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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Reviews

Page 1 of 47
Jens S

Super Reviewer

November 23, 2010
This Finnish Christmas tale looks better than most other films from Europe. Arthouse lovers could complain that it got Hollywoodized too much, but the wonderfully wacky story of "the original" Santa tale should please everyone with a sense for unusual horror. The mix of traditional folklore, family story and monster film just works really great together. Especially the ending is so clever you can't help but hope this is a true story.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

October 24, 2011
Interesting movie. Rather strange, if you ask me. I'm not sure I get why so many people seemed to love it. This was an unanimated Tim Burton kind of Christmas movie. My biggest disappointment with the film is what we don't get to see. I didn't understand why we got to see a bunch of less than adorable naked elderly elves, but we couldn't get a single shot of Santa? It was also confusing that the first hour of the story is for older kids or adults, and then once the young boy starts calling the shots, it's reverses back to a kid's film. Not much magical, or mystical, about this particular fairytale. Dark, but weird...

Super Reviewer

December 19, 2010
Cast: Per Christian Ellefsen, Peeter Jakobi, Tommi Korpela, Jorma Tommila, Jonathan Hutchings, Onni Tommila, Risto Salmi, Rauno Juvonen, Ilmari Järvenpää

Director: Jalmari Helander

Summary: In the frozen beauty of Finland, local reindeer herders race against the clock to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus. A single dad and his son are caught up in the chaos as scientists dig for artifacts. What they find endangers the entire village.

My Thoughts: "I really liked the concept of this movie. I thought it was a brilliant idea... Lets make Santa a child murdering freak of nature and have old naked men as the elves. Crazy right?! I wouldn't call the movie scary, even if I think kids would freak out, but considering the elves (as I mentioned above, they are old naked men), I'm pretty sure no parent is going to allow their young ones to watch this.. Well unless they are a bit twisted. It's a rare dark Christmas treat. Someone previously wrote that it felt like an 80's film, and I couldn't agree more. Which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Hope more see it. Enjoy!"
Ken S

Super Reviewer

February 2, 2012
A fun alternative to the regular Christmas faire, The best way to describe Rare Exports is The Thing, as directed by Steven Speilberg, on a low budget, set in Norway, with Santa as the titular character.
And it's kind of awesome...until it kind of endorses slavery at the end (or at least "human" trafficking.

Super Reviewer

January 10, 2012
"This Christmas Everyone Will Believe In Santa Clause."

I have been waiting for over a year to finally get a chance to watch Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. I hyped it so much in my own head and still it did not disappoint. You just can't beat the premise of the film. It is so brilliant and so... refreshing. This is a great Christmas film to watch when you are sick of watching all the heartwarming, kid friendly holiday movies. This one has a great, sinister back story to Santa Clause. It is extremely humorous and occasionally exciting. It wasn't quite the film I thought it would be. I did have an initial feeling that this was going to more of a horror film, but they didn't go that route and that is fine with me. 

This film centers around an archeological dig up of the original Santa Clause. This Santa Clause isn't the nice guy that everyone is familiar with though. He does bring nice kids presents and his elves are less than small. What he does is destroy naughty kids. All the kids in a village go missing on Christmas and a young child, his father and a few other locals are forced to act. This may not seem like all that brilliant of an idea, but if you watch it, your mind will definitely be changed. 

I think my favorite part of the experience was how the writer-director bypassed what everyone expected and went for a much more comical approach. It isn't to the point of laugh out loud comedy, but there's subtle things that would make me laugh occasionally. 

Could it have been better? I think so. Even with how much I love it, I don't think it capitalized on the amazing premise to the fullest extent. Also I would have loved for it to be slightly longer. The final showdown doesn't feel as epic as it should. I would have loved to have seen a little bit more from the elves too. But all in all, this is one hell of a twisted holiday film, that you should watch to mix it up.

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2012
This is the most bizarre Christmas Movie to come along in some time, not a sit down and watch family movie, defiantly not something that would come across the hallmark channel. A Finnish film about Santa Claus who has horns like the devil and comes for good little boys and captures them with his evil elf helpers, pretty sick and high in the wacko scale but only a 4 star in overall enjoyment on my part.

