VOD film review: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Ivan Radford | On 21, Dec 2019Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Jalmari Helander
Cast: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
Watch Rare Exports online in the UK: BFI Player+ / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
People in Finland are weird – if you judge them purely by what we see in Rare Exports. In this 2010 gem, they live in small houses in the middle of the mountains and chop up pigs for a living. Then, when footprints appear on their rooftop and dead bodies turn up, the children automatically presume it’s Santa Claus.
At least, that’s what little Pietari (Tommila) thinks. He’s a good boy, who gets grounded by his protective dad for no real reason. All he wants to do is throw some snowballs and look at the team digging up Santa, who’s buried under a nearby mountain.
Then, a violent old man with no clothes on turns up on their land. The villagers grab their shotguns, the elderly interloper is locked in the shed, and Pietari is left out in the cold trying to get in.
It’s hardly a heartwarming start to a tale, but that’s what you can expect from Jalmari Helander’s grim, fairytale take on the jolly season, which switches up the St. Nick we know for a monstrous, evil figure let loose from his tomb.
Shot with an eye for dark humour and shiny landscapes, it’s a surprisingly unique affair – a twisted Christmas treat that avoids a retread of Tim Burton territory. It helps that half of it is subtitled, but the tension needs no translation. You’ll laugh at the sight of old men running free through the wild snowy hills, willing to be blown to bits by blizzards, but when the horror makes you jump – the words “reindeer” and “sleigh” take on a whole new meaning – you realise just how terrific the whole macabre thing is. What an excellent, unusual package to unwrap on a dark winter’s night.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is available on BFI Player+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.