This 2010 Finnish production directed by Jalmari Helander was recommended to us by our friend Gavin Parry as a dark antidote to the syrupy sentimentality of standard Christmas films. It’s set in the modern world, yet hints at ancient forces still at work beneath the surface.
In Lapland a research team are examining cores drilled from deep inside a mountain called Korvatunturi. The entire mountain, they deduce, is a huge burial mound built by the Saami people centuries ago. Clearly it is intended to keep something hidden from the world. They’re using dynamite up there too. What could go wrong?
Two kids, Pietari and Juuso, sneak through the perimeter fence around the research centre and listen in to the conversations. Pietari gathers an inkling of what might be encased within the mountain. He consults a book about folklore that shows Santa might not originally have been the Coca-Cola creation of a portly, kind chap with a red nose and a fluffy beard, but rather a horned demon-creature who abducts and punishes naughty kids by ripping them limb from limb.
Kids start disappearing, reindeer are found slaughtered on the snow, heaters and hairdryers are stolen from houses and a naked, skinny old man is caught in a bear trap. They think they’ve caught Santa, but you know that bit about the horned demon creature? They’ve just caught one of his elves.
Some scenes involve hundreds of naked old men with beards roaming the snowy wastes. Extraordinary.
More stuff happens, which it would be a shame to give away, but the final scenes show branded crates being shipped out to all four corners of the world, so what started as a look back to the folkloric origins of Santa ends up as a commercial venture. The reindeer herders of Lapland will become rich. As a comment on the monetisation of Christmas the film works well.
I found it played like an 80’s movie, what with the kids and all that. The frozen creature locked in the ice, which we see at the end, reminded me a bit of the way John Carpenter‘s The Thing (1982) is also encased in ice, this time at an Antarctic research station.
From my point of view Christmas was actually a bit marred this year by the bereavement of an aunt that was going to stay with us, so a jaded feeling overshadowed the festivities. By the time we watched Rare Exports I was pretty knackered. I’m not sure I gave it the amount of attention it deserved. I think we may reschedule it for next year and reassess the film.