It’s Christmas time. It’s the one time of year that sugar-coated, glurge-fest movies are on every channel. They’re hallmarks of compassion and humanity where last minute miracles are not only expected, they’re required. You’re supposed to be uplifted, inspired, and reminded of the importance of family.
‘Rare Exports’ is not one of those movies.
I have no doubt that ‘Rare Exports’ will be a new Christmas favorite for a certain percentage of people- myself included. It is a hard sell: a mostly subtitled Finnish film playing on very few American screens. But if you only see one Finnish film in your lifetime, let ‘Rare Exports’ be it! It is a fun, disturbing, original, genre-hopping gem that left the audience that I saw it with giddier than a night full of spiked eggnog.
‘Rare Exports’ begins at the snowy peaks of the Korvatunturi mountains. The head of a drilling team tells his boss, a wealthy, eccentric Englishman, that they found something in the mountain. His eyes go wide, he tells the men to keep digging, and hands out a peculiar set of safety instructions informing them that not following the rules means risking their lives.
At this point, I was expecting (and maybe you are too) some sort of cheesy Christmas-themed slasher movie with sharpened candy canes slicing victims that appear on the Naughty List. Instead, ‘Rare Exports’ moves into a Guillermo del Toro direction and switches to the point of view of young Pietari. The boy, who lives at the base of the mountains with his father and sparse village, is unnerved by the archaeological dig and it’s ties to Santa Claus. He gets out a book of old Finnish stories and begins to research the real story of Santa Claus- back before the jolly St. Nick cover. It turns out that Santa Claus was a horrible, horned beast who’s standard Christmas Eve was spent boiling kids alive and whipping them into a bloody mess of figgy pudding.
This is where the fun starts.
I won’t spoil the plot for you at all (it’s too good) but, in the same vein as ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Rare Exports’ becomes a eerie blending of myth and reality. If you want to know more about what you’re getting yourself into, you can view director Jalmari Helander’s award winning shorts ‘Rare Exports, Inc.’ (2003) and ‘Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions’ (2005) that he based the feature length film off of.
I wouldn’t say that ‘Rare Exports’ is a scary movie. Creepy? Sometimes. Twisted? Definitely. It has a wickedly black-as-a-lump-of-coal sense of humor as young Pietari is put in real danger and forced to grow up and defend his friends and family (and maybe even pull out a few John McClane style one-liners out it all).
Rare Exports opens (of course) on Christmas Eve in Chicago. You can (and should!) catch it locally at The Music Box Theatre (3733 N Southport Avenue).