Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale explores the dark side of the Santa Claus myth - if myth he is - and finds humor, and horror, lurking there.
Set in the breathtaking alpine ranges of northern Finland, writer-director Jalmari Helander's wicked yuletide fable starts with two kids sneaking around a top-secret archaeological dig. There is something, or someone, way down in the bowels of the earth, encased in wood and a massive block of ice. And there are hundreds of dead reindeer strewn across the fields nearby, mauled and bloodied, as if a horde of wolves had attacked. What's going on here?
Only wide-eyed Pietari (Onni Tommila), a boy whose father runs a slaughterhouse, seems to know.
Inspired by the lore of the demonic, horned counterpart to St. Nick - the Krampus - Rare Exports is a spooky adventure in which a band of blundering Finlandian men (no women here, it seems) run around with guns while the excavation's crew go missing, and then the children go missing, too.
It's not a matter of who's been naughty and who's been nice - just about everyone seems to be prey.
Never mind the pint-sized protagonist: Rare Exports - a tongue-in-cheek meditation on pagan fairy tales and their cultural resonances - isn't really suitable for younger filmgoers: Hacked-up body parts (animal and human), a cascade of profanity, and the sight of an army of naked, wizened men moving like zombies across the snowscape - this Santa Claus story is for a midnight movie crowd, not the kiddie matinees.