(Rare Exports, A Christmas Tale (2010, Finland). An American team of scientists, while excavating a prehistoric mountain, unearth the real demon known as Santa Claus, setting into motion what could be a horror-filled Christmas, if Santa’s Helpers have anything to do with it. Starring Onni Tommila, Jorda Tommila, and a cast of hundreds. Directed by Jalmari Helander. Based on the short films Rare Exports, Inc. (2003, Finland) and The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions (2005, Finland), both written and directed by Jalmari Helander. Currently on HULU.)
Christmas is always great fodder for the telling of tales.
We start at the Finland-Russia border. It is only weeks before Christmas. Two boys from Finland watch as a group of Americans take core samples from the top of a man-made mountain. Something about the sample has the financier of the project happy. He tells his men to break out the dynamite and start excavating. But before they start, he gives them a list of behaviors to avoid. No Smoking. No Swearing. And so on. The foreman, though perplexed, agrees to the terms.
The story now focuses on Pietari Kontio, son of the local butcher. Time is coming for the reindeer roundup and slaughter. This is where the town earns its living. They live in the shadow of the excavating over the Russian border. The belief is the activity has scared the wolves off the mountain, where they will eat the reindeer that make up the town’s livelihood. Pietari’s father even digs a pit to catch wolves.
Sure, enough, days before Christmas, the men find the reindeer slaughtered and eaten by, what was thought to be, wolves. But Pietari knows better. He’s been reading up on the truth about Santa, who is more about punishment than presents. He also finds a footprint. Wolves did not do this. He thinks the Americans have set loose Santa!
Evidence begins to pile up. Pietari is sure that on Christmas night, he and his friends who have been naughty will get torn apart by a vengeful St. Nick He even finds footprints outside his bedroom window. Someone has been watching him.
Pietari’s father’s pit catches something on Christmas morning. But it’s not a wolf. It’s an old man who somehow survives the pointed sticks. While Pietari’s father and a friend tend to the man (after trying to dismember him), Pietari finds that all his friends have disappeared, along with all the radiators and hair dryers in the area.
The story begins to spin wildly as the men try to sell their captive to the millionaire in charge of the excavation and Pietari finds his friends and the reasons for the disappearances.
The concept behind the short film “Rare Exports” is that the Santa’s we see at department stores and shopping malls are originally feral creatures that need to be captured and tamed. While this is not totally abandoned, it only becomes a small part of the feature film. And, herein, lies the success of this film. Instead of trying to retell the tales of the short films, it breaks new ground and expands upon the mythology it has already created.
The best part of the feature is the performance of Onni Tommali, who plays Pietari. We watch as he grows up right before our eyes. He starts with the shyness of his age. We see his frustration as tries to warn his friend about Santa, to no avail. And when the discoveries are made, he is the one who makes the plans and becomes the hero.
The feature, “Rare Exports, Inc., a Christmas Tale” won Best Film at the 2010 Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival and the 2011 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Films. (Thank you, IMDb)
Onni Tommali also appears in “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions”
For your enjoyment, here are the two short films.
Rare Exports, Inc. https://vimeo.com/16878465
Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions https://vimeo.com/16878867