STUDIO: Oscilloscope (BUY IT FROM CHUD.COM)
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
- The Making of Rare Exports
- Concept Art
- Photo Gallery
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
- Blu & DVD
THE TEAM: Jalmari Helander (director). Tommi Korpela. Per Christian Ellefsen. Jorma Tommila. Jonathan Hutchings. Onni Tommila. Risto Salmi. Peeter Jakobi (stars). Jalmari Helander. Juuso Helander. (writers). THE PITCH: Santa Claus, the real one… is unearthed in Finland and a monstrous threat is unleashed to all.
Saying Rare Exports is the best “Killer Santa” movie is like saying Saw is the best Tobin Bell franchise. Of course it’s the best. The competition is virtually nonexistent. All it requires to take that crown is a tiny bit of attention to detail and a take that doesn’t involve Kris Kringle walking around with an axe.Luckily, Rare Exports treats the concept with creativity, intellect, and a surprising ambition. It takes the idea of the Santa Claus from Finnish legend and turns him into a malevolent force of nature, something to be feared. Coupled with a nice story of a young boy (played very well by Onni Tommila) piecing things together it’s not only a worthy left field horror flick, but possibly one of those movies people will add to their holiday rotation.
The premise involves an archaeological dig put on by a wealthy Western organization for “something” buried in Finland’s Mountain and how the encroachment into the land occupied by Reindeer herders affects the balance of things. When a wispy naked old man shows up and makes short work of the digging crew, things are set into quick and violent motion. As is the case with so many special films like this, the heart and soul of the film is a child and we see a lot of this through his eyes. His little tiny Finnish eyes.
There have been comparisons to the work of Joe Dante, primarily Gremlins, but it’s more just the marriage of the holiday season and borderline R-rated things happening to a community and its children that spur them on. This isn’t at all a Joe Dante style flick. Director Jalmari Helander brings his own nice epic elements to the genre and the fact Rare Exports rips at many conventions helps make it feel even larger. When the film kicks into high gear there are moments where budgetary limitations are evident but there’s a very fresh energy that permeates through the whole thing.
The result is a film that isn’t a horror flick, isn’t a holiday flick, and isn’t a novelty but rather a reminder that when you strip away the four-corner mindset and focus group mentality a lot of fun can be had with the expected. That’s the real magic of this film as it’s not some slam dunk when it comes down to it. The humor is nice but it’s not razor edged. Some punches are pulled when it seems as if a lot of child endangerment is afoot. The mythological element isn’t as dense as it could have been. The “Killer Santa” or “Killer Elves” as is more applicable is handled well but a significant horror icon isn’t born. Rather than focus too much on any one of those things the film dances between them delicately. The result is something which will crossover better but is a little soften than the hype may indicate.
The filmmaking is excellent, the performances are quite good (especially the child, his father and the oft-naked “Santa”), and there’s a quiet confidence to all of it. The holiday season is ripe with perennial “classics” of varying quality, reputation, and theme. This one most definitely deserves a seat at the table.
ITS PLACE IN THE PANTHEON: It’s all alone. No other Santa movies even deserve the time of day.
SPECIAL FEATURES, or “SPECIAL” FEATURES? There are some really solid little special features here, not the least of which being the fact the film is on both Blu and regular DVD. If a Digital Copy were supplied we’d be spoiled rotten. In reality, this should be the practice for all studios until the older format is totally phased out. It takes care of current and past generation owners and makes it a lot more palatable for someone to embrace the new format when a chunk of the films they’ve bought come with a Blu. Instant collection! Watching the creation of the film via the special features shows no shortage of ambition and it makes one wonder what could have been done with just a little more budget. The language barrier is a nonexistent issue and there’s a nice variety here to round things out. The presence of the shitty old Santa Claus movie from the 60’s is an afterthought but for the most part this is a winning little release.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars