Who's In It: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi
The Basics: Christmas Eve in the north of Finland would seem like the perfect place for jolly old St. Nick to appear. And he does. Because they just dug him up. And he's frozen. And he's not happy. This ain't the bowl-full-of-jelly, sugar-cookie-snacking fat man; he's the real, old-school, terrifying Santa Claus, a rage-filled reindeer slayer and merciless child-punisher. When local kids start to go missing, what happens next involves kidnapping, commentary on Christmas commercialism, naked blood-soaked elf battles and nightmarish comedy that'll warm the blackened hearts of holiday haters worldwide.
What's The Deal: What's awesome about movies from other countries is that you get to experience strange juxtapositions of elements you might not find in Hollywood movies that get test-marketed until all the jarring bits have been sanded down. You find out what that culture thinks is just fine for a general audience to look at. For example, would Santa's army of elves be naked and gore-smeared in a holiday horror film by Steven Spielberg? No, they wouldn't. But that's sort of the tone here. You can tell that director Jalmari Helander, in addition to darker influences, absorbed a lot of E.T. growing up, because he's made something that's part childhood wonder/coming-of-age tale and part gory fear factory. And for hardcore movie nerds, that kind of jolting mix of scary surprise and oddly moving moments is always worth the trauma of imagery you'll never get out of your head.
Breakout Star: Peeter Jakobi as the bad, badder, baddest Santa. You might regret sitting on Billy Bob Thornton's lap in a department store, and he might unleash some R-rated swears at you, but at least you wouldn't find yourself "disappeared" in the night. That he never says a word just makes it creepier/better. Now all we need is a sequel where Santa meets the Krampus.
For Fans Of: Movies Gremlins, Bad Santa, The Ice Harvest, Christmas Evil, The Ref, Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, A Christmas Tale, La Buche, Santa Claus (the bizarrely rickety 1959 Mexican kiddie flick), The Magic Christmas Tree (an equally weird occult-like journey into the surreal from the same era) and even Jack Frost, that straight-to-DVD movie about the killer snowman. Obviously these aren't all of a type--some are simply weirdo family films, some brutal horror, and a few simply cranky and French--but if you know even some of them and can't get enough, then you can add this one to your list of favorites.