A couple of Christmases ago I took a punt on a film I knew very little about on a trip to our local, and excellent, Art House Cinema; Cornerhouse in Manchester. The film was Rare Exports and the gamble paid off. Rare Exports is the sort of oddly engaging and original film which only comes around a couple of times a year. The story was daring and unique and the acting, cinematography and direction were all excellent too. Fast forward almost exactly two years and I watched the film for a second time and while I still enjoyed the unusual Fairy tail like story and darkly comic script, some of the shock and awe which accompanied my first viewing had dissipated.
On the Finnish side of the Finland-Russia border, high in the Arctic Circle, a team of foreign scientists and excavators are carrying out experiments on top of a mountain which overlooks a small village home to Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila). The head of the excavation one day announces that they have unearthed the largest burial mound on the planet, something which Pietari believes may be the final resting place of Santa Claus, and not the Americanised Coca-cola Santa but the original, child eating Santa. Pietari’s suspicions begin to take further shape when first all the Reindeer are found slaughtered and then the local children begin disappearing.
Rare Exports really is the sort of film which could only be made far from Hollywood. Its uncompromising story which is based on local myth and legend is great fun and something which I found really interesting although the myths themselves aren’t deeply delved into and are generally only hinted at. The isolation of the community works in the film’s favour and helps to give it an almost Sci-Fi feel in the vein of something like Alien or perhaps more accurately The Thing. You know that there is no chance of outside help. It’s up to you and you alone. Unlike those aforementioned films though it isn’t really a horror, in fact it’s quite difficult to put the film neatly into one genre. There are occasional horror tropes but it’s never really scary. There is action towards the end and a little drama but for me Rare Exports is a pitch black comedy. I remember laughing a lot during that original watch, although less so the second time around.
The setting, as well as being isolated is incredibly beautiful. Shots from the top of the mountain are especially stunning, allowing for panoramic views of the surrounding snow topped peaks. It’s difficult to fit an accurate time to the film as the clothes worn by the characters have a distinctly 1980s feel to them though that might just be a result of the isolation. The setting makes sure that men are men and in fact there are no women in the entire film. The manly location of the film creates a tension between the slightly weedy Pietari who still carries a teddy and his ultra macho, hunting, butcher father. This dichotomy gives scope for a third act turn around and it is indeed Pietari who becomes the hero of the piece. His sudden change of characteristics felt a little rushed and unlikely though.
Overall Rare Exports is a unique and fun film which features an unusual story that offers an alternative to the glittery, overly stodgy, crass, vomit inducing, Vince Vaughn, let’s all get along, eggnog, middle of the road Christmas Movie. Considering its budget it is very well made and darkly funny in places. It’s also short enough to enjoy while the kids are destroying their new toys upstairs or your Nan is having her post Turkey nap.