Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
By: Devon B. on December 24, 2011  | 
Icon | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | Finnish DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | 83 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen
Screenplay: Jalmari Helander
Country: Finland
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A lot of children are afraid of Father Christmas. I never understood the fear myself, perhaps too blinded by greed to care if a scary old man was bringing me gifts as long as I was getting gifts, but I'm all for movies that look to exploit that fear. While there have been a few movies with a sinister Santa, last year's Finnish export Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale bams things up a notch on the creepy Claus front as it explores some of the more frightening aspects of the Santa mythology.

At the Russian/Finnish border some deep drilling is being done on a mountain top. The man in charge of the drilling knows the mountain is a giant tomb, and has special instructions to help keep the crew safe from what lies in the mountain. Two boys sneak into the drill site and one makes the leap that it's Santa buried there. The boy starts researching Santa and finds that the current Claus is a sanitised Santa and the real one wasn't such a jolly fellow. The drillers unearth something and the boy begins to worry what will happen to him since he's been naughty. After a few eerie occurrences and a frenzied attack on another Xmas icon, it seems his concerns are well grounded. The film is told from the young boy's perspective, and uses a common element from children's films, namely that the kid's the one who's got the situation pegged well before anyone else. The film really captures an imaginative child's sense of wonder, so much so that Rare Exports feels like a kid's movie that just happens to have gore, nudity and terror.

Rare Exports is the killer Kringle movie that Santa's Slay should've been, delivering huge amounts of ominous Xmas atmosphere. The villain is wonderfully menacing, like a bony version of Terry Jones as the vow of silence guy in Monty Python's Life of Brian, but Rare Exports isn't really a horror film so much as an adventure with some disturbing themes. It's like a demented fairytale gone horribly wrong, or more truthfully, it's like a classic fairytale before Disney got a hold of it and made it safe for everyone to see.

Rare Exports is a nearly perfect film, and the only minor problems I had with it are that the ending is a bit anticlimactic, and there're a few less than convincing CG shots. The film seems to have drawn some inspiration from Futurama's Xmas episodes, and displays a nice, quirky sense of humour throughout. A visually striking movie, Rare Exports has been getting comparisons to Tim Burton, which is fair enough, but I also think Guillermo del Toro and the team of Caro and Jeunet were major influences. If all Xmas movies were this high quality, I know I wouldn't dread the season so much.

Watch for the magic snowfall that can appear and disappear randomly within a scene.
Rare Exports looks fantastic, with heaps of detail. The film frequently pops off the screen, the colours are strong and the blacks are dark without a loss of clarity. There is a little bit of macroblocking and a tiny amount of edge enhancement, but both these lasted no more than a second each. There were a few shots with heavy grain, and a couple of flecks, but only those that feel each minuscule flaw like a red hot fork to the eye will probably even notice, as all in all the transfer is superb.
The audio track is a Finnish 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio one with forced English subs. The track is quite immersive, even though this is a dialogue heavy film. There're nice deep rumbles during the drillings and explosions, the wind swirls around you when the film's outside, cars and helicopters go past and the score also makes good use of the soundscape.
Extra Features
Extras are like gifts from the distributor, and why would you want gifts on an Xmas film? You can set up your system with the handy dandy speaker check and watch the trailer for the unrelated Shark Night 3D, but that's it.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Normally I'm not too fussed about extras, but I wouldn't have minded some sort of info about the inspirations of this film. The US release seems to have quite a few extras, and also includes the cult classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, so if you can play Region A, that would be the one to get. It's a shame some of the features weren't licensed for this release, especially since Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is public domain so wouldn't have cost anything. I guess the region coding issue will force many people to buy a local, inferior, product. Now, that's the spirit of Xmas!

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