Santa Claus is a being of immense and extraordinary power. He can visit every house on Earth in the space of one night, so has the ability to manipulate space and time. He is able to gain entry to any structure and knows whether you’ve been bad or good. He is near omnipresent and omniscient and invariably he is portrayed as a benign or beneficent figure. But what if he wasn’t?
That’s the question posed by this smartly plotted and well-made Finnish film. Although there is a smattering of English used throughout the film, much of the dialogue is in Finnish with English subtitles. Hopefully, that won’t put you off this grisly and clever horror comedy which, while unsuitable for very young children will very likely thrill and delight anyone from about 12 upwards.
When a nearby mining operation disrupts the annual Reindeer harvest, things seem bleak for a small village of reindeer farmers. However, when a series of strange burglaries are followed by the disappearances of the local children, the locals begin to suspect the miners have uncovered more than they expected. Only one boy has figured out the truth but can’t get anyone to believe him.
The film ingeniously takes the traditional elements of the legend of Santa Claus and subverts them to great effect. And just when you think the film has delivered all of its goodies, it turns out it was saving the best for last as it delivers a twist which pulls the rug out from under you and shows you just how monstrous Santa Clause could be.
Scary and spooky in just the right measure, there’s no gratuitous violence or gore here and the tone is still light and tongue in cheek. The cast are good value but the real standout performance is of Onni Tommila as Pietari, the young boy who has figured out the problem but can’t make the adults around him believe.
A cleverly constructed, daring take on the Santa Claus story, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Story” is a welcome antidote to the preponderance of saccharin sweet holiday cheer with a deliciously cynical ending.