Santa Clause is coming to town
I recently took part in a Podcast, during which the topic of conversation turned to Festive horror films and I recommended this movie, Rare Exports.
It’s a wonderful Christmas horror film and it struck me that it might even be considered a hidden gem, so I want to spread the word about this film by talking with you about it today.
The story opens with American and British research teams taking samples from the top of Korvatunturi in Lapland, watched by two local boys. This place is believed to be the home of the folkloric creature Joulupukki, who is said to have inspired the modern version of Santa.
It is revealed that the entire area is a burial mound, used to imprison something.
The local boys return home and one of them, Pietari, reads a story about Santa that seems to infer he was more like Crampus, a horned creature that whips naughty kids and pops them into cauldrons.
Pietari is later woken by his father, who after digging a wolf trap wants Pietari to come to help him round up reindeer, however, they only find two little ones for slaughter until they get closer to Korvatunturi where they find the remains of all the reindeer which have been effectively eaten. The men blame the explosions, saying they’ve driven the wolves mad and thus dead reindeer. However, Pietari is convinced this is not wolves.
Pietari’s dad’s slaughterhouse is on the brink of bankruptcy, which is the final straw, so he heads to Korvatunturi to demand compensation for the loss of the reindeer. However, on top of Korvatunturi not only do they find everyone missing/dead but also a massive pit 400 meters deep.
On Christmas eve the group find a naked old man in the wolf trap.
Father and son go into the local village and find lots of items have been stolen and some people are missing with straw effigies left in their place.
The group go to Pietari’s home to discuss what to do and the naked old man is brought inside. He attacks one of the men when he is teased with gingerbread, resulting in a grisly injury. The old man is also shown to be strong enough to bite through a broomstick. The old man also goes for Pietari, who is a naughty child, and the men must defend him.
The men dress the old man in an old Santa costume and call the research team telling them they have found Santa. They take him to an airbase and are told by the man there that what they have found is not Santa but is in fact an elf and they have to be polite to him.
Naturally, this goes wrong, one of the men utters a curse word and the elves go ballistic. As the men and Pietari attempt to flee they end up in a hangar where they find the missing items from the village, being used to melt a block of ice containing a large horned creature. They also find sacks filled with the missing people, mostly children.
Pietari has a pan which the men follow, and they manage to blow up the ice block, cutting off the horns of the creature and then blowing him up. They also manage to corral the ‘elves’ into the reindeer pen.
The film ends with the captured elves becoming mall Santas.
My Thoughts – General
I found this film to be a lot of fun, it’s dark, creepy and very funny. It’s fast-paced, with a compelling story, that works due to its simplicity. The mystery element is short and sweet before the reveal, but the take on the elves was a pleasing twist.
My thoughts – Characters
The characters are well crafted. Their actions are believable, particularly the children. You really believe Pietari’s fear after he reads the story and makes the connection to his own behaviour and how he will be judged. It made him a relatable character and easily triggered my empathy for him.
The only part I had to suspend my belief for was the ending where all the men follow the child’s plan. But it was only a momentary lapse.
My Thoughts – Setting
The setting was well chosen for the story, it fits with the folklore and myth and the characters we well cast for where the story was.
My Thoughts – Plot
The plot was simply structured but worked very well because of this. Nothing was too complicated which allowed for easy immersion and enjoyment of the humour elements.
The suspense was well crafted, it rose and fell in sensible ways, and at no time did I feel that the story was trying to have me on the edge of my seat and failing. The ending was a lot of fun, and suspenseful in a way that wasn’t stressful. The suspenseful moments also paid off well.
I found parts of the story predictable, but in no way did this lessen my enjoyment of the film. As the parts that I saw coming were still well done and fit well with the story.
The stakes in the story were clearly established, from Pietari’s father’s failing business to the physical threat of the creature and the elves. All this came together to combine stakes including survival, protecting your loved ones and your livelihood and cracking the mystery of what’s going on.
The only thing I wish we’d had more of is more exploration regarding how the ancient peoples had managed to contain ‘Santa’.
I was very pleased with how the film used ‘fear’ the pervasive dread of losing your livelihood and combined that with the physical threat of the monster and its untimely release. I loved how this was all resolved in the end, everything was taken care of giving us a satisfying happy ending.