Super Reviewer

January 1, 2012
"This holiday season, the real Santa Claus is coming to town."

In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up! This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.

In the far north and remote parts of Finland, a mining company searches for a forgotten secret, buried, hidden and frozen in one of the mountains (Sidetrack: Why is it always somebody that feels the urge to dig up what a lot of people obviously have put a lot of effort to bury? They didn't do it just for fun, did they?). Pietari, a local boy, has snuck into the compound and overhears the chief start the final preparations. Pietari understands what they are digging for, Santa Claus. Reading the original tales Pietari discovers that the real Santa isn't at all as it is told nowadays. The real Santa is a monster. And suddenly strange things happen in the village. No one, especially the children, are safe.

Sometimes Rare Exports suffer from what I personally call Annoying Kid Syndrome. Pietari, even though he is the protagonist, do get a little annoying sometimes. He clearly suspects something, he acts upon it, regularly disobeying his father, but doesn't tell anybody. Even when the strange things start to happen, confirming his suspicions. But other movies have suffered worse than Rare Exports from this, and it corrects itself as the movie goes along. For the most part, Rare Exports is best described as a horror/thriller-comedy. There are no real jokes, the characters are dead serious about what they do, but the plot is driven so far, so outrageous, it is a lot of fun. And it wouldn't have worked if the characters hadn't taken it seriously. Not at all. Rare Exports is both fun and thrilling with a bit suspense. Very entertaining. A good export from Finland.

Super Reviewer

November 4, 2010
Rare is definitely the word here. Because how often do we see a Christmas movie where Santa is pure evil and the kids are armed with rifles? Well, there's Bad Santa, but it was no way near as dark as this film. Hence, a word of warning to all the parents out there: Unless you want your kids to think of Santa as a naked and sadistic hobo, you may want to keep them at a safe distance from this movie. For us who have long since stopped believing in him, however, it's a fresh, exciting and well-executed piece of Finnish fantasy-horror. A bit like The Thing, but with a very different kind of creepy monster.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

December 12, 2011
Rare Exports isn't the sinister horror the trailers promised. But it is an incredible Christmas/Family film. What I love is that it really captures the childlike essence of 80's films such as Gremlins, Goonies and ET. We have a young protagonist that is terrified of Santa. He discovers that the real Santa only punishes naughty children in very horrific ways. Of course, once the deer start getting killed, and footprints appear in the snow, no one believes him. It isn't long before the adults catch up to his way of thinking. The film builds a lot of tension at first. It never really shows us anything but hints heavily at what to expect. The end sees a dramatic action heavy finale, which surprisingly works. The beautiful darkness of Finland mixed with the snowfalls makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Rare Exports also remembers to have a heart, as the boy struggles with his gruff and distant father. I can certainly see why this might disappoint many. It does present itself as a horror at times, and the climax sees all the plans work first time. I actually found this to be a refreshing change, to the usual Plan A-Plan D routes. It kept the pacing tight. I will be watching this again closer to Christmas, as it certainly gave me that Christmas evening feeling.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

December 6, 2011
The Finns make some awesome films; Rare Exports is an awesome film. If you fancy an alternative Christmas movie but have seen Bad Santa enough times already, this is for you. It premise is very creepy, it's also very silly but it never falls foul of the usual cliches found in horror films and nor does it ever get very silly. It's very dark and yet by the end, it seems quite family friendly in a way. A brother's Grimm tale with a modern twist, refreshingly original.

Super Reviewer

November 17, 2010
I didn't know what to expect from this film and although it did not deliver what I had in mind, the end result was still a very good film. It explores the true nature of Santa Clause, as not a jolly fat man in a suit that rewards the good and shakes his chubby finger at the bad, but more a demon Santa if you will, that literally whips the flesh off of bad childrens bones. Refreshingly original, strangely hilarious and a rock solid performance from all cast members, Rare Exports has got enough twists and turns to keep you entertained as well as being ludicrous enough to keep your attention through the quiter moments. Definitely not your generic scary movie.

