappointed when I figured it out. An absolutely thrilling adventure around this Finnish take on the dear and lovable Santa Claus.

I was a little skeptical at first but Onni was amazing, this child star and his father (who is also his father in real life) are good actors and keep you rooting for them throughout the movie. A simple but interesting plot and some good camera work make this a fun holiday thriller.

A must watch Christmas movie.
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You have to see it ...
kosmasp31 December 2010
... to believe it (that is). Of course this is a weird "christmas" movie, that will not be everyones taste. But if you have just a little bit of dark humor in you and like to be entertained on the darker side (no pun intended), with no sign of political correctness standing in your way, you are absolutely right with this one here.

There are a few little things, that I kinda missed myself (things I didn't notice, but got reminded again by fellow Frightfest followers), that are making this movie more than re-watchable. Maybe it can become a Christmas tradition of sorts. Not for the children though ... but everyone has a second TV set these days ... so rent a movie for the kids and watch this with your friends and have a blast!
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