‘Tis may be the season for romantic comedies set in idyllic English cottages or whimsical tales of elves lost in New York, but if you’re in the mood for something a little more gory, we’ve got your back.
We guide you through 14 days of Christmas Horror. Finnish horror-comedy Rare Exports offers us a devilish version of Santa Claus himself.
Finland isn’t particularly known for its genre cinema. The small Nordic country has a strong, rich film culture, but horror films are still a rarity, although hopefully last year’s Hatching will change that.
But there is one horror film from 2010 that has gained that enviable cult status globally. Directed by Jalmari Helander, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale has all the makings of a cult classic and it all starts with a basic premise.
A research team is digging deep into the earth in Lapland, Finland, but they find more than they bargained for as they uncover the real Santa Claus. This isn’t a jolly old man with a big belly, but a wicked, evil monstrosity that’ll bite your ear off if you tease it with a piece of gingerbread.
Ultimately, Rare Exports – like so many other Christmas films – is a film about a son and his father. Young Pietari (Onni Tommila) gets involved when he discovers the research site and after his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) captures the devilish Santa.
Finnish people are known to be rather unfriendly and restrained, often emotionally stunted, especially men, so to make your horror film about two men connecting makes it incredibly effective. Pietari desperately craves his father’s acceptance which creates a fascinating subtext for Rare Exports.
Pietari and Rauno are played by real-life father and son, Onni and Jorma Tommila, adding to the authenticity of the film. Women are completely missing from the film and if you want to take Rare Exports seriously, you could treat it as a deep-dive into flawed masculinity. But let’s be real, we’re in it to see a demonic Santa, anything else is just a bonus.
Ultimately, what makes Rare Exports so exciting is its humour. Director Jalmari Helander is definitely winking to the audience and taking the piss out of Christmas films as well as using some well-worn, but effective horror tropes to his advantage. The humour in Rare Exports is pitch black, but every joke and funny moment is rib-ticklingly funny.
Something tells me Guillermo Del Toro might be a fan of Rare Exports if he’s had the pleasure of watching it. There is almost a Spielbergian sense of wonder present in the film, but it’s constantly mixed with nightmarish imagery. The film implies rich lore and mythology, but Rare Exports was never intended as a franchise. Shame, but perhaps it’s better this way.
This is one of those cult films that you have to see for yourself. Dripping with black humour, Rare Exports makes the most of its small budget by turning up the dial on the shocks. As far as Christmas horrors go, you probably won’t have a better time than with Rare Exports.