All the best Christmas tales have a dark layer hidden beneath the layers of snow laden treacle. A Christmas Carol has the three ghosts terrorizing a cranky old man; It’s A Wonderful Life has themes of suicide, losing everything, and depression. You can now add to the list, the wonderfully twisted Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
I admit this one flew so far under my radar I wasn’t even aware of it, until Ray Garton mentioned it on Facebook.I trust Ray’s opinion on movies. Aside from being a fantastic writer, he has a great eye for hidden gems of movies. So, if Ray says this is worth watching, I’ll believe him.
Once again he doesn’t disappoint. This 2010 release is a slow burn of a movie, and never boring. With a brief 84 minute running time it shouldn’t be either, yet it fills that slender slot with so much heart, so much humor, and some mild scares, it’s a wonder it hasn’t become more popular.
Without giving too much away, the set up is pretty simple. There’s an excavation taking place, much to the chagrin of the local reindeer hunters, whose livelihood depends on the animals. When they all turn up dead, the blame is placed on the excavators. From there on, to give anything away would be spoiling some of the film. I will mention one scene, so if spoilers bother you ignore the next paragraph.
Pietari and his father, Rauno sit down for some gingerbread and milk after discovering the dead reindeer. The father obviously worried about providing for his son, displays such a depth of emotion when Pietari asks if it would be better if he went away. There was more honest and true emotion in that one short scene than in most Hollywood films. It’s raw, honest, and shows the depth of love father and son have for each other.
The acting by all is exceptional. Sure, Onni Tomila who plays the young Pietari has a few off moments, but that’s more than made up for by other stellar moments. Real life father Jorma Tommila is fantastic, and he really reminds me of Jurgen Prochnow, both in appearance and talent. He walks a fine line between being a loving, if distant father, disciplinarian, and friend to the other hunters in his group. Very seldom has a low budget movie shone with such well developed characters.
There are some scenes which are obviously CGI, yet it doesn’t detract from the story or your immersion. This is sort of a blend between a Santa origin story with shades of Carpenter’s The Thing, so suspension of belief comes easy-especially with the CGI. The cinematography is beautiful, and the direction fresh and top rate.
There are plenty of creepy scenes, but nothing I would call especially scary, but what it may lack in scares, it makes up for in the atmosphere, and some unsettling moments. A bile black humor laces itself throughout, and really shines at the end.
If you’re tired of the Holiday cheer, and looking for something a bit more diabolical, check this out, it may just be the best present under the celluloid tree this year.