Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) - This is a very cool film, not sure if I would call it a horror film but it certainly straddles the line between horror and fantasy. It is the story centered around the Krampus myth come to life in the cold of northern Finland. Krampus would give gifts to nice children but put naughty ones in a sack and carry them away. It was interesting that Krampus came and snatched up bad children on December 5th, a date that recently came up in the film Sint (2010). In this myth Krampus is a demonic looking creature with horns, not the nice Santa with red and white outfit we all know and love.
Originally a short made in 2003 it is a story of hunters who go out hunting each year. Not for reindeer or any other animal but for a Father Christmas, it is an amusing and fun men on the hunt story. The three hunters shoot darts into a fat naked guy and then track him down. After capturing him they clean him up and then train him to be a Santa Claus. When the training is done the Santa is boxed up and shipped out around the world.
The idea was expanded in 2005 with a safety instruction video, it tells the staff who are supposed to make sure the shipped Santa got to its destination. The story told shows the hunting party that was called in after a poorly boxed Santa escaped and killed the warehouse workers. In this story we first get to see the very young and cute Pietari. The rules for the Father Christmas are simple enough and shown through amusing demonstrations.
1. No loud noises.
2. No aggressive behavior towards them.
3. Play dead if attacked.
4. No smoking around Father Christmas, they hate smokers.
5. No alcohol and cursing they sense it and kill you.
So basically you have to be good because they will know if you are naughty or nice. Once a Father Christmas tastes human flesh they are insatiable and will have to be put down. It is a sad cautionary tale and really adds to the myth that was created in the first short film.
And so we come to the final idea the feature length film Rare Exports.
The opening scene sets us up. It is 24 days until Christmas and a drilling team is frantically working drilling a hole in Korvatunturi mountain. The head of drilling is telling his boss, Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen) of how they found sawdust and ice deep inside the mountain.We learn that in the old days people would store ice in caves surrounded by saw dust. So the team has found what they are looking for deep in the mountain and now their job is to dig it up. As we pan outside to see the drill area we see that two little kids are watching the men from behind some boxes. Pietari (Onni Tommila) the younger one seems to know that these men are looking to find Krampus deep in the mountain and he is scared. The older boy Juuso does not really believe but the legend is that the people of the area trapped the mythical being under this mountain and it is where he was supposed to stay. Riley though wants to reach his life long dream of finding Santa Claus.
Pietari is really our main character, a little kid really maybe nine or ten years old. Still young enough to have a stuffed animal he drags around but in his culture old enough to attend his first reindeer roundup. He believes the Krampus myth and knowing that there are men up on the mountain where he is buried has him nervous. Of course no one else sees it his way. During the opening credits we see him doing research on the real story of Santa Claus. He is just a little kid and the adults are more focused on the deer round up. It is the time of the year where they collect the meat that will bring them the most income and provide food for the winter. So while his Father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) builds a bear pit (illegal in Finland) to deal with a wolf problem he has been having, Pietari tries to secure his room from the threat of the mythical creature. He is a delightful age, young Pietari is straddling the age where you stop believing but still holding on to his childhood innocence. The home life he leads in the frosty cold of northern Finland is not easy and some scene time is spent to show that his Father is a recent widow struggling to live while still giving the young child a full life. He fails at it in he is not a cook so his attempts to cook gingerbread cookies or Christmas dinner are failures.
After a disastrous round up where they find 30 carcasses of deer slaughtered and rotting. They think wolves which is a horrible turn of events for the small isolated community. There entire winter centers around the deer round up; meat for the winter and sales for cash. The hole the boys cut into the fence when they spied on the drilling team is a key piece to Rauno thinking the drilling crew are some responsibility. They drive up the mountain to confront the crew but find the installation empty and a giant whole in the mountain. Pietari and Juuso are too afraid to say what they did. The film looks like it is a showdown between the miners and the locals but very quickly it takes a strange turn.
Caught in the bear trap is a man, dead on the spikes who looks an awful lot like Santa Claus. Rauno tends to the body bringing it into his butchering area. Does he call the cops, or dispose of the body? This discussion with his friends is cut short when Pietari comes in and the man on the slab comes to life. His nose twitching as he smells the child now it is a matter of who this person is not what to do with the body. The man is mute and as he heals they can not seem to communicate with him at all. It seems he only responds to two things, eating gingerbread cookies and children.
The mystery of the town gets larger when all the children disappear overnight, stranger yet when all the appliances that create heat vanish too, stoves, heaters even blow dryers all go missing.The adults try to talk with the Santa but to no avail, he seems really animal like, scary in his silent way. It is the horror of the movie how you can really feel the menace beneath the behavior of the old man. Pietaro is terrified and knows something is totally wrong. While the men try to get some kind of conversation from the Santa, Pietari calls all his classmates to discover they have all gone missing.The men make a plan to sell the Santa to Riley figuring this is who he was after when he dug the hole in the mountain. They call him to make the exchange but while they are involved Pietari makes a very scary discovery. This is the time in the movie where it takes a most wonderful turn. I will not go into it here because watching this wonderful tale should be exactly what all of you readers should be doing.
After the big turn in the film we quickly move to a pretty fantastic finish. Pietari gets to be a hero and comes of age in a few short scenes. The children's disappearances and the missing heaters are all explained in this great finish. This really is a fine winter tale worth the time to watch and read. Although a bit unfocused for very short time it is a tale of a little boy leaving childhood behind and becoming a man. The ending that plays back into the short films is a nice touch. So find this Christmas tale you will not be sorry you did.
Rating (7.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.