Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holiday Horror: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Pietari and his father live in Lapland, Finland where they slaughter reindeer to feed themselves and sell to survive on. A big corporation is drilling on top of Korvatunturi, a fell nearby, and ruining their business. The herd of reindeer that usually provides them for their whole year's income is found rotting, obviously killed by mad wolves. Pietari sees some evidence of it being done by people and knows that Santa is behind it all. He knows that Santa isn't the benelovent giver of gifts everyone thinks he is. No one listens to him because he is young, but he will fights as hard as he can to protect his family and the life they have built together.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a dark fairy tale featuring the most adorable child, Pietari. He is often mocked by others and is seen as a weakling. His only semblance of a friend is Juuso, who is a couple of years older and cruel to him. His mother is absent and his father is emotionally distant. Whatever happened seems to have been recent and his father still hurts, but reacts to this by separating himself from Pietari rather than sharing their feelings. This isolated boy tries his best, but usually acts as a hinderance to those around him. This all changes when Juuso tells him there is no Santa Claus. Pietari goes into Buffy-esque research mode with a bunch of books he just happens to have around the house. He discovers that Santa is a sham and he beats children in addition to other unspeakable things. The illustrations in these books are amazing and morbid, featuring a more Krampus-like figure beating children and Santa on top of a pile of children's skulls.

When things start going bad, Pietari is the only one to look at the evidence. He, Juuso, and the other children cut a hole in a fence to spy on the Korvatunturi drilling operation, so he blames himself for basically destroying their future. Then he sees bare human footprints around the carcasses and knows it was Santa Claus. He sets out to fight as best he can, preparing by wearing protective hockey gear, carrying around his father's rifle, and taping cardboard to his bottom. Pietari completely changes from a boy frightened by his father's slaughtering business to one brave enough to confront powerful creatures and even when all seems lost. His relationship with his distant father completely flips as Pietari becomes the protector of and fighter for his father.

The creatures in the film are not what Pietari or anyone else expected. The old nude men seen around are not Santa; they are more like his elves, doing his bidding by kidnapping the local children and stealing anything that emits heat. They are pretty much indestructable, surviving a tiger trap, beatings, torture, and other abuse. Santa is trapped in a giant block of ice. Only his giant horns are seen and everything else is hidden beneath the ice. Even though it's is never mentioned by name, this Santa seems more like Krampus, the dark punishing side of Santa. The crew working around the ice block received new safety instructions that included no drinking, cursing, swearing, or smoking, all things that could incur Santa's wrath and disturb his slumber.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Story is a more whimsical story that undermines the view we typically have of Santa Claus. The overall tone of the film is more positive and hopeful than most films like it. The core of the film is the relationship between Pietari and his father which is strengthened over the course of the story. The ending is awesome and unexpected (although it is more disturbing if you think about it too much). The whole story is elevated by the beautiful visuals of the icy Finnish countryside. This is one of the few feel good Christmas horror films and it's highly recommended.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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