THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Rare Exports (2010)
Directed by Jalmari Helander
“It’s just too bad that they didn’t do more with it.”
It’s seems that within the horror genre, fans like to bitch that there’s not enough original material. I guess it’s not really a bitch, but more like a statement of fact. It’s true: originality and horror goes as well together as hookers and Sunday school. However, that’s not to say that original stuff isn’t churned out. It does; you gotta just look for it. With that said… sometimes originality isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes folks try a bit too damn hard to be interesting or unique.
With the Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, it wants, it desires to be something utterly unique. It strives to crave out a specific voice and image to, you know, create a world and environment specific to this story, which is probably a hell of a lot tougher than it looks. But I’ll get that.
In case you missed this one, Rare Exports begins 24 days before Christmas and revolves around a hunter (who slaughters reindeer for a living) and his son (who believes Santa is out to get him). They live near the excavating site, which is pretty convenient for the story to continue. At the site, American excavators are digging deep into a Finnish mountain. What are they looking for? Gold? Diamonds? King Tut’s twin? Nope, it’s Santa Claus…who else? Leave it to greedy Americans to unleash the ghost of Christmas past.
But this isn’t just any Santa and certainly not the one we all know and worship. No no. This isn’t the Coca-Cola version. This is the real Santa. And he’s an evil bastard of lore with a myth long since buried and forgotten (expect a little kid knows the whole story). Santa and his army of starving homeless guys (his elves?) are out looking for those who have been naughty, and those who have been nice (I think they drop that line at least twice…to an eye roll response). In fact, the real Santa has got a thing for the kiddies, which switches the character from a giving, jovial figure to a vigilante child killer. A slight alteration.
On the plus side, I applaud the film for the attempt. The recreation of Santa as a frightening, buried entity is a good one. It’s just too bad that they didn’t do more with it. It’s difficult to take a fantasy childhood character and create a new lore for them. I don’t think I could take a serious horror film about a demented Easter Bunny. Or St. Patrick out to stop the non-Irish from celebrating during the middle of March. Here, they try hard to create a new image of Santa. That’s ok if it goes over-the-top or complete cheese-balls, but the serious approach…eh…not quite sure.
Actually, serious could have worked if they had given up a little more and pushed the envelope with some balls. (Spoiler) We never actually get to see Santa as he’s encased in a massive block of ice with a pair of giant horns sticking out of them. Instead, we deal with his elves who run around with axes looking for kids to snatch. If the film hadn’t skipped the payoff of giving us Santa, perhaps it would have been satisfying. If Santa is the devil, thaw the dude. Let’s see what the big red guy can do. (End spoiler).The look and style mostly work with the deep snowy woods of Finland. It looks the slick and crisp. But the tone never felt established. Is it a cute kiddy tale with a little bit of darkness? Is it a balls out gorefest? Does it portray Santa as something otherworldly? If the movie had embraced the dark side, I think this would have been worth a recommendation. As is, skip it and watch Die Hard instead. It never disappoints. Merry Christmas. Ho-Ho-Ho.