Film Review: ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ Substitutes Elves With Zombies

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CHICAGO – “What you are about to see now may traumatize you for life.” So reads a warning near the beginning of Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander’s 2005 short, “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions.” The film was a clever follow-up to his 2003 effort, “Rare Exports Inc.”, which seemed to milk its one-joke premise for all it was worth. Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

The “exports” of Helander’s films are in the form of bloodthirsty Father Christmases hunted and tamed by reindeer herders near Korvatunturi mountain, which the film bills as the “land of the original Santa Claus.” Who are these gray-haired, unclothed, rawly animalistic creatures? Why are they filled with such fearsome rage when a nearby mortal mildly misbehaves? In the side-splitting yet genuinely eerie “Safety Instructions,” these alleged “Father Christmases” seemed to be little more than elderly zombies.

StarRead Matt Fagerholm’s full review of “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” in our reviews section.

Now Helander reveals their origins in his feature debut, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” a handsomely photographed yet naggingly aloof prequel of sorts that reveals the fantasy’s roots in Scandinavian mythology. In purely technical terms, the film is a triumph for its rookie director. Yet even at a brisk 80 minutes, the film proves that there’s not very much left to explore in this material. The film shifts between Spielbergian awe, gimmicky horror and tongue-in-cheek satire with remarkable ease, but fails to resonate as anything other than a quirky genre exercise. It isn’t bound to traumatize any adult viewers, except those expecting the stereotypical American definition of a Christmas tale. “Rare Exports” is easily the most galvanizing holiday-themed curiosity of the season, which is quite a distinction considering this season also gave us a 3-D version of “The Nutcracker” featuring Albert Einstein, Holocaust allegories and Tchaikovsky’s legendary music set to lyrics. “Rare Exports” is no “Nutcracker”-like travesty, but it’s certainly no instant classic either. With gun-toting tykes, disemboweled animals and a heaping helping of full frontal male nudity, the film elicits considerably more unease than enchantment.

‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ stars Onni Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Peeter Jakobi, Jorma Korpela, Jonathan Hutchings, Rauno Juvonen and Ilmari Järvenpää. It was written and directed by Jalmari Helander. It opened on Dec. 24th at the Music Box. It is rated R.

StarContinue reading for Matt Fagerholm’s full “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” review.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale was released at the Music Box on Dec. 24.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale was released at the Music Box on Dec. 24.
Photo credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

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