Santa Claus Reimagined: Rare Exports Film Review

As the festive season approaches, the twinkling lights and holiday cheer often bring to mind heartwarming tales and family-friendly films. However, here at, we’re dusting off the snow to reveal the darker side of yuletide joy. Christmas is coming once again, and with it, we delve into the chilling realms where holiday spirits and horror intertwine. Today, we’re revisiting an unconventional Christmas tale that’s sure to send shivers down your spine even as the fire crackles warmly in the hearth. Prepare to unwrap our in-depth review of “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” a Finnish film that masterfully blends the festive with the frightful. Grab your hot cocoa and a cozy blanket, but don’t get too comfortable—this holiday horror is anything but a silent night.

“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” directed by the Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander, is a film that gleefully subverts the cozy, comforting image of Santa Claus with a sinister and thrilling reinterpretation that could be described as a cross between the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” and John Carpenter’s chilling “The Thing.” This movie is not your quintessential Christmas cheer; instead, it’s a cleverly crafted horror film with a darkly comedic soul—a lump of coal in your stocking that burns with an intriguing glow.

Set in the remote, icy expanses of the Arctic Circle, the film introduces us to Pietari, played with earnest determination by Onni Tommila, reminiscent of Peter Billingsley’s iconic Ralphie but with a Nordic twist. Pietari and his father, Rauno (Jorma Tommila), live a rugged life on a reindeer ranch—a setting that the film uses to its full advantage, drawing from the stark, natural beauty and isolation to heighten the sense of impending dread.

The clever narrative takes us through a chilling local legend about a monstrous Santa Claus, buried for centuries, and the unwitting American team that sets it free. As the townsfolk grapple with the horror of their livestock being slaughtered and children disappearing, Pietari emerges as the unlikely hero, piecing together the mystery that adults seem oblivious to.

The film’s strength lies in its unwavering commitment to its premise. Helander skillfully balances the absurdity of taming wild Santas (a nod to his earlier short films) with the genuine terror that comes from facing the unknown. The movie is shot with a deft hand, with cinematography that captures both the beauty and the terror of the Arctic wilderness, and a score that underlines the creeping horror without ever feeling out of place.

The R rating is indeed earned, with language and a starkly naked, feral Santa contributing to the mature tone. This is not a film for those seeking heartwarming holiday fare but is instead a gift for those who revel in the macabre and the thought-provoking. The absence of winks to the audience preserves the film’s integrity as a horror piece, never allowing the parody to overshadow the storytelling.

“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” stands out as an original and daring film that confidently walks the line between horror and parody without ever slipping into the realm of the ridiculous. It’s a finely tuned machine of suspense and dark humor, proving that Christmas movies, much like fairy tales of old, can have a sharp edge and a shadowy heart. It’s a testament to Helander’s vision that the film maintains a serious tone while delivering a narrative that is as outlandish as it is thrilling. The young Pietari, with his mix of vulnerability and courage, provides a human anchor to the story, reminding us that the greatest adventures often come from the most innocent of intentions.

“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is a film that doesn’t just break the mold—it freezes it and shatters it with an ice pick. Its depiction of a feral, ancient Santa is a far cry from the Coca-Cola-sponsored jolliness we’re used to. Instead, it taps into something older and more primal—a reminder that our modern holiday myths have roots in darker, more mysterious folklore.

The performances are solid across the board, with the cast grounding the fantastical elements in a gritty reality that makes the unfolding horror all the more compelling. The Finnish landscape is used to great effect, creating an atmospheric backdrop that is both beautiful and haunting.

This film is a rare export indeed, one that delivers a darkly twisted, yet undeniably festive experience. It’s a holiday horror that manages to be both refreshing and deeply unnerving, a reminder that the most magical time of the year can also be the most chilling. For those in search of something beyond the typical holiday fare, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is a gift that keeps on giving—albeit one that might just bite.

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