Thursday, January 13, 2011


Directed by Jalmari Helander

Per Christian Ellefsen - Riley
Peeter Jakobi - Santa
Jorma Tommila - Rauno

     In Finland an archaeological dig unearths an ancient tomb. Afterward strange things start happen around a herding village. Only one boy knows what's really going on and no one wants to listen until it's to late.

     I first heard about this movie when the list of movies for Fantastic Fest 2010 was announced last year and thought that it would be an interesting just based on the premise alone. Then December rolled around and I started trying to find it with not a lot of luck. I actually wanted to have this review out on Christmas itself in honor of the day, and also due to it was a Christmas movie. Well needless to say that didn't happen unfortunately so I was resigned myself to having to wait for the release of the American DVD version of the movie. Then a couple days ago the movie became available and I got my copy of it finally. So I just wanted to say sorry about reviewing a Christmas movie past Christmas, and this is just way of fixing what should have came out last month, and not waiting until Christmas this year to review it as I can't wait that long!

      I'm going to start with my one gripe about the movie. It's small a gripe, as I'll say later in this paragraph, but it is a gripe. Now the movie already had me with the isolated and frozen setting and it just kept on building on that helplessness throughout the movie. I should also say that it's shot so beautifully  where it just helps draw you in more. You can actually tell distance and depth in the film. Even when some of the shots are helped with CG it really doesn't pull you out of the movie, but it is my one gripe with it as well. I understand it's hard to get over a hundred actors running at one time as well as having a kid hanging from a helicopter, as it calls into child endangerment issues, but you can easily tell it was either green screened or a full CG shot. I know this is a a smaller movie and didn't have the budget of bigger films but nothing really pulls me out of movies like discolored CG in movies especially one so well shot and put together where the setting is as much part of the story as the characters. But that's my one gripe with it and I know I said the same thing about TRON LEGACY and CG, but it's true. If filmmakers just spend an extra month on CG I'm sure most of my gripes with modern film will disappear. 

       Now that that's over I can go ahead and say I love this movie. From its plot to the way it's achieved. Nothing in this movie slows it down once it starts rolling and it's all a build up to last scene which makes so much sense as how Helander ended the movie. Even though the movie starts out slow it certainly doesn't stay that way after all the characters are introduced. Things start going wrong quickly and the adults don't know what is truly happening and the one person that does, his warnings are ignored until it's to late and things have already started going bad. Omni Tommila does a wonderful job as Pietari, as he is the center of the film and if he tried to play up his role the movie would have fallen apart. Thankfully he didn't. Tommila just has that classic childhood innocence about him that just shines through the film. Who didn't have a childhood imaginary fear, from clowns to puppets, where you thought it was so true that you would do anything to keep yourself and your parents safe when you were young. I know I had one. Lightning and thunderstorms. When I was small, I was terrified by them. Now I just love watching storms roll in and the breathtaking light shows that come with it. Well this movie takes that fear that Pietari has and makes it real which is just one of the reasons why I love this movie so much. It takes something that has happened to everyone and puts it on screen. One scene that stand out is when Pietari sets a trap in the fireplace for Santa that almost kills his father. I'm not going to say what it is but I did laugh out loud once the trap was shown. I should also mention that the chemistry between Pietari and Rauno is just amazing to watch as well, as there is true emotion there that isn't and can not be faked.

     I'm trying to stay away from going to much into the story as it will give away to much and half of the fun is seeing the twist in the movie that. I didn't even it coming and it hits bluntly, but because of this I was laughing and disturbed at the same time. Because of that twist it put the movie on that "I love this" level. While the movie does get dark as it firmly tarnishes a cherished mythological figure, it still has that child like fun and wonderment that keeps it from going overboard. I will say the movie is not for kids. Far, far from it in fact, but it has that classic '80s movie feel that isn't there in movies anymore, where that balance of silly, fun, creepy, and scary are perfect in that cheesy but not over the top way. While the film is firmly self-aware of what it's doing, it doesn't go overboard trying to be outrageous in what it does, as the director knows when to pull back to keep from slipping over that line as where so many other movies do. If I had seen Rare Exports last year it would have easily been on my top 10 list. And I can easily say that this will be required viewing for me every Christmas time from now on.
     Even though there is only one death on screen, it has that shock value to put it here.You'll know it when you see the movie.

     The characters of the father Rauno and son Pietari  are in real life also father and son.

     Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is actually the prequel to the short films Rare Exports Inc. and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions that came out in 2003 and 2005 respectively and can be found online.

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