Friday, December 16, 2011

You'd Better Watch Out: Volume 3

For the past couple of years I've posted lists of unconventional Christmas films around the holidays, to provide an alternative viewing roster for those inclined toward something off the beaten path. Titles have included such cheery favorites as 12 Monkeys, Brazil, Trancers, Die Hard, etc. This year I ended up watching a great one out of Finland called Rare Exports. The film tells the story of a small group of villagers in present day Finland, whose lives are upended when a mining company discovers the real Santa Claus buried deep within the heart of a local mountain. The problem is that this isn't the Santa we all know and love, but the Santa from myth and legend. This Santa does more than leave a lump of coal for those who are naughty, sees reindeer as a source of protein rather than a useful means of conveyance, and does not arrive with the charming red suit and hat.

Of course once Santa inevitably escapes the restraints the mining company attempts to impose, he runs loose and wreaks havoc in the village. A young boy, his father, and a couple of hapless locals manage to corral him, but intend to make the mining company pay top dollar due to all the reindeer Santa took out along the way. One of the most creative pieces of business is that everyone has to be careful not to swear or do anything naughty, or Santa will focus his radar on them. It's sort of like having to remain motionless to avoid the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, not feed Gremlins after midnight, etc. There a lots of little touches like this that make the film unique and fresh.

I went into this movie pretty much free of any expectations, and have to say it mostly was fantastic. What you have is a combination of the isolation and wintry chill of The Thing, mixed with "magic of childhood" vibe of 80's Spielberg, and a dash of overblown modern action. I could have probably done without the last element, because it somewhat diminished the wonderfully creepy atmosphere established in the first 2/3 of the film. Not a deal breaker though by any means, and when we finally see the true Santa it is truly a jaw dropper.

So if you're looking for an alternative to A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story marathons, check out this daring little gem . . . and we'll see you all at Fantasmo in the coming New Year!

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