I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

tn_rareexportsRARE EXPORTS is this year’s hottest Christmas horror movie. It’s a killer Santa movie but not in the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT sense – in this one Santa is a monster. It’s kind of like THE THING – an American team finds him frozen in a block of ice under a small mountain. They say it’s actually a burial mound. They dig him up and this might cause some repercussions that could put a damper on the season.

The protagonists are the folks who live a simple life near the mountain, rounding up reindeer. In particular the movie follows Pietari, a little boy who still believed in Santa until he figured out what the Americans were digging up up there. I guess he still believes in Santa, but in a different way. His dad, a butcher, thinks the detonations on the mountain have worked up the wolves and caused them to kill all the reindeer. But, see, it probly wasn’t wolves.

All of the faces in this movie are interesting – very Nordic, very lived-in, very un-Hollywood. Pietari’s dad is a rugged outdoorsman type of badass. We trust his abilities because he’s intorduced carving wooden stakes for a tiger-pit style wolf trap. Then he cuts an apple with the same blade, takes a bite and puts the rest in the mouth of the severed pig head he has as bait.

Well, his trap doesn’t catch any wolves. Instead it catches a skinny old naked man with a long white beard. He kinda looks like Brion James. He doesn’t seem jolly at all in my opinion and won’t talk to them, but does perk up when he smells gingerbread or senses a naughty kid nearby.

mp_rareexportsIt’s a great relationship between this man’s-man butcher and his goofy little son who walks around in the snow in his underwear. Dad looks kind of annoyed and embarrassed by his son at first but we see and hear about alot of examples of him being a good father and looking out for his kid’s safety and happiness.

The landscape is bleak and eery, the performances are quiet and understated, there’s an underlying tension and the absurd premise is treated very dryly, without mugging or wackiness. They bring up old legends of mean Father Christmases that punish naughty children, so it seems to have some kind of logical basis in mythology. And the photography is really nice, looks great on the blu-ray.

But it seems to me like there’s a major shift in tone for the last act. Suddenly the kid turns into an action hero. He tells all the adults what to do, and they listen, even though it involves hanging all their kids from a helicopter net as bait, with him hanging on the side like Batman. And this part involves some showy CGI, for the first time in the movie. And then the very end of the movie, where you find out what the title means, makes the whole thing sillier than I was taking it for. I was enjoying it as a serious (if absurd) horror movie, so the punchline made me feel a little dumb – oh, you guys were just making a joke this whole time?

The extras shed some light on that situation. Turns out the movie was preceded by 2 shorts made by an advertising firm. They’re little fake documentaries about these elite hunters and then you find out that the wild animals they’re hunting are “Father Christmases.” The movie is sort of a prequel leading up to that concept, and it’s funny and all, but for my tastes I think they came up with something better expanding it for the movie that they undermined a little by sticking with the original idea at the end. I mean, a monster Santa isn’t any sillier than a doll possessed by a serial killer. I’m glad they didn’t turn CHILD’S PLAY into a joke at the end. They shoulda waited for BRIDE OF RARE EXPORTS.

Still a good movie though.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 24th, 2011 at 2:29 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale”

  1. Yeah, I gotta admit the very last few minutes were also a little bit too much of a tonal shift for me, but I enjoyed the absurdity of it. Everything that came before, was great IMO. And I didn’t care that the adults listened to the kid without hesitating, because I think that they all grew up with knowing that it’s sometimes the best to just do, what seems like the best idea at this moment, because unless you have a better idea, you might die. (Although I guess that was more about blizzard and wolf related situations.)

    And am I the only one who thinks that the father looked like a weird mix between Tom Jane and Bill Paxton?

  2. I’ve been curious about this one. Good buzz on the internet but we know how that sometimes turns out. Good to hear your take which I trust. Enjoy your holiday in whatever manner an outlaw does Vern.

  3. I’m with you on this one, Vern. It was like a classic creepy horror movie for most of the way through. And they kept hinting that things were going to get very nasty for all the naughty children once Santa escapes. But… then it turned into this crummy episode of Spielberg’s AMAZING STORIES. It’s still worth seeing for that Santa guy, who was so scary he could make Christopher Lee’s Dracula pee little icicles with just one sideways stare.

  4. SPOILERS: I was really disappointed in this movie. Monster Santa doesn’t do anything! The excuse is they didnt have the budget, but plenty of low budget horror movies pull it off. Hello, EVIL DEAD. More recently, TROLL HUNTER. But artistically, don’t set something up you can’t deliver. Construct the story to your means.

    And agree with Vern. A cheap joke isn’t a good payoff.

  5. nabroleon dynamite

    December 25th, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Definitely a great concept that could use an American remake. THE LAST CIRCUS was a billion times better.

    Happy “whatever the fuck motherfuckers be celebrating” Day to all!!

    Kwanza pops off tomorrow, so make sure to rock your African medallions & Kente cloth. Peace!!

  6. The ending didnt bother me at all. Yes it was silly, but the film had already delivered its payload and I already thought the whole thing was a joke played dead straight anyway (how could you not? Best line for me [spoiler] “this is one of Santa’s little helpers”).

    Also the ending does tie into the man alone pragmatism of the father and the total destruction of their livelihood, so it doesnt come totally out of nowhere.

    Please! No American remake – it’s already great. It would just be one of those shitty “good director wastes 8 months of their life because people cant be bothered with subtitles” remakes.

    Last Circus is also great and is also way too good to be punished with a remake :) The HOLY FUCK THIS IS DARK ness of it caught me by surprise given the trailer tho. The trailer tries to appeal to Jeunet fans or something and in fact I almost watched it with my girl…

  7. nabroleon dynamite

    December 26th, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Umoja=Unity

    @Anaru. I think a remake made as a labor of love by some one like Spike Jones would be dope!!

    But I agree with you that nobody better fuck with “The Last Circus”

  8. nabroleon dynamite

    December 26th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    @Anaru. Stupid iphone sent before I was finished.

    Anyway, not only did I watch The Last Circus with my girl, but…

    Our daughter’s name is Natalia.

  9. Saw this last year, and agree with everyone else. Started scary, ended meh. Check out the Hogfather BBC adaptation for a better take on this.

  10. For me this was one of the best movie experiences of 2011, and along with Drive and True Grit definetively one I’ll buy on dvd.

  11. I really wanted to see what Santa could do. This is a situation where I don’t think it was better left to my own imagination.

  12. How about a Vampire Santa(Clausferatu) movie?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQamFU-UL6A
    Got reviewed by one of the contributer’s at thatguywiththeglasses.com and she said it’s pretty good for such a low budget thing, and gets some real laughs by playing ridiculous stuff(like Rudolph’s nose being able to hurt the undead) in a staightfaced manner.

  13. You know what? A movie about Buddy the elf from Elf going Die Hard on some north pole terrorists sounds pretty good to me. Like, Die Hard in a delusional, mentally handicapped man’s head. Think of it as Elf meets Die Hard meets Inception meets Speed 2: Cruise Control.

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