Face-Off: Saint vs. Rare Exports

The month of December is now in full swing, which means it's time to start watching horror movies that have something to do with the upcoming holidays. My own viewings of holiday horrors began with a pair of movies that seemed to be good Face-Off candidates, as they both present a horrific take on the legend of Santa Claus: SAINT, directed by Dick Maas, and Jalmari Helander's RARE EXPORTS. They take different approaches to the same idea, so let's find out which one deserves presents and which one earns a lump of coal.
SAINT is rooted in the Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas, which is celebrated with gift giving on December 5th. The story begins on December 5, 1492, when the exiled renegade bishop who will become the basis for Santa Claus makes demands instead of bringing gifts - if a community doesn't fulfill his wish list, they will be killed. Instead of bowing down to him, the villagers rebel and burn the man alive on his ship. Ever since then, whenever there's a full moon on December 5th this evil Santa and his minions return from the grave and go on a killing spree in the Netherlands. It's a good back story and a fine set-up for a supernatural slasher.
According to RARE EXPORTS, the real Santa Claus was very different from the Santa that Coca-Cola has told us about. The real Santa was a monstrous creature who would murder children... so the Sami people of Lapland lured him out onto a frozen lake, where the ice broke beneath him. They then spent centuries piling rocks over the frozen Santa, burying him under a mountain. Now a man has brought an excavation team to the mountain with the intention of digging up Santa Claus. I feel like this concept could have been taken in more interesting directions than this film goes in, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless.
An imposing figure in life, this Santa is even more imposing when he comes back as a zombie, riding on the back of his undead horse, which is capable of taking him across rooftops. He is accompanied on his killing spree by the men who served him in 1492, now burnt-faced members of the living dead who chop people to pieces with bladed weapons and move through places as swiftly and nimbly as ninjas.
We never actually see Santa Claus himself in this film, he remains in his block of ice until the final scenes, no part of him visible but his large horns. Instead, we see an army of nude old men - Santa's elves, who look more like the traditional Santa - making their way across the Lapland countryside and gathering up the naughty. If you watch this movie, be prepared to see a lot of old man butts and dongs.
500+ plus years ago, a whole village stood up against this evil bishop and his minions. In modern day Amsterdam, the resistance is made up of two people: a high schooler whose friends were murdered by the supernatural killers and a veteran cop whose family was murdered by them back in 1968. This cop, Goert Hoekstra, has been obsessed with bringing Sinterklaas to justice for more than thirty years - so obsessed that he is suspended from the force for the month of December. But that doesn't deter him from his mission. As Dr. Loomis is to Michael Myers, Goert Hoekstra is to Sinterklaas.
Santa Claus would probably consider little Pietari to be the naughtiest kid ever - not because he's particularly bad, but because as soon Pietari learns the truth about Santa and that mountain near his house, he becomes dedicated to stopping the child punisher from getting back to his old ways. Pietari's father and his friends join the child in this endeavor, but only after capturing an elf and attempting to sell him the man in charge of the excavation. At first, these reindeer farmers are more concerned with receiving compensation for the herd the elves slaughtered than in being heroes.
Snow falls, covering the surroundings. Children are shown carrying out their Sinterklaas traditions. There is holiday programming glimpsed on television. Characters dress up as Sinterklaas and his cohorts to attend parties. This movie is definitely full of the Sinterklaas holiday spirit, which is very similar to the Christmas spirit. Thus, it's perfect viewing for either holiday.
There is a lot of snow, but not a lot of Christmas cheer aside from some colorful lights strung up outside a farmhouse, a scrawny pine tree, and a burnt attempt at Christmas dinner. Despite the presence of a frozen Santa and his elves, this isn't much of a Christmas. Pietari even does everything he can (stapling his advent calendar closed) to stop the holiday from arriving.
There are some good moments of gory slashings committed by Sinterklaas and his crispy followers. The number of his followers allows for plenty of action, as characters have to whittle down that number. There's also a standout sequence in which the Amsterdam police in their modern vehicles pursue Sinterklaas through the city streets while he rides his horse over the rooftops. In the end, it's decided that the way to solve this problem is a large explosion.
RARE EXPORTS is not a particularly eventful movie. The most that happens during the first half is the discovery of 400+ reindeer corpses and the theft of potato sacks and ovens/radiators while Pietari dreads Christmas and worries that Santa Claus is going to get free. Things pick up near the climax, as the characters switch into hero mode when confronted with Pietari's nemesis. A sequence involving a helicopter, a horde of naked old men, and a large explosion ensues.
SAINT and RARE EXPORTS are both fine films, but when they're facing off in these categories I find that SAINT threatens to trounce its competition. This is one of those cases where a movie can only hope to score some ties; I didn't feel that RARE EXPORTS truly bested SAINT in any way, so it can't pull off the win. If you're only going to watch one of these films this holiday season, I think SAINT is the better option.

Do you agree with me that SAINT is the better holiday horror, or would you have given the win to RARE EXPORTS? Let us know your thoughts on these movies in the comments section below, and also share your picks for the best December horror movies. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].



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