Christmas films are often associated with warmth, family, togetherness and a general infusion of the joys of the festive season, not horror. However, there are a number of horror films set at the festive season, a time when you would least expect the evils of the world to be on display. Therefore, this year the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar, inspired by last year’s selection of Anna And The Apocalypse, takes aim at Christmas horror films.
Today marks the day before the week of Christmas. People may be beginning to properly prepare for the festivities and embracing them as the home stretch arrives. And so behind today’s calendar door is a true Christmas film. One that embraces the magic of the season with its fantastical elements. Fantasy that stems from eeriness and horror in the rather great cult hit Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
Set in the build-up to Christmas this film sees a British mining expedition in Lapland impact a nearby village of few people, including three reindeer slaughterers. However, when the expedition discovers something dark within the mountains all the nearby reindeer are murdered overnight and it’s believed that Santa Claus has been awoken. As the children in the area begin to disappear one by one the one left is perhaps the most inquisitive about Santa – Pietari (Onni Tommila). After capturing the dishevelled lanky figure of what appears to be the face of Christmas himself Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) attempts to hide what he has captured, alongside his two co-workers. However, it’s not long until darker forces come into play and the Christmas Eve that the story plays out over could very well be the last.
Throughout the film many fantastical elements are played with, especially when it comes to the folklore of Santa, at times mixing it with the figure of Krampus. Either way as the situation becomes increasingly desperate and the threatening hoard of elves being to play their part there’s uncertainty as to what should be done – especially when thousands of dollars are wanted for the damages that will have been done by the unleashing of the figure trapped in a butchery. Yet, the spirit of Christmas and time of year are never forgotten about – even if they are slightly twisted for a horror effect.
Rare Exports can certainly be viewed as a film with its festive conventions – and not just because of the presence of a quasi-Santa – mostly in the form of people coming together during the festive season, even if it is to defeat an evil presence. The cold sheet of snow that surrounds all landscapes in the film push the harsh scenarios, yet when the film plays with its fantasy and moments of effective, and not overly dark, black comedy there’s a slight bit of seasonal cheer held within the twisted conventions.
By not going into the mountains to find Santa or solve the problem all action is kept above ground. While this may have been done for budgetary reasons; this is a film relatively free of any major CG shots, it’s something that helps the film feel unique and original. By staying above ground and following all the actions there, allowing for the unknown creatures to come to the protagonists, there’s a level of suspense and extra threat added – while allowing the characters to plan how they may respond, with limited resources. It all might be a build-up to a punchline, although better than one found in any cracker, but it all works and clicks rather well. This is a creative and well-formed film that manages to have a slight, if darkly subverted, Christmas feel to it – while never forgetting its fantasy infused moments of horror.
A dark tale about the Santa that we never get shown, the one that’s a threat to children, Rare Exports truly is something different. Helped by its black comedy, and of course elements of horror, there’s a a lot to like about it. All while being a twist on the genres and formats which it holds. Yet, the idea of people coming together, especially family, to save Christmas, although initially their business and livelihood, in this circumstance holds something rather entertaining to see. It’s no surprise that this has gained a growing cult status over the years since its initial release in 2010.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale can be watched in the follow places:
Alongside a number of other places, including being available on physical formats such DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s always worth checking JustWatch in your country to see where the film is available to stream, rent or buy.