Super Reviewer

October 17, 2010
Great premise that never lives up to it's full potential. The movie just drags way too much, and it leaves you waiting for a big climax that never arrives. That said, the direction is sharp with great attention to detail, Helander might be a man to watch in the future, he just needs a better script.

Super Reviewer

February 26, 2013
In "Rare Exports," Rauno(Jorma Tommila) is incensed that the annual Christmas Eve reindeer roundup has been ruined when he and his fellow hunters come across the carcasses of nearly all of the reindeer which cost them upwards of $80,000 in lost profits. The target of their ire is the drilling site near the Russian border but luckily for the outsiders, nobody is home. Rauno's son, Pietari(Onni Tommila), had snuck over there earlier this month with his friend Juuso(Ilmari Jarvenpaa) who asks his younger friend to not only keep quiet about that and the hole they made in the fence but also all of his crazy sounding theories concerning fairy tales and Santa Claus.

"Rare Exports" is a well-photographed movie. Aside from that, it has a truly original take on the Santa Claus mythos and a neatly subtle approach to its dark material which I would normally appreciate. However, in this case, the movie is mostly all suggestion. As noted expert Stephen King would say about horror, you have to deliver the goods at some point which this movie sadly does not do. That's not to mention an ending I'm not sure what to make of. Otherwise, that leaves some neat father-son interaction and lots of stuff on arcane Finnish hunting regulations.

Super Reviewer

December 15, 2010
Hee hee.

So, Rare Exports is the rare import from Finland that actually makes it Stateside in the theaters. And it is quite the Christmas treat. Both bracingly hilarious and hilariously bracing (does that work?), this film takes the Halloween movie template and decorates it with Christmas lights, making Santa a fairytale beast - a kind of demonic warlock that truly does see you when you're sleeping - rather than his jolly cheery Coca-Cola self. An excavation team is working the December shift on a rural mountain in frosty Finland, a veritable winter wonderland except there's that creepy overtone right from the get-go. The film stages the parts: a rich weirdo is financing the dig, the miners grow suspicious, and nearby kids - including young Pietari - witness the early stages of this bizarre archaeological endeavor. Pietari is young enough to still believe in the good ol' Santa, only to have his friend tease him about such naivete, spoiling the Santa visits of the past. Pietari then spends the opening credits researching the disturbing and utterly comical mythology of the *real* Santa Claus, and how he may have ended up at the bottom of a nearby mountain.

Thankfully, the movie is self-aware enough to furnish itself with all the appropriate B-movie trappings: ominous music, disarming close-ups, and gut-busting one-liners. The surprise here is that the film never tries to over-work the gimmick of "Santa as Hannibal Lecter," and thoughtfully builds in a father-son dynamic that's sweet and sincere and believable. Woven into the film are clever recurrances of gingerbread cookies, jokes about VAT (Value Added Tax), fear of the final advent calendar door, reindeer corralling, and Santa's creepy "Little Helpers." And - this may strain belief - it all works.

Strewn in balance within is a healthy dose of tension, well-timed hilarity, a genuine connection to the characters, and the rather brilliant coda (one that single-handedly bumps the film's rating up a point) as the final impressive gewgaw in a film with its stocking full of them. The pacing is slow at times, but once the final act hits, the film truly comes together. The childlike vulnerability of Pietari is spot on, and his coming-of-age turn - while laughable and amusing - also works for the narrative, leaving an unexpectedly nice little gift at the film's conclusion. You better watch out, moviegoers. This Santa Claus movie is the real deal.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

