Template:Infobox film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a 2010 Finnish dark fantasy horror thriller film written and directed by Jalmari Helander about people living near the Korvatunturi mountain who discover the secret behind Santa Claus. The film is based on a 2003 short film, Rare Exports Inc., by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Template:Expand section Far away in Lapland a British research team is examining drilling specimens on top of Korvatunturi (Fell Ear). The evidence is clear. The entire fell is an ancient burial mound, inside which something is hidden. The men begin to excavate.

The day before Christmas Eve the glacier by the fell has been colored red with blood. In the snow lie the remains of hundreds of reindeer. They have been gnawed to the bone. It looks like the explosions that have been going on at the fell for months have driven the wolves in the area mad. A local reindeer slaughterer, Rauno, examines the carcasses worriedly. Farther away is Rauno's son, Pietari. He too examines the traces and is convinced that it's not the work of wolves.

Rauno's reindeer slaughterhouse has been on the brink of bankruptcy for a long time. The attack of the wolves seems to be the final straw. But Rauno has one more chance. He heads to Korvatunturi to demand retribution from the Americans. On the top of the fell all Rauno and Pietari find is a pit 400 meters deep and no trace of the Americans. It looks as if something was lifted from the depths of hell.

Having lost all hope Rauno returns to his farm. He digs a trap pit in the yard to protect the remaining reindeer in case of wolves.

On the morning of Christmas Eve the trap has worked, but there is no wolf trapped in it. Pietari has been full of fear of the approaching Christmas, like an animal sensing a more powerful beast in its territory. Now his worst fears are coming true.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Onni Tommila as Pietari Kontio
  • Jorma Tommila as Rauno Kontio
  • Tommi Korpela as Aimo
  • Rauno Juvonen as Piiparinen
  • Per Christian Ellefsen as Riley
  • Ilmari Järvenpää as Juuso
  • Peeter Jakobi as Pietari's Elf
  • Jonathan Hutchings as Brian Greene
  • Risto Salmi as Sheriff
  • Jens Sivertsen as Main Elf
  • Sigmund Bøe as Main Elf
  • Olav Pedersen as Main Elf
  • Nils M. Iselvmo as Main Elf

Production[edit | edit source]

The film was produced by Cinet (Finland) in co-production with Pomor Film (Norway), Davaj Film (Sweden) and Love Streams Agnès B. Productions (France), with support from the Finnish Film Foundation, Norwegian Film Institute, FilmCamp and Filmpool Nord.[1]

Development[edit | edit source]

In 2003, the Finnish commercials production company Woodpecker Film published the short movie Rare Exports Inc. online.[2] (It is available on other YouTube channels as well.) Here, the film's writer and director Jalmari Helander established a band of three hunters (marker, sniper, and tracker) searching the wilderness of Lapland for the wild Santa Claus. After the positive reception from an online audience, Woodpecker Film produced and published the sequel short movie Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions in 2005,[3] again with Helander as writer-director.

In 2007, Jalmari Helander introduced producer Petri Jokiranta to his idea of a feature length Rare Exports film based on his short films that had already acquired a cult reputation on the Internet. Jokiranta's company, Cinet, picked up the rights and Helander started to develop the concept together with Jokiranta.

Release[edit | edit source]

In 2009, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale was in production and in Christmas 2010 it was released simultaneously in Finland, Norway, Germany, UK, US and Australia. The film was distributed in US by Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film distribution company.

Box office[edit | edit source]

In US, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale earned $236,347, while abroad it fared much better at $3,778,786, with total worldwide sales at $4,015,133.

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

The film won numerous awards such as the Locarno International Film Festival's Variety Piazza Grande Award[1] and Best Motion Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Director – as well as a "Special Mention" for the Silver Méliès for Best European Motion Picture Award – at the 43rd Sitges Film Festival in 2010.[4] In 2011, director Jalmari Helander and producer Petri Jokiranta received the Finnish Film State Award for their collaboration.

