Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Ho Ho Ho

This week, I went to see Rare Exports, a Finnish Christmas horror film. Yes, a Finnish Christmas horror film. It was dark and funny – one of the best films I’ve seen in a long while.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the film reimagines Santa Claus as a terrifying being, a beast that crawls out of the nightmares of Vikings. This sinister side of Christmas terrorises a small Finnish settlement.

The film was based on two earlier shorts, Rare Exports, Inc. and Official Safety Instructions. The second short is closer to the tone of the film, but both of them display the same straight-faced handling of material that is by turns ridiculous and frightening. Both are embedded below, although I would recommend watching them after seeing the film, as parts of the shorts are shifted wholesale into the film.

It was a horror film, but there is not much violence and gore – the worst it dishes out is a few jump scares. The writer and director are wonderful at building tension, and making sure the audience never knows more than the protagonists. There is a very dark, very Scandinavian sense of humour running through it. (So dark that, at one point, I thought the film was about to end with a young child being torn to shreds by a horde of rabid, naked elves. Yeah.) At the same time, it’s about a young boy growing up without every hitting us over the head with it. At first, this young boy, Onni Tommila, seemed to belong to the Haley Joel Osment school of cutesy child acting – you know the kind of the kid, the one you want to hug and slap in equal measure – but he turned in a great performance. There was also some dodgy CGI – think Legolas dancing on the head of the cave troll – but it was forgiven in the film’s overall quality, especially as the CGI was buried in the beautiful Finnish landscape.

I highly recommend this film. It’s an antidote to the insipid holiday shit that Hollywood trickles out, and a great film in its own right.

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4 Responses

  1. Ooooh, I watched the trailer a few weeks back and boy did it look promising. After reading your review I’m even more excited.

    Now we can just start counting the days until they begin filming a Hollywood remake where you can be absolutely certain from the beginning that NO kids will be shredded :-(

    Speaking of remakes, I recently watched the trailer for “Let Me In”, the American version of “Let the Right One In”. Looked bloody awful (it’s set in New Mexico, wtf?). Makes me sad that many people probably wont ever get to see the brilliant Swedish original.

  2. liamliamliam says:

    I am actually excited to see Let Me In, but only because the original is my absolute favourite film so I’m intrigued by anything to do with it. I’ve read good reviews of it but, judging by the trailer, it’s completely unnecessary! It looks the same, the trailer even has some of the exact some shots e.g. Håkan falling out of the hospital window!

    You’re right, it’s a shame people need to be spoonfed the film in English rather than going to the small effort of reading some subtitles!

    (Speaking of which, how well can you understand Swedish? Could you watch Låt Den Rätte Komma In without subtitles?

  3. hmmm, to me the original one has this very special, both beautiful & claustrophobic Scandi-surburbia feel to it that is spot on and reminds me of my childhood (the light, the sky, the architecture etc). I just didn’t get that from the new one and that was one of the things I really loved about the Swedish one.

    But let me know if it’s any good – at least the new on is R rated to :-)

    And yes, I guess I could watch it without subtitles and understand 90% but that would be hard work…

  4. liamliamliam says:

    Hmm, very true: the original had a very Scandinavian feel, and the new one looks like it took the same mood and environment for no reason. But I’ll let you know how it is! ;)

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