December 24, 2012
Santa Claus is comin' to town, with a vengeance and a whole new meaning for the term, "You better watch out". Man, the Finnish would come up with something this crazy, but hey, I reckon I'll run with it, because I hear this film is a good one, even if it is overstylized and too long at two-and-a-half hours. Oh no, wait, that's the French "A Christmas Tale", or rather, "Un Conte de Noël" (I love the French language, but Finnish is just fine, I guess), and this is just some film about a group of reindeer herders who hope to bribe money from scientists by holding hostage... Santa Claus, who is out for the blood of the naughty. ...Oh yeah, this film is much lessy crazy than Arnaud Desplechin's 2008 holiday opus, but then again, 2008's "A Christmas Tale" might very well be weirder, as Desplechin also did some sprawling three-hour drama titled "My Sex Life... or How I Got into an Argument", so he's got to be a little bit crazy, or, well, a French filmmaker. The real horror film is the one about some poor sucker who gets trapped in a room with some Finnish dude and a French filmmaker, and I would hope that such a film would lean closer to being a Finnish production, because, apparently, Finnish films are shorter. Hey, I don't really care about who's producing what, just as long as I get a good film, like this one, weird or not. Still, with all of this delightful Christmas chills and holiday horror, it's only a matter of time before things go "south" (Get it?), or at least just hit a flaw.

Focusing on a group of mountain-dwellers comabting freshly unfrozen army of killer Santa Clauses who aims to cleanse the world of the naughty by horrifying means, this film's story is an absurdist one that can't possibly be taken serious and, as sure as sunshine, isn't, though not to where it's quite as tongue-in-cheek as you would expect, nor as tongue-in-cheek as it probably should be, because as lively as this film is in its absurdity and degree of self-awareness, there's a certain deadpan attitude behind the humor that leaves the film to take itself much too seriously, which, of course, often leaves humor to fall flat. If nothing else, the degree of self-seriousness sparks a bit of tonal unevenness, as the film will spend long periods flowing along with moderate, if at all present - if you'll excuse the word choice - "subtlety" to its humorous undertones, then leave its under-manipulated tone to fall slave to particularly absurdist parts of the story that throw off the momentum of the humor, which hits only so many times in the first place, due to the aforementioned "seriousness", which isn't to say that this film isn't still not quite as "serious" as it probably should be. Again, this film is absurdist, and there's absolutely no way around that, so I'm not asking for a whole lot of depth to this Christmas horror opus, yet the imbalance between self-seriousness and self-awareness proves to be not only detrimental to the humor, but the substance, because although the film takes itself too seriously, absurdity is undeniable, so much so that the deadpan approaches to the absurdity result in substance tainting that takes some of the meat out of your investment in the "plot", such as it is. Now, people, this story was never to be meaty, yet the film's being both too self-aware and not self-aware enough leave you to pull back a bit when it comes to claiming a grip on the story that should be as significant as the humor, and it doesn't help that the story, even without the absurdities, is rich with flaws, both intentional and unintentional, that often fail to go adequately obscured by self-awareness compensation, thus resulting in an emphasis on predictability-feeding story cliches and, of course, plot thinness, which would be more forgivable if it wasn't for absurdist compensation's not being the only storytelling issue. The final product is saved as consistently engaging and ultimately rewarding by its livliness, and yet, underwhelmingness rears its ugly head into things much too often, backed up by the story's meandering quite a bit for long periods of time that a film cannot afford to lose to underwhelmingness when working on a paper-thin 82-minute runtime, thus sparking blandness that nearly ruins the film as rewarding. There aren't too many flaws to be found within this film, though that's largely because there's just not too much to the film to begin with, thus every misstep takes on a whole lot more potential for sparking general underwhelmingness. Of course, in the long run, while there are plenty of scare, that underwhelmingness doesn't quite claim the final product, which is indeed considerably flawed, but keeps you going through thick and thin, partially with, believe it or not, musicality.

