I’m not always the biggest fan of Christmas horror movies. It’s not that I feel like the holiday is being desecrated or anything like that, just that usually by December I’m in the action and/or holiday portion of my internal movie cycle. But, I’ve been hearing about Rare Exports for a few years now, saw it while flipping around Netflix and decided to give it a watch the other night.
While horror Christmas might not be in my wheelhouse, movies where kids stand up against incredibly powerful supernatural forces certainly are. In the case of co-writer/director Jalmari Helander’s film, a group of foreign excavators wind up blasting a mountain in Finland that’s actually a prison for a demonic version of Santa Claus. The locals — three adults and a kid — start to think something’s up when their reindeer wind up dead. After doing some exploring they wind up meeting an old gaunt naked dude who looks an awful lot like Santa and seems preternaturally drawn to kids and cookies. From there we get a few twists that I won’t spoil in this paragraph.
I will SPOIL them in THIS paragraph, though. What we find out is that our heroes don’t have Santa in their house, but instead one of the elves. Turns out the excavators did find Santa and he’s actually a giant, horned demon frozen in ice. The elves even swiped all the heating elements in town to defrost him as well as the kids. While the adults start freaking out, the kid — who of course did his research earlier in the film — steps up, develops a plan and helps save the day!
The beauty of this film — aside from how pretty it looks all around — is that it’s got a really cool, fairly high concept, but doesn’t over do things. Helander and the other writers didn’t include a bunch of scenes depicting a crazy-huge Santa that would wind up looking super crappy thanks to low budgets and bad CGI. Instead, they did a lot with people, practical effects and the occasional computer addition which not only makes the film feel more solid, but will also make it more timeless in the long run. And, man, the very end of the film is such a clever turn that I didn’t not expect, so kudos all around!
Do note, I watched this one on Netflix Instant and the only version available on there is in Finnish. It starts with English, but then gets right into subtitles for most of the rest of the film. I was doing something else when it started, but wound up giving the movie my full attention once the subs kicked in, which tells you how much I was into this movie.