Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Posted: December 29, 2011 in Movies

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.

 

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Comments
  1. So, Thomas, are you saying that the Futurama Santa is closer to the original than we use today? I’ll have to check out the movie, you’ve never steered me wrong before!

    • Hey Chuck! Good to hear from you!
      An in response to your question … I’m no expert on the subject of Santa. But my understanding is that the Santa Claus legend has two basic components. One is the beneficent gift giver. That’s the Jolly Ol’ St. Nick character who, fortunately, seems to have taken over the job. But some cultures emphasized a darker, more violent counterpart. A couple examples are the Krampus and the Yule Goat, the latter of which was known to gore disobedient children. Real festive, huh? Somehow, I just can’t see Rankin Bass doing an animated holiday special about THAT one! It probably says something about the societies that adopted the respective stories — whether they considered it more important to persuade the kids to be good by rewarding them, or dissuade them from being bad by scaring the shit out of them. I’m no expert on child-rearing, either. But I suspect that any parent who wants to pay tribute to old-timey Scandinavian culture by dusting off the Yule Goat story better be ready to pay some hefty therapist fees down the line.

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