Whether it be intentional or whatever, Juri and Miska Seppä's score work keeps faithful to this film's story's conventionalism, as well as to the film's often taking itself a little bit too seriously, because although I'm not asking for a stupidly wacky soundtrack, the lack of absurdity in the film's musicality supplements the final product's degree of distance from the tongue-in-cheek attitude that it should be having more of, and yet, at the same time, the score work adds to the livliness of the final product, delivering on dynamic entertainment value that may be familiar, but helps greatly in sustaining the film's livliness while delivering on plenty of just plain good tunes. The Seppä brothers' music is surprisingly sharp and adds quite a bit to the final product, much like a certain other piece of artistry that livens things up and hits by its own right more than you would expect: cinematography, because although Mika Orasmaa's photographic efforts aren't exactly breathtaking, they are lovely, being crisply detailed in their coloring and lighting, but still with a certain hint of grit that reflects the fair degree of intensity to the film's tone and helps in making the film's visual style about as lovely and thoroughly engaging as the film's musical style. It's hardly any wonder why this film seems as though it's taking itself too seriously, as stylistic touches are, not necessarily sensational, but more striking than you would think, helping the film in relaxing its face from cracking a smirk, but being nevertheless something to appreciate, much like the story, or at least to a certain extent, as the thin and unevenly handled plot is either too strange or too serious for its own good, though it's not like the concept is completely disengaging, having a few undeniably unique touches and quite a bit of potential that certainly may not aim at much more than visceral fluff, but still offers much in the way of a certain kind of enjoyability. The film's concept is intriguing, and when it comes to final execution, while you can expect plenty of faults, on the whole, justice is done to the intrigue within the story concept, as director Jalmari Helander delivers on an unapologetically lively atmosphere that draws enough from dynamically nifty mythology and the fluff of absurdity to keep you, if nothing else, thoroughly entertained. Such entertainment value does the most in keeping the film alive, but what ultimately throws in that extra push that nudges the final product into the state of being rewarding is the handling of the substance, which is, of course, arguably the most mishandled aspect within the film, though not so much so that Helander doesn't cut through the meanderings just enough to get you invested in the characters and happenings, thus resulting in consistent intrigue, broken up by genuine tension that may be subdued a bit by its being built around absurdist danger, yet is pronounced enough to get you to the edge of your seat, particularly invested in the story, thin and both intentionally and unintentionally messily mishandled though, it may be. Really, if nothing else, the film is just fun, with striking charm - intensified by much in the way of convincingness and charisma within the cast - that wins you over to the film, even with all of the shortcomings. Sure, the film is flawed and has only so much to it to begin with, and these two factors leave the final product to play with underwhelmingness, but not to where compensation is kept at bay, ensuing with enough potency to craft a charming piece of entertainment that genuinely rewards as a strong piece.

Bottom line, limited self-awareness dilutes the full effectiveness and evenness of humor, while limited self-seriousness both dilutes full investment and emphasizes such storytelling missteps as conventionalism and plot thinness, exacerbated by many a meandering point that threatens to drive the film into underwhelmingness, but doesn't quite make it, going battled back by fine score work and cinematography that compliment livliness within a nifty story concept, brough to life by director Jalamari Helander's entertaining and intriguing storytelling, and complimented by the considerable charm within both atmosphere and performances that goes into making "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" an ultimately thorough entertainer that hits much more often than not and leaves you more rewarded than you'd expect.

3/5 - Good

Super Reviewer

February 19, 2012
I have to say that this Finnish fantasy film is one of the best Christmas movies ever - not typical, though! It tells us a story of the people living near the Korvatunturi Mountain who discover the secret behind the real Santa Claus. In the depths, 486 metres deep, lays the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas and the time has come to dig it up!

The film is based on a 2003 short film "Rare Exports Inc." by Jalmari and Juuso Helander and it was exceptionally well directed by Jalmari Helander - yes, the same guy who already acquired a cult reputation on the internet for his award winning short films.

I'll suggest to start searching for it on video... it'll be a hit with the family with its originality, daring attitude and careful crafting!
Ryan M
Ryan M

Super Reviewer

December 29, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is a deliciously deceptive (and unexpected) mixture of horror, action/adventure, and dark comedy. If you've been a movie buff for a long time, love anti-holiday favorites like "Bad Santa" and "Black Christmas", but still desire something new to add to your collection of films that follow the Grinch philosophy; then this little Finnish fantasy will more than do the trick. It's a crafty film; written and directed by Jalmari Helander, who has as much a strong hand with a camera as with a pen. Here, he has created an original, daring vision of holiday horror; and if it's a crazy, wild, satisfyingly off-kilter ride that you crave, then look no further, because "Rare Exports" just about leaves every other recent anti-holiday feature face-down in the snow.

The basic - but ingenious - concept of the film is that a group of mountain excavators have dug one whole too many; and too deep. They have discovered a giant, frozen Santa Clause; the one you probably didn't know about; the one who has, until now, existed only in Finnish lore. This Santa doesn't give you presents; instead, he's a child killer. And as I mentioned before, he's very, very big. I'd also add on to that statement that he's very, very angry - since he probably is - but we never quite see him in time.

A group of reindeer herders are perturbed by the excavations going on in the mountains; prompting them to investigate. A few of the herders have children - and two of them happen to come along for the trip - although they soon discover the true motives behind the excavations. It's the sort of situation where you desperately want to turn your back to the situation; yet you can't fight the intrigue that it inspires.

I won't spoil too much of what follows. This is a delightful treat of a movie; very cinematic in its broad, visionary ideas, but also quite intelligent as well. For one, the premise suggest a giant Santa; one that we never see. But given the presence of the frozen beast, we expect a straight-up comedy. But that isn't the kind of movie that Helander has set out to make; no, "Rare Exports" plays more like a horror film than anything else. Despite the said premise, it takes itself almost completely serious; although it does have a few moments of satire and humor that make it an easy film to swallow.

Nevertheless, I can't profile it under any other genre than horror; unless I can get by without profiling the film under one genre at all. It truly is something else; not merely a horror film, not merely a dark fantasy, and not merely a part-time satirical look at Finnish lore. In fact, it's all of those films; and perhaps even more. There's heart, a general sense of danger, thrills, and storybook-images of Santa boiling kiddies in giant, black cauldrons. That last thing isn't going to appeal to everyone - in fact, it might offend a certain group of people - but then again, they probably won't see this film in the first place.

The way I see it, "Rare Exports" has already vanished into some sort of obscurity. I think it's our jobs - as the fans (and critics) who appreciated just how unique and entertaining the film was - to change this. This is a terribly overlooked film, and I found it quite fantastic. Given this, I also think it's well-deserving of a faithful audience, and perhaps in the future, it shall itself a nice little cult. I also tip my hat to Helander; who provides us with a pretty damn good show. I haven't seen any other films from him - nor do I know if he's even made any films aside from this one - but either way, I can see him becoming a promising filmmaker somewhere down the road. He gives "Rare Exports" an interesting visual look; and the cinematography is flawless and sometimes even atmospheric.

Look, I'm just getting a little bit tired of standard Christmas movie formula; and "Rare Exports" provided me with the kind of dark, fantastical escapism that I needed and deserved. If you're anything like me, then it will probably have the same effect on you. Regardless, I smell a new holiday classic in the making; and I'll make this one a "must" for me when it comes to Christmas movie-watching from now on. I had a really good time watching this flick; and like I said, I think it deserves more attention and recognition for its creativity and masterful tonal shifts. "Rare Exports" is rare indeed; the kind of Christmas present that you open with delight, only to find that inside lies a punching glove on a spring; ready to pounce. But there's always fun in something like that, isn't there?
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

December 28, 2011
Ho ho ho! Forget the big jolly coca-cola Santa, this Santa is only interested in punishing the naughty children. Call me uncultured, but Finland is not a cornerstone of the worldwide cinematic community, and yet it appears as though there's definitely some imagination there. A refreshingly original Christmas movie...with a happy ending.
Jason R

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2011
Absolutely phenomenal! I bought the Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack and I have to say this is not only one of my favorite movies right now. The way the film was packaged may just be the best I have ever seen. So many great extras including: The two short films that inspired the movie, some great making of featurettes, and they even included Santa Claus Conquers the Martians for good measure.

This is such a cool movie! I implore you, go see this movie.
Francisco  G.
Francisco G.

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2011
What a letdown! It started out really well but it just doesn't have the pay-off it promises! I won't spoil it but it was an unbelievable mistake to go for that direction in the end, Plus, the whole ending sequence was so clichéd and Hollywoodian, forgetting the amazing first hour making me believe I was watching a completly different movie. A missed opportunity.
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