25 January 2012

Movies: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401143/

Dark Humor Fantasy / Horror
Finnish language film (English Subtitled) with some English language

I had hoped to watch this during the 2011 Christmas season, unfortunately the film was so popular it sat at the top of my Netflix queue in the "Long Wait" status until the end of January. Oh well.

A couple of Finnish kids sneak across the border into Russia to see what is happening atop a mountain they can see from their house. An American company is drilling through the top of the mountain, looking for something. While the kids watch, the drilling team apparently finds what they were looking for. The kids overhear the team mention they plan to blast away the rock to reach that layer. Fearing discovery, the kids run back to their respective homes.
Based on bits of conversation he overheard, Pietari, the younger of the two, suspects the Americans have discovered Santa Claus. Pietari studies a big pile of Santa Claus mythology books. According to the myth and illustrations the original Santa Claus wasn't that nice a guy. Some drawings depict Santa using a switch to whip the crap out of naughty children, another shows him placing the naughty ones into pots of boiling water. The myth tells an account of how local Finnish folk of old got tired of Santa's cruelty and tricked him onto a lake, where he fell through the ice and froze. Over the course of hundreds of years the folks buried the frozen Santa Claus under a mountain. Possibly the very mountain that Pietari saw the Americans drilling.
After the blasting of the mountain things start going bad for the local families. When Pietari's father and neighbors began the annual round-up of reindeer they discovered the whole herd had been slaughtered. Pieteri's father assumed the blasting in the mountains had scared wolves into the herd. At the same time Pieteri discovers local children are disappearing.
Fearing wolves, Pietari's father dug a wolf pit lined with stakes to capture any approaching the house.
Something fell in the pit, but it wasn't a wolf. It was an old bearded man. And he wasn't dead.

I have no clue who the cast is. Ditto on the writers/director.

Actually a fun and sometimes potentially scary film.  I say "potentially" because I can see how some scenes might wig out some folks, but I'm so desensitized to most scary/horror flicks I can only guess at the level of scariness. There is a little bit of violence, but not much.
I enjoyed this twist on the Santa Claus story. I realize "evil Santa" has been done before, but this was done from a different angle. Especially with the Santa's helpers. They sortof reminded me of Zwarte Piet in some ways, but just as Santa Claus isn't your Coca-Cola Santa Claus (yes I borrowed that line from the film), they aren't especially Zwarte Piet either. 

The film sortof had a B-movie appeal to it, but was produced well, so it didn't have the B-movie cheapiness look. The cast did rather well too, as best I could tell. The story is amusing in the dark humor way. I'm sure there are plenty of jokes dropped in that I completely missed because I don't have enough Finnish cultural exposure to catch 'em, but that didn't hurt the film much. I didn't even mind the helicopter scene near the end that stretched the bounds of suspension of disbelief. The film was fun enough by that point that I gave 'em a pass.

Heck - just check out the trailer. It's the reason why I wanted to see the film in the first place.  If you like what you see, give the film a watch.
Not really child friendly for a few reasons, subtitles being one, adult words being another. There's a third reason I won't tell ya because I figure if I didn't get any warning about what my eyes were going to be exposed to it is perfectly fair game to not warn you.

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Apparently the director and writers had made a couple of short films along the same lines back in 2003 and 2005, which served as a launching point to be able to make the feature length "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (RE:ACT). Both short films are currently available on YouTube.

Rare Exports Inc.
This film short shows a hunting team tracking down and capturing a Father Christmas, then taming, training and preparing him to be shipped off. Basically the Rare Exports Inc. company sells Father Christmases to other countries for their Chrismas season. 

The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Guide
This film short is sort of a warning/admonishment to Rare Exports Inc. clients about not following the rules when handling a Father Christmas. Actually a bit more violent than the "RE:ACT" feature.  Also my least favorite of the series.  But does establish a few more details that make it in the feature film, specifically the proximity safety instructions and gingerbread cookies.

I'm not sure if watching them prior to watching "RE:ACT" would spoil too much of anything in the feature film. They're somewhat prequel-ish, but also somewhat sequel-ish.
I noticed cast overlaps between both short films and the feature film.

You can check out the film's website to get more info and watch the trailers if you want.

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