Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 3

          I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year.  Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special.  I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched.  Thank you for joining me in this endeavor.  Now let's find out what the third pick is.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

         So, this is one that simply had to be added to the list of Christmas films.  Rare Exports is a very unique entry on this list.  Normally, when one thinks about Christmas movies, horror-comedy is not a genre that jumps to mind.  Despite the admittedly awkward genre, Rare Exports is a Christmas movie through and through.  It is also our first and, unless I am totally forgetting what is in the stocking, only foreign feature.  I was lucky enough to catch this one when it was on its theatrical run in the holiday season of 2010.  I have watched it one time since then and am excited to give it another viewing.


          Rare Exports opens at an excavation site on the Finland/Russian border 24 days before Christmas.  The site manager is telling the executive in charge of the excavation about the curious findings in the most recent core sample.  They have found not further rock and dirt but saw dust.  The site manager thinks that they have hit a tree buried under the mound but the executive is confident it is something else.  He tells the manager that in the past when people cut ice they would pack it in saw dust for storage.  After relating this, he hands out the new site safety policies which include directives such as no cursing and no smoking.
          The two then head outside and the executive gives the assembled workers a motivational speech concluding that they have 24 days to exhume what is buried deep in the mound.  It is at this point that we find that two young boys, Juuso and Pietari, are crouching behind the assembled crates of explosives.  Juuso is simply curious about the mysterious excavation on their borders but Pietari is fearful.  He is convinced that what they are digging up is Santa Claus and that, contrary to his portrayal in popular culture, he is something to be greatly feared.  After witnessing the speech, the two leave the site through an opening in the perimeter fence and head back to their village.

Totally normal safety guidelines

          The film jumps forward in time to one day before Christmas, and we find Pietari waking up from a failed watch next to his window.  His worries increase when he finds footprints in the snow outside his second story bedroom.  Pietari goes out to his dad, Rauno's, meat processing shed to tell him of his concerns.  However, his dad won't listen at all and is instead frustrated that Pietari is not ready to leave already, as today is the day their community corrals the reindeer that provide their livelihood.  Upon reaching their electric fence corral, they soon learn that not all is well.  The reindeer fail to show and upon investigation they discover a field of deer carcasses near the fence surrounding the excavation site.  Rauno and the other adults believe the carnage to be the result of Russian wolves agitated by the blasting at the excavation site and let in to the area by the hole in the fence.  Pietari has other suspicions; he finds a humanoid footprint underneath one of the carcasses.  Distraught at the lost revenue, they decide to trespass and explore the excavation sight.  They find the site abandoned and locate the deep chasm exhumed by the workers.  Left with more questions than answers, they head back home.
          The next morning brings further bad tidings.  Rauno finds a naked, old man with a long white beard fatally injured in the bottom of a wolf pit that he has set up on his property.  As the wolf pit is illegal, Rauno is panicked about what to do.  He contacts one of the other adults, Piiparinen, and they decide that the best course of action is to cut down the body and attempt to dispose of it.  As they move the arm towards the band saw, it suddenly springs back.  Condensation visible on a knife blade confirms it, the man is still alive.  Taking a cue from an American passport found in a sack found with the man, they depart to get Juuso's dad, Aimo, who speaks English.
         Upon reaching Aimo's house, Pietari makes another discovery, Juuso is missing and a wicker doppelganger has been left in his place.  Aimo and the other adults seem confident that Juuso is just out of the house to pursue girls and think nothing else of it.  Returning to Rauno's, they discover that English brokers them no increased communication and that the mysterious man has a keen interest in Pietari.  Rauno shoots the man to stop him from advancing on Pietari.  This is the breaking point, the adults agree with Pietari that strange doings are afoot.  At this point, they hear a voice coming from a radio that is in with the items discovered in the wolf pit.  The voice on the other end is that of the executive inquiring where his delivery is.  Seeing an opportunity to recoup the losses brought about by the slaying of the reindeer, they respond to the radio's message saying that the have what he is looking for.

Not exactly a jolly old elf.

          They arrive at the agreed up on location and the executive makes his entrance via helicopter.  The executive seems worried when he sees what they have brought.  He explains that what they have is not Santa but one of his helpers.  After relaying that information, more elves arrive on the scene and one of them kills the executive.  During this exchange, Pietari enters a warehouse and finds Santa, a giant, frozen block of ice with huge horns sticking out.  The others make their way there and find all manner of heating devices arrayed to attempt to thaw the block of ice, as well as sacks containing the missing children.  With things looking desperate and elves pounding on the door, the others are finally willing to listen fully to Pietari.  Under Pietari's direction, Piiparinen uses the helicopter to fly the children away in a cargo net towards their reindeer corral.  This action leads the elves away.  With the breathing room this allows, Rauno and Aino drill holes in Santa's ice block and plant dynamite to utterly destroy him.  With Santa killed, the elves become docile and the group strikes the idea to train them to act in the manner of the pop culture Santa and sell them at great profit.

Crow T. Robot was right.  Christmas does deserve a good action scene

Final Thoughts

         Rare Exports is a film that simultaneously subverts the expectations of what a Christmas film should be while still having the heart that a Christmas film would usually have.  The dynamic between Pietari and his father is very believable and, in the end, heartwarming.  He and his father struggle to communicate as Pietari frequently fails to live up to Rauno's expectations of manliness.  However, it is clear throughout the film that they do care about each other in spite of this.  This is most apparent in a scene that happens in their kitchen after the discovery of the fate of the reindeer.  At the conclusion of the film, Rauno is proud of the man his son is becoming and Pietari understands why his father pushed him.  These interactions alone endear the movie to me.  I'm a sucker for films featuring tortured father/son relationships.  I likely see myself mirrored in them.
          Beyond the emotional drama, the film is simply fun.  The way the film inverts the holiday trope of children who can't wait for Christmas helps to soften the horror elements by coloring them with the absurd.  In all, despite the scarier elements this movie still helps to put me further in the spirit of the season.  I would gladly recommend this film and feel that it would hit the mark for old kids and young teens that may feel too cool to let Christmas move them.  Though, fair warning, there is a considerable amount of full frontal male nudity; so make sure you are okay with that before putting it on for family movie night.  And with that, I  am closing the book on day 3.  Join me tomorrow and we will look over another one.


  1. There's not THAT much male nudity. . . At least not for a European movie.

  2. True enough, but still way more than most holiday films.