Welcome to Day 11 of the 12 Days of YMF-Mas! Whether you love the holidays or dread them, we’re here to bring you support and cheer. Happy reading, and happy holidays!
In honor of Christmas, I got together with some friends and watched a time-honored holiday classic: Namely, the Finnish horror movie “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.”
To start with, let’s get the boring details out of the way.
The Boring Details:
- Genre: Horror
- Length: 84 minutes
- Country of origin: Finland
- Language: Finnish (English Subtitles)
- MPAA rating: R
- Found on: Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes Store
Now that we’ve got the boring details out of the way, let’s talk about the actual content of the movie. For starters, this movie straddles a strange genre line between horror and comedy, which is apparently a thing. I could talk about the underlying cause for why horror and comedy are so closely intertwined and the deep sociological factors between what ranks as eerie or uncanny what just comes off as goofy, but that would be a different post for a different blog.
The movie stars a young boy named Pietari, who believes in Santa Claus but has a strange phobia of the jolly old elf. He’s joined by his trusty stuffed animal Vuupe, his father and a couple other men from his small town on the border between Finland and Russia, and is also provided a smarmy foil in the form of a neighborhood boy named Juuso who seems intent on being a dick to him for believing in Santa Claus and for also having a deep and abiding fear of him.
The movie starts with some mysterious British guys drilling into a mountain and finding saw dust, indicating that the mountain is, in fact, a giant ice box holding something that is referred to as “a sacred grave.” Pietari and Juuso are hiding behind a wall of explosives while Juuso translates the gist of what they’re saying to Pietari, who only speaks Finnish. They then go down the mountain where you learn that they had actually snuck through the Russian border fence to get to that spot, which required cutting through the fence.
After having a good time with the excavation team, our spry young protagonist pores over his shelves upon shelves of ancient Santa lore, showing that he’s a demon more similar to The Krampus than to the jolly old elf we’ve come to know and love. Soon, reindeer are found mysteriously dismembered and local children go missing, only to be replaced with dolls made of sticks and straw, roughly the same size as the children who went missing. On top of all that, Pietari’s father finds a man stuck in his wolf trap that he had set out and, spoiler alert, the man is very old with a long white beard.
The story is surprisingly clever, and actually manages to make me jump at times and laugh at other times, meanwhile keeping a good, Christmassy feel to it. Dare I say I felt a twinge of Christmas Spirit while watching this movie? I’m not sure how far I’d go down that road but let’s just say that, if you watch this while drinking cocoa on Christmas Eve, you’ll feel surprisingly comfortable with it.
And now it’s time to break the movie into little pieces so you can decide for yourself if you’d like to see the movie.
The story: 4 out of 5
With a surprisingly original story and its ability to play a goofy notion with a totally straight face, and with everything from a dramatic location and imagery (such as Pietari opening a giant door marked 24 after, throughout the movie, stapling and taping shut the 24 door on his advent calendar) to funny gags with gingerbread men and a great twist at the end, the story alone is enough to make me recommend my friends watch it at least once, if nothing else just to say they did.
The cinematography: 3 out of 5
There were a few moments that stood out to me as really good camera work but, by and large, I’d say it’s fairly run of the mill, but manages to stay out of the way of the story itself, while still managing to stay close enough to the action to keep you in the story. I find that it’s really easy to suspend my disbelief if a movie doesn’t have me scratching my head over the camera angles and, while this movie didn’t blow me out of the water, it at least didn’t leave me wondering “why did they do it like that?”
The scares: 2 out of 5
This might be because I’m fairly jaded, as I watch a lot of horror movies, but I found that, with the exception of the occasional jump scare, this movie doesn’t deliver a whole lot other than some minor atmospheric creepiness for a movie designed to be a horror film.
The laughs: 3.5 out of 5
The fact that the whole movie plays this super goofy concept with a totally straight face is funny in and of itself but, the few times it indulges itself in its silliness, it really helps add to it. The movie didn’t have me rolling on the floor or anything, but it was still a really fun ride.
Women’s representation: 1 out of 5
One of the big drawbacks of “Rare Exports” is that it’s apparently set in a parallel universe wherein Finnish women are literally invisible. If you watch carefully, you’ll find references to 4 women in the movie, namely Pietari’s dead mom, the mom that he spoke briefly with on the phone, a girl named Elsa who is literally never actually spoken about other than having her name on a checklist and the husband of one of the men in the town who had her hair dryer disappear. If I’m wrong, please correct me and I’ll up the number of women in this film but, unless Finland is like the dwarves in Lord of The Rings and we’d been secretly watching a movie entirely about women, then there really wasn’t a whole lot of female representation. Or any, really.
Queer representation: 1 out of 5
I suppose it’s likely that a very small and conservative town on the Finland-Russia border wouldn’t have any openly queer characters, but I also can’t deny the fact that there were literally zero openly queer characters.
PoC representation: 1 out of 5
This movie is about as white as the snow that surrounds everyone. There’s not a whole lot I can say beyond that.
Final verdict: 7 out of 10
The movie has a distressing lack of anyone who isn’t a chiseled white man, but the plot is a lot of fun and the concept is original enough for me to recommend my friends watch it as along as they’re okay with suspending their disbelief in invisible women, invisible queer folk and invisible people of color.