Hitting screens in 2010, this Finnish production remakes and combines writer/director Jalmari Helander’s duo of short films from 2003-05 about a company which traps and sells wild Santas. While there is an element of that in the film, this is more of a kind of ‘Dark Origin’ of the Santa Claus legend which dips into the legend of Joulupukki.
Joulupukki, or The Yule Goat, is a character from Finnish folklore, and whose story is intertwined with that of St. Nicholas, probably due to the Christian appropriation of pagan festivals. In Scandinavian countries, like Finland, folk would dress like a goat and go from house to house, singing and dancing for food – much like the British tradition of wassailing. Old Joulupukki is more than likely where the Germanic Krampus comes from too, more for the look than anything. And so Rare Exports combines Santa, Joulupukki and Krampus, focussing largely on the punishment of naughty children to deliver an entertaining horror comedy with some great action scenes too, towards the end.
The set up is similar to what we’ve seen before in films like The Keep and The Mummy. A British company gathering ice core samples in Lapland discovers that the site of their drilling is not actually a naturally formed mountain but a manmade burial mound. Of course, they can’t let such a monumental discovery remain hidden and, like idiots, use explosives to crack open the vast barrow.
Local child Pietari, son of a reindeer farmer, notices footprints in the snow on Christmas Eve. But unlike most children, he’s not excited, having read up on the origins of Santa Claus and seen pictures of Krampus taking naughty children away from their homes.
The fantastical elements of the film are skillfully introduced so that at the start it’s quite a realistic drama, but by the end, you’re fully immersed in a completely bonkers fantasy adventure involving kidnapped children, and an army of naked elves, a fifty-foot tall demon and a helicopter action set piece. By the end, you don’t really question what’s happening due to the slow build of tension. It just works. It’s funny, exciting, scary and with an outrageously brilliant ending!