Who’s In It: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Rauno Juvonen, Ilmari Järvenpää, Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Peeter Jakobi, Jonathan Hutchings, Risto Salmi
The Basics: In a remote town near the Finnish-Russian border, the frozen body of Santa Claus is unearthed by a foreign corporation just in time for Christmas. This Santa, however, isn’t the jolly Saint Nick of greeting cards and sugary dreams; he’s a fabled punisher with giant horns who spanks naughty children until they die. When the local children go missing on Christmas Eve, only one little boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) knows who’s really responsible for the recent mass reindeer slaughters and bizarre thefts that have struck his small herding community. With his skeptical father and their friends in tow, little Pietari attempts to save the world… by destroying Santa Claus.
What’s The Deal: This Finnish import from director Jalmari Helander is a darkly comic throwback to the kiddie horror pics of the ‘80s -- think Gremlins or The Monster Squad for a sense of Helander’s tone, cheeky and just a bit grotesque. It’s a surefire cult classic in the making for fans of perverse holiday offerings and yet there’s also a sweetness to Rare Exports, a film carried on the shoulders of young actor Onni Tommila, who plays opposite his own father, Jorma Tommila. Part Ralphie from A Christmas Story, part John McClane in Die Hard, the younger Tommila goes from innocent to steely in the film’s big climax, which brings on a tonal shift that kicks things into high gear with surprises best left unspoiled here. Suffice to say that if a movie about a little Finnish kid battling an evil Santa appeals to your weird film sensibilities, you’ll find no better way to spend this holiday season.
The Christmas Lessons It Teaches Children: Be good (or at least feel bad for being naughty) or Santa will come after you. Also: That creepy naked bearded man who’s been peering in your windows and likes to eat raw flesh and gingerbread cookies? Don’t sit on his lap. Instead be nice to your parents, because even if they’re too busy worrying over finances to listen to you sometimes, they’re the only ones who’ll be able to operate heavy machinery when Santa’s little helpers come with pickaxes.
Okay, This Santa Is More Like: The Krampus, a mythical goat-like creature who was a companion to St. Nick in ancient European folklore. In the olden days he was more like the bad cop to Santa’s good cop, punishing the naughty kids while his jolly compatriot got all the glory. Rare Exports brings back the age-old tradition of frightening children into being on their best behavior in ways that waking up Christmas morning to coal in a stocking never could.