In Finland, on the cold dark border with Russia, a remote drilling operation makes a startling supernatural discovery....
Meanwhile, the rugged men of a small hunting village cope with the unexplained loss of their herds....
In a bleak vision reminiscent of Cormack McCarthy, a single father must protect his boy of 10 from the thing of legend broken free from the ice....
R for some nudity and language
That thing is called... Santa Claus.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? The idea really works, too. In the mythology set up by the movie, the story of Santa Claus is akin to something like “Ring around the Rosie.” What has become a cheerful, meaningless game has its roots in something bleak and horrific. I’ve read tales of Icelandic faeries and ghosts, and they are not “fun.” The idea of an elf who only comes out on the longest night of winter, infiltrates your home, and demands offerings of milk and cookies fits right in to the psyche of a cold and dark land.
Too bad the idea is better than the execution. That’s not to say that the execution isn’t good; just that Rare Exports really wants to be outstanding. Some scenes fall flat in spite of the intended emotion. The acting could have been a little more dynamic and the pacing could have been a little tighter, which might have made the film a better horror movie. It would almost have worked better without the Chrismas-joke overlay because I kept being distracted by whether I was supposed to laugh or let myself get scared.
Still, writer/director Jalmari Helander may prove to be Finland’s answer to John Carpenter and George A. Romero. Rare Exports does an admirable job of staying bleak for almost the entire duration. Until the coda, it never winks, never makes a joke of the terror, and keeps the tone ominous and foreboding. If you’re feeling down and looking for a little anti-Christmas spirit, you just might enjoy Rare Exports.