When I was a very little kid, I stole a pack of Dentyne gum from the grocery store. It was so easy- I just put it in my pocket as my Mother was purchasing groceries. The act itself was thrilling. I could not believe that I could think of something like that, do it and then bask in the rewards. I was interacting with the world and I existed. Hubris was destined to trip me up though. I shared my accomplishment with my older brother and after enjoying some of my gum and throwing the wrappers into a bush, my brother promptly snitched (Life lesson #1: Happiness lasts longer when not shared with others.)
So now I was in trouble, big trouble. I had to wait in the stairwell as my mother spun the punishment wheel in her head and determined my fate. As I stood in the hall crying and praying for the power to turn back time (Life Lesson #2: No amount of praying will result in God granting you magical powers) the two cops from ADAM-12 (MARTIN MILNER & KENT McCORD) came into the kitchen and began to discuss my fate with my mother. I saw them and I heard them, I swear. I was trapped in a whirlwind of guilt and horror; I was obviously going to be arrested and sent to jail. I wasn’t a “good” guy, I was a “bad” guy! Oh, the shame!
Time would reveal that no, the ADAM 12 guys were not in my home at all. I had just had, you know, a visual and audio hallucination of some sort. I guess my brain was not formed enough yet to draw the lines between my imagination and reality (this would also explain the night that I saw the Easter Bunny in the living room.) I bring up this story because while watching the Finnish film RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE some invisible elf in my head dragged it out of storage and shoved it center stage. The movie may look like a killer Santa flick but in reality, it’s more about being a kid, and finding a way to overcome feelings of being “bad” while gaining some confidence about your abilities and position in the world. If you watch this one expecting gore, explosive action and big scares, you might feel shortchanged so I’m saying don’t do that.
RARE EXPORTS introduces us to a kid named Pietari who has gone and done something worse than stealing Dentyne. He and a friend, while snooping around an excavation, left a hole in the fence that contains his father’s reindeer herd and now something has obliterated his family’s livelihood. Pietari’s guilt cannot be contained and even though he has been sworn to secrecy about the incident, he knows that Santa sees all and will punish him severely. This is made even clearer as all the local kids about town begin to disappear. Pietari’s father captures an elderly man who he thinks may be responsible for their predicament but Pietari is convinced that the creepy guy is all-knowing Santa himself. The truth is actually stranger and more fantastic than Pietari can imagine so I won’t ruin it here.
This is a highly original film that plays with your expectations and stokes your imagination at every turn. If you a looking for a different type of holiday viewing experience then this is it. It hits a very unusual and singular note by being much darker and creepier than your standard family Christmas movie and yet much more whimsical, nostalgic and ultimately uplifting (literally in one scene) than your usual Christmas horror fare. Director JALMARI HELANDER is compared to SPIELBERG, JEUNET and DANTE in blurbs on the back of the DVD and I can see that, but with the frozen landscape, zero female presence and block of ice excavation, I was thinking hey this is like a kid’s version of THE THING! Okay, well, maybe that doesn’t fit exactly but you know how my brain works. In any case, RARE EXPORTS is a great addition to my pile of required Christmas holiday viewing. Really the only thing that it is missing is a cameo from the guys from ADAM-12.