Review: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale DVD

STUDIO: Oscilloscope | DIRECTOR: Jalmari Helander | CAST: Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila
10/25/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
featurettes, concept art, animatics and computer effects comparisons, photo gallery, Scene It quiz, more; BD adds Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
R | 109 min. | Foreign language fantasy | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The deliciously wicked and twisted modern day fairy tale Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale from Finland boasts spectacular scenery, razor-sharp editing, a gorgeous orchestral score, pitch-perfect acting and a story that will keep you enthralled to the very end.

Peeter Jakobi is a really bad Santa in Rare Exports.

Oscilloscope has taken great care in loading this 2010 foreign film with worthwhile extras and packaging it in a cardboard, eight-panel gatefold slipcase illustrated with stylized images that capture the movie’s genuine otherworldliness.

As for that story, what if Santa Claus was more like a behorned devil than a jolly cherub, and what if his elves were more like walking dead zombies with pick axes than cheerful toymaking dwarves? Young boy Pietari (Onni Tommila) stumbles on this scenario when he spies an excavation crew that has found the long-time tomb of the “real” Santa. The crew unknowingly unleashes the entombed Mr. Clause (Peeter Jakobi), and Pietari’s rural mountaintop village is soon under siege.

But by what? In the best Spielbergian tradition, director Jalmari Helander keeps the horror off-screen — but seen from the child’s viewpoint — for as long as he can, building the tension to a finale that’s much larger than anticipated. The wheels grind a little bit