Tuesday 26 April 2011

Review : Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale ( 2010 )

When an archaeological dig uncovers a long hidden secret beneath the Korvatunturi mountains, and children begin disappearing, a young boy begins to suspect that Santa Claus may be real, and truly does know who's been naughty and who's been nice. And the real Santa doesn't look too kindly on those who are naughty...

More and more it seems we have to turn to foreign filmmakers to get our fix as genre fans. The west hits it out the park on occasion, but what seems to missing is that real spark of ingenuity. That truly independent spirit. Its found these days in the dark dramas from the East, or the Gallic blood drenched nightmares of the French. It seems we're falling behind for the most part when it comes to blazing new trails in horror, and that's a shame. But fuck, at least there are people out there pushing all the buttons our homegrown directors seem so afraid to push. We need works like RARE EXPORTS to remind us why we fell in love with the genre in the first place, and goddamn it, to give us hope! This time, its down to Finnish director, Jalmari Helander to show us how shits done right.

I was lucky enough to catch RARE EXPORTS on its very short run in my home city of Glasgow. The theatre was practically empty, yet everyone who was lucky enough to be 'in the know' about this film came out with smiles from ear to ear. Its most definitely a crowd pleaser.

EXPORTS is a short, sharp blast of old school horror, blended perfectly with the sort of 'kids in peril' films many of us grew up loving in the 80's. Its got a wholly original concept, a cast of characters as memorable as they are authentic, beautiful scenery and a villain that genuinely will send chills down your spine. Its also a bona fide seasonal treat, and I believe it will be looked at in retrospect as a classic of the festive season.

Don't let the films rating deter you. Yes, its a mostly bloodless affair, but what it lacks in gore and mayhem it makes up for in atmosphere and dread. The tension in this film is palpable, and yet the whole thing manages to have a breezy innocence about it that's irresistible to both horror fans AND Christmas movie fans. Will this ever find its way into the hearts of the masses and be played on loop over the holidays? Most likely not. Its far too dark an adventure for that. But it WILL find its audience. A horror film this unique in both concept and execution is a very rare thing. And it should be celebrated.

Performances are pitch perfect as well. Our two main characters being a father and son, living a harsh existence in the Korvatunturi mountains of Finland. They're plight is one that will surely win you over. The son, fearing for his very life as the creeping realisation comes upon him that Santa Claus may very well be real, and not at all like the coco-cola version we're all so used to.  Onni Tommilla, as young Pietari, holds his own against the more experienced performers that surround him. He carries the film with ease, and his growth over the story is very well played out. From terrified victim, (check out the bear traps at the foot of the chimney),  to pint sized action hero all within a brisk 84 minute run time. And his father, played brilliantly by Jorma Tommilla, (relation?), has an equally satisfying story arc, which I wont divulge here. Suffice to say there is death, fear and dread here, but theres also hope and gentility. And yes, when all is said and done it IS a Christmas movie, and a damned good one at that.

The movies one downside for many will be the directors choice to keep a certain image from the audience, one which you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting to see. For me this worked, just as it has in many savvy films before it. After all, theres nothing more terrifying than your own imagination, ESPECIALLY if your a seasoned horror fanatic.

RARE EXPORTS succeeds where so many lesser Christmas horrors fail. Its at once a genuinely scary experience and a heartwarming tale of hope and faith around the winter season. Don't miss it.

8.5 Naked Pensioners out of 10

(Authors note: Be sure to check out the directors original shorts online.  I'd wait till after viewing the film itself so as to avoid spoilers. Just a heads up, folks)

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