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Onni Tommila
Jorma Tommila
Per Christian Ellefsen.
Jalmari Helander.
Jalmari Helander.
Running Time
77 minutes

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
You better watch out, you better not cry

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Lapland, December. An American expedition locates the original Santa Claus, buried in an ice-filled mountain. Pietari (Onni Tommila), son of reindeer hunter Rauno (Jorma Tommila), fears that the primal, original, vengeful Santa has been unloosed.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Finnish writer-director Jalmari Helander first explored the dark origins of Father Christmas in a pair of YouTube shorts, Rare Exports Inc and The Official Rare Exports Inc Safety Instructions, which follow skilled trappers in Lapland who hunt wild Santas and train them to be benevolent, child-friendly Christmas icons. This feature-length prequel shows how the business began, and reveals what the feral, naked old men who run wild in the frozen wastes actually are. It’s also an essay in the kind of kid-friendly horror popular in the ’80s (think Gremlins or The Monster Squad ), albeit with sub-titles, slaughtered reindeer and plentiful geriatric-male nudity.


Many horror films have exploited the fact that a lot of kids, and many grown-ups, are not that comfortable with a jolly fat man who comes down the chimney — from the psycho Santa who throttles Joan Collins in Tales From The Crypt, to the ho-ho-homicidal maniacs of the Silent Night, Bloody Night series. Rare Exports comes at the subject from a different angle, dismissing “the Coca-Cola Santa Claus” as a modern sham which distorts a Finnish myth-figure keener on punishing the naughty than rewarding the nice. The opening archaeological dig has overtones of The Thing, as a vast, horned creature is discovered trapped in the ice under a remote mountain and workmen are issued strict instructions about not cursing, smoking or drinking in its presence. Then, young Pietari (Onni Tommila) is the only one in a small community who guesses close to the truth when his father — cheated out of an annual reindeer hunt because something else has torn the animals to pieces — traps a filthy, bearded, snarling old man.


Like the shorts, this offers 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, where an ancient way of life is threatened by changing attitudes — these could be seal-clubbers or whalers. 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.

If you’re a bah-humbug type looking for an alternative to Santa Claus: The Movie or Miracle On 34th Street, this could be a holiday perennial. May be too strange for normal people, but weird kids will love it.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Empire Star Rating

Looked good but...

Biggest pile of shite I've seen in a while. Made no sense by the end.. reminded me of Super 8 in the sense that you had to sit through hours of boring build up to something that doesn't actually happen. Avoid ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 12:46, 28 December 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Unfortunately Kim Newmans review makes this sound much more bloody and horrific than it actually is so I kind of understand some of the criticism here. This is a darkly comic fantasy, not a horror film.   I thought it was great, sarcastic and silly, nicely understated and with a lovely central performance from the kid playing Pietari.   My only dissapointment was that we never fully saw Santa in all his 50ft high child destroying glory. ... More

Posted by Discodez at 09:12, 22 December 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

I've been meaning to watch this for a few Christmases now and finally got to watch it with a couple of friends. The collective agreement was: dross. This felt like a badly made film; the cinematography was pleasant enough but the narrative is a mess. There is the feeling that lots of the film was either cut or is missing - the beginning gives the impression that the film is setting out to build up this great danger but instead it cuts from opening exposition to (anti)climatic showdown with no b... More

Posted by matthias_sk64 at 12:50, 18 December 2011 | Report This Post

Very good

Excellent Finnish horror adventure ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 14:26, 10 December 2011 | Report This Post

A very good, different Xmas movie

After reading a lot of positive reviews I decided to give this strange little Finnish Xmas tale a go. The result was a pleasant little surprise with some good acting from an unknown ( to me ) Finnish cast. The young boy in the lead, Onni Tommila, gives a very impressive performance which makes for a likeable lead. The evil Santa's are great fun and the snow bound scenery perfectly captures the feel of the festive season. The humour is very black and it is a bit of a weird mix that may not app... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 11:31, 29 November 2011 | Report This Post

Good premise, but so dull...

I loved the idea of this film, but it fails to take off. It's weird, sure, like the film 'Cheyne' is weird- any decent ideas are ignored and tension is substituted for tedium (no Russian peasants or malformed feotuses here though). The opening scene is quite delicious though, and that's what makes the whole thing so disappointing. If only the director had followed a classic Carpenter approach, but it's played more as a straight drama than a horror (except for the hundreds of stampeding geriatric... More

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Posted by sweetladybrick at 14:10, 05 September 2011 | Report This Post

Tragic. ... More

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Posted by reminn at 22:53, 02 January 2011 | Report This Post

Carzy-ass ride! ... More

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Posted by Pelle at 13:37, 30 December 2010 | Report This Post

Rubbish in the extreme. Clip made it look like a fun ride. It was a CRASHING bore with no redeeming features....NONE! ... More

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Posted by sephiroth7 at 18:08, 22 December 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Not as good as I was expecting..

Wanted to see this but as per usuall m of Cine have not bothered to show a film even though they've shown trailers for it can't let those 6SNOTTER screens go I suppose. ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 13:49, 08 December 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Saw this on Friday night. Really enjoyable, and strangely festive despite lots of shots of old men's bits! ... More

Posted by tftrman at 09:06, 06 December 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

I only heard of this for the first time on Saturday and found the trailer and original shorts. Really looking forward to it so I'm hoping it gets a decent release. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 13:07, 02 December 2010 | Report This Post

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