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Film / Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

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"Rare Exports feels like it could easily be appropriate entertainment for the whole family until the occasional f-bomb gets dropped, mutilated reindeer are found by the dozens, a pick ax winds up in someone’s skull, and naked filthy Santa dong flaps freely in the freezing Scandinavian breeze."
The Foywonder, DreadCentral

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a 2010 Finnish horror film directed by Jalmari Helander. It is based on a series of short films by Jalmari and his brother Juuso.

It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn't the one you want coming to town. When the local children begin mysteriously disappearing, young Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer herder and butcher by trade, capture the mythological being and attempt to sell Santa to the misguided leader of the multinational corporation sponsoring the dig. Santa's elves, however, will stop at nothing to free their master from captivity.


This film offers examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Of the original short films.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Invoked as the premise: what if Santa Claus isn't a jolly man who rewards the good, but a nightmarish monster who kidnaps and mutilates the naughty?
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas
  • Badass Native: The Sami people no doubt. Though no Sami is seen onscreen, there doesn't really have to be for the viewer to understand they're hardcore, since they managed to outsmart and bury Santa Claus. If that sounds minimal, imagine this instead; they managed to defeat a gigantic horned beast the size of a building carrying an equally large whiping twig for weapon.
  • Badass Adorable: Pietari
  • Bad Santa
  • Berserk Button: The elves really don't like it when you curse, killing the supervisor and all of his employees when he drops the F-bomb.
  • Advertisement:
  • Black Comedy
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the beginning of the movie, Rauno sets up a wolf trap outside of his home, catching one of Santa's elves, presumably on its way to steal their heating and kidnap Pietari.
    • Pietari constantly carries a large shotgun throughout the movie. It is only fired once, and it is only to grab the attention of the adults.
    • Pietari's books depicting Santa with demonic horns. Big hint that it's not the real Santa they catch.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The method of herding reindeer with the gates and lights is later used to round up the helpers.
  • Collector of the Strange: Riley, the old man in charge of the dig, gives off this vibe wanting to dig up Santa, and not bothered in the least about the child eating. Pietari's and Juuso's fathers also apply because before they blow Santa Claus up, they cut off his horns as a Creepy Souvenir.
  • The Dreaded: Santa Claus, naturally
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: They blow up Santa before he can be freed fully.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The real Santa is revealed to be this.
  • Ear Ache: An elf bites off a huge chunk of Piiparinen's ear after he taunts it by dangling gingerbread over its mouth.
  • Expy: From his diminutive size, fancy hat, walking cane, spectacles, temper, and flashes of genuine wonder, Riley bares an uncanny resemblance to a humanized Scrooge McDuck. Possibly intentional, as the character is quite popular in Finland.
  • The Fair Folk: Santa's Elves
  • Fauns and Satyrs: The old illustrations of Santa depict him with horns. It's worth noting that this is actually how he was presented in old Nordic folk tales and also why he's still called Joulupukki (Yule Goat) in Finnish. Although he was human-sized, unlike in the film.
  • Free-Range Children: So much so that nobody apparently realizes that their kids have been taken, thinking instead that they've just gone off somewhere and will turn up eventually.
  • Genre Savvy: The American Billionaire is well aware that Santa Claus and his elves will jump at the chance at killing everyone should they act "naughty" on the sight and tries instilling a list of rules the discourages bad behavior (no cursing, washing your hands, etc). When he workers ignore this rule, it inevitably gets them all killed, him included.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: After blowing up Santa, a character remarks that now they know how he can be everywhere at once.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Santa's Elves, who look like ordinary human senior citizens, but they're much faster and stronger than their appearance would suggest and are implied to be hundreds of years old.
  • The Krampus: Santa Claus, naturally.
  • Magical Native: Averted: the Sami people didn't seal Santa with magic. Rather, they tricked him into running on a lake covered with thin ice which caved under his weight, and when he fell in he became frozen solid. Come summer, they pulled the ice block out of the lake and burried it under a mountain and used saw dust to prevent it from melting. They came face to face with a supernatural being and defeated it with primitive technology.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Santa's elves look like feral old men who run naked save for their beards in midwinter. And once again, it was all shot in real snow with real naked people.
  • Mall Santa: The original shorts purport to tell the true story of where the red-suited entities seen in stores at Christmas actually come from. They're actually centuries-old cryptozoological wild men, captured and trained until they can be trusted to hold children on their laps without kidnapping them or ripping them apart. It's also revealed that that these "Santas" are in fact just Santa's little elves. The real Santa is much, much worse.
  • Milking the Monster: Kind of. At the end, after the real Santa is effectively destroyed, the remaining "little helpers" are trained not to kill children and are exported to other countries to be sold as Mall Santas of their own, mostly to recoup the losses caused by the "helpers" killing all of Rauno's reindeer.
  • Monster in the Ice: In prehistoric times, Lapland was ruled the evil Santa Claus (here portrayed as a huge, demonic Santabomination). The Sámi defeated Santa by tricking him onto a lake covered in thin ice, where he fell into the frigid water and ended up frozen solid. They later pulled the ice block out of the lake, covered it in saw dust to stop it from melting, and buried it beneath a mountain to prevent him from ever escaping. However, in the present day, Santa's elves are trying to free Santa from his icy prison. Unlike most examples of this trope, Santa never manages to escape.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Santa Claus, justified as he's been frozen in a block of ice for centuries and buried deep beneath a mountain. His elves are the real threat as they try to thaw him out and go around kidnapping children.
  • The Nose Knows: Santa and his elves are able to sniff out children.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Mr. Greene, the second-in-command at the dig site, is supposed to be American (at least according to his passport), but his actor is clearly British. Riley, the guy funding the dig, is also clearly being played by a Finn.
  • Prequel: The Movie effectively serves as one for the short films, as it shows how the "Santas" came to be sold to other countries.
  • Properly Paranoid: In hearing that Santa Claus might be buried under the mountain, Pietari does all the reading he can and not only comes to believe that Santa Claus is evil, but that he is actively hunting him for his bad behavior. Wouldn't you know it, he only gets out of being kidnapped through good luck and the real Santa Claus is an eldritch horror imprisoned by the Sami for the havoc it caused.
  • The Reveal: The 'Santa' captured by Pietari and his father is just one of his 'little helpers'. The real Santa is in fact a gigantic Eldritch Abomination.
  • Santabomination: What if the story of the discovery of the real Santa Claus was like At the Mountains of Madness?
  • The Scourge of God: Ole' Joulupukki seems to have a passion for punishing the naughty, his elves kidnapping all of the village kids as an offering to him when they release him from the ice. The Billionaire seems aware of this, trying to keep his employees from doing anything to trigger them while on the site to keep from incurring their wrath.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In prehistoric times the Sami-folk of Lapland, tired of the tyranny of Santa, lured him on weak ice, and he sank to the bottom of the lake, which subsequently froze through. He was cut out and covered with tons of sawdust to keep him from melting, and then layers upon layers of dirt and stones over the centuries, until the Korvatunturi mountain on the border of modern Finland and Russia was formed. And on Christmas, an obsessed American millionaire decides to dig him out. He is not happy. Thankfully, however, he's never fully unsealed from the ice prison itself. Instead, he's blown to bits before his elves can thaw him out.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Greene cannot go a sentence without dropping an F-bomb, which leads to the elves killing him and the rest of the dig team.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Santa Claus, justified as he's been frozen in a block of ice and buried underneath a mountain for centuries.
  • Title Drop: Rare Exports is the name of the Santa shipping company that the protagonists create in the conclusion.
  • Unseen Evil: The only part of Santa we see are his/its horns.