“Rare Exports: A Christmas Story” is a rather brilliant lump of coal for your socks to hang by the fireplace with care. How else to explain the origin story of an R-ranked Santa Claus crossed with “The Thing” (1982)? Despite the inevitability that this film has Santa and the reindeer in it, it is a superior horror film, a parody of a film about a dead creature being brought back to life. Oh, and all the reindeer are dead.
I need to help you imagine this. It’s the day before Christmas in the far north pole. Young Pietari lives on a deer farm with his father and another man who would feel at home shooting deer from a helicopter. Yes, they are hunting for food. Scandinavians eat deer. God knows they did. Years ago, I had visited Finland, Norway, and Sweden on a tour for the Scandinavian Film Institute, and at each meal, some kind of reindeer appetizer was served as a “pleasant surprise.” Between meals or when lost in the snow, they gnaw on deer jerky.
I’m lost. Nearby, there was a large mound that looked vaguely sinister. America has blown up up there with dynamite. Very evil. Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso have sneaked through the fence to spy on the Yanks.
There is a legend that centuries ago the citizens were threatened by a terrifying monster. They were able to trick them into the lake, where they froze. One of them was cut inside a giant block of ice and buried deep under a mound. And now …
It’s the idea of “The Thing,” where aliens are found in Antarctica and taken frozen into a hut, where the drip… drip… drip… it starts to melt. We approached this possibility on The Night Before Christmas. Pietari’s mother is dead (lots of lumps of coal in these stockings), and her father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila), keeps telling her to stay home, and Pietari, the earnest and stubborn Ralphie type, keeps sneaking out. He’s the only one who knows what’s going on: Inside the mound, in the ice, is Santa Claus.
Well, not Santa to be exact. A beast and skinny of a bearded man, who ends up wearing a Santa suit, but only for warmth. But this creature is arguably from the species Santus Clausium. The director of “Rare Exports: Christmas Stories,” Finland’s Jalmari Helander, has created two short “Exports of Rare” about the capture and taming of wild Santas, which are then supplied to the world market for Santa. Those Finns, what bits and pieces.
Don’t get lost in the confusion that this is a good film. An original, bold, and carefully crafted film that never blinks an eye to us that it is a parody. In tone, acting, location work, music, and inescapable suspense, this is an exemplary horror film, despite its typically unsubtitled “A Christmas Tale” details and tales of a terrifying wild Santa.
R rank earned by F-word and Santa nekkid. Did I mention the deer slaughter?