I’ll admit it. I’m as sappy about the holiday season as anyone. But this time of year, I frequently find that element of my personality warring with my love of horror movies. Fortunately, I no longer have to make a distinction between those two conflicting impulses.
I recently got the DVD of the Finnish movie “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” from Netflix. Great film! It’s a Christmas-themed horror movie.
The Christmas-themed horror film isn’t a strictly original idea. I know of a few substandard slasher films (is that redundant?) that took a similar approach. And there was something from 1996 called “Jack Frost” about a killer snowman that I understand has picked up a cult following for being amusingly inept.
But “Rare Exports” is definitely an original movie — and a genuinely good one. It’s not just a Christmas theme slapped onto a standard horror trope, either.
It plays off the legends of Santa Claus that predate the 19th-century version crafted by Thomas Nast and Clement Clarke Moore. Specifically, it refers to the European traditions in which the seasonal visitor was a sinister figure, more intent on violently punishing naughty children than rewarding good ones.
The movie takes it further — presenting Santa Claus as a figure of Lovecraftian menace. It may sound horribly cynical. But the movie is self-aware enough to make that inherent cynicism funny, without undercutting the suspense or the chills. (Sample line, spoken by a rifle-wielding kid: “It’s either me or Santa. I suggest Santa.”)
Plus, it’s weirdly heart-warming. And … well … Christmas-y. Along with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story” and “Bad Santa,” I think it may become a seasonal staple in the Tom household.