After two well-received web entries, 2003’s Rare Exports Inc. and 2005’s Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions, writer and director Jalmari Helander created this ode to the darker side of Santa Claus.
A British company called Subzero is doing arctic deep drilling when it discovers that a burial mound contains something hidden. Two boys, Juuso and Pietari listen in, then argue the existence of Santa before Pietari goes home to read how Santa is really a horned being who whips bad kids and boils them alive.
The day before Christmas Eve, Pietari’s dad, Rauno, digs a trap to protect his reindeer herd from wolves, who have been driven mad by the explosions and digging. They discover hundreds of dead reindeer, all gnawed to death, but both Pietari and his father are unsure if the wolves are really to blame.
Rauno blames his misfortune on the Subzero company and heads out for retribution. However, he finds no one there, just a deep pit into what looks like Hell. Then, they learn that potatoes, heaters and even a hairdryer have gone missing. Even worse, Jusso jas disappeared, a fact that Pietari discovers has happened to kids all over the village.
Another villager, Piiparinen, finds an old man who is near death, who goes from deceased to able to attack to strong enough to break metal bars. They dress the old man as Santa and inform Subzero’s American boss, Riley. He informs them that they only have an elf and must not behave rudely. One swear word later and the lights, Riley and his pilot have all been killed.
Everyone runs to Hangar 24, where they discover a horned beast trapped in a block of ice being warmed by the stolen heaters. They also see sacks of kidnapped children before they are attacked by the elves.
What follows is a daring rescue and escape, with Santa being blown up real good and Raulo ending up working with Subzero to send the elves to American malls, where they will be seasonal Santas.
Rare Exports could have been a silly parody of a film, but it is shot with dark charm and plenty of verve. It’s a really unique piece of cinema that surprised me at several turns. You can check it out on Shudder or Amazon Prime.