Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila
Director: Jalmari Helander
IT'S CHRISTMAS! Well, actually no it's not. Come to think of it, if you are even remotely in the 'Christmas spirit' two and a half months before the actual date you should stop it, right now. It's not even fucking close to Christmas; it's not even been Halloween yet, so get your god damn priorities straight. That said, there is nothing at all wrong with a little bit of preparation, particularly where films are concerned else you'll be stuck watching the same shit they put on every year; "Home Alone," "The Goonies" (which I do love, but enough is enough), "Elf," "Santa Clause" and god knows what else that for some reason they feel needs to played every god damn year despite often sucking the first time. The age old combination of "Die Hard" and "Gremlins" that has persevered throughout my home may be traditional – and Miyazaki's “Tokyo Godfathers” didn't get much interest from them – but I'm always willing to try and add to the list.
Enter the Finnish entry to the pile. A tale of Santa Claus that harks back to the origins; before he was bought by Coca-Cola and made red and jolly, when he would give naughty children lumps of coal instead of presents, but it seems they may have softened the blow for us. When greedy business tycoons uncover his grave, they begin to excavate, deep down into the mountain on the border between Lapland and Russia. What they uncover, however, was something far more powerful than they could have prepared themselves for; a monolithic beast who wants nothing more than to eradicate the menace of naughty children from the planet, one by one. It isn't long before he is unwittingly unleashed, now out and on the rampage, and it's down to a nearby group of reindeer herders to capture and kill the evil Santa Claus before he makes his way across the world.
The main protagonist in our tale? The young boy Pietari; a child who early on is mocked for being so young and looking pretty darn awkward when holding a rifle, or indeed doing anything remotely masculine. But don't go mistaking all this for some kind of 'Home Alone' type affair; really he's closer to a young 'John McClane' (Die Hard) type character, and there is surprisingly little humour to be found in the film at all, save for the premise itself. His character doesn't change but demonstrates his ability to think critically; he is the first to figure out that Santa was amongst them, the first to point out that traditionally Santa was more likely to use that coal to heat up a cauldron to cook you in, and the one who eventually comes up with the badass idea to save the day, and he does it all without firing a single shot.
It may take a little bit of time to get going but the build-up is necessary to establish the characters, and when we finally get our first encounter the pace begins to pick up. With such an unusual premise it succeeds in twisting and turning in directions you never expected it to take; there is little in the way of a standard plot framework to adhere to, making the work feel surprisingly fresh and original. It also manages to retain much of that classic 80s style of doing things; more is kept out of view than overtly shown, building up the suspense, and it's the children who still believe that end up having to guide the adults out of the shit they've stumbled into. It might not quite live up to the bar set by Gremlins, but it'll happily sit next to it as something else to watch when there is inevitably fuck all on TV but bad films and 'comeback Christmas specials' that remind us why they fucked off to begin with.