The film and crew earned further awards in 2011: nominated for Best Film for the Jussi Award, it won for Best Cinematography, Best Music, Best Sound Design, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. The film won the Pegasus Audience Award at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films's Saturn Award in the category of Best International Film.[5]

The film received positive criticism. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 89% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 87 reviews, with an average score of 7/10, making the film a "certified fresh" on the website's rating system.[6] The film holds a score of 71 out of 100 on fellow aggregator Metacritic, based on reviews by 18 critics and 19 users, indicating "Generally Favorable Reviews".[7]

Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and called it "a rather brilliant lump of coal for your stocking" and considered it "an R-rated Santa Claus origin story crossed with The Thing." He continued, "Apart from the inescapable [fact] that the movie has Santa and reindeer in it, this is a superior horror film, a spot-on parody of movies about dead beings brought back to life. Oh, and all the reindeer are dead." Ebert concluded that "this is a fine film. An original, daring, carefully crafted film, that never for one instant winks at us that it's a parody. In its tone, acting, location work, music and inexorably mounting suspense, this is an exemplary horror film, apart from the detail that they're not usually subtitled A Christmas Tale and tell about terrifying wild Santas."[8]

Novelist and critic Kim Newman gave the movie 4 out of 5 stars ("Excellent") and praised its "very black humour and a strange mix of revisionist mythology, gruesome horror and authentic Christmas spirit. It has a gritty, outdoorsy feel appropriate to an exploration of the brutal side of a harsh, all-male life in an extreme climate ... Helander also shows suspense chops in vintage John Carpenter mode – the scenes with the captured Santa, a grinning creature waiting for a chance to kill, are good, straight horror stuff, and there's an effective climactic siege of bearded monsters."[9]

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter describes the movie as "a fiendishly entertaining Christmas yarn rooted in Northern European legend and lore, complete with a not-so-jolly old St. Nick informed more by the Brothers Grimm than Norman Rockwell. While the richly atmospheric package has been wrapped with a healthy dose of wry satire, it's not of the mean-spirited Bad Santa variety. Helander, a successful commercial director in his native Helsinki, shrewdly blends just the right amounts of fairy tale wonder and action movie heroics into the oddball mix to highly satisfying effect."[10]

Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times called the movie "a thing of frigid beauty and twisted playfulness ... Kids will love the diminutive, motherless hero and a plot that's completely bonkers; adults will enjoy the exuberantly pagan images and deadpan humor." It was rated a New York Times Critics' Pick.[11]

Sheri Linden (the Los Angeles Times) praised the "twisted black humor in this frosty Finnish fantasy ... What unfolds is a dark comic thriller and action-hero send-up, a strange alloy of daredevil helicopter maneuvers and night of the living elves. Captured in atmospheric widescreen camerawork, the end-of-the-world frozen landscape (actually Norway) is spectacular and spooky."[12]

Reviewer Annika Pham, writing for Cineuropa.org, described it as a "Tim Burton-esque version of Santa's story" and said, "The icy Lappish landscapes are beautifully captured by [director of photography] Mika Orasmaa and the feel of the large-scale adventure epic is wrapped up in sweeping musical orchestration. The scary elements (suggested more than shown) are sufficient to keep 13+ viewers on edge, but could have been further elaborated – along with the original concept – to make Rare Exports a timeless seasonal delight."[1]

Collider.com's reviewer Dave Trumbore called the film "a darkly humored tale that fits perfectly in line with such anti-Christmas classics as Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas" and wrote, "The contemporary Nordic setting that's so fitting for horror movies these days (Let the Right One In, Dead Snow) is a perfect backdrop for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, not only in mood but in mythology as well ... While Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale does not have the level of gore of Dead Snow or the emotional impact of Let the Right One In (although Pietari does earn his father's respect in the end), it's a uniquely entertaining tale that adds a bit of welcome darkness to the often saccharine times leading up to Christmas."[5]

Home media[edit | edit source]

Rare Exports was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on October 25, 2011. The Blu-ray version includes the two original short films and a variety of featurettes, such as a "Making Of", a look at the concept art, explanation of the animatics and computer-generated imagery, the notoriously contemptible[13][14] feature film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and other extras.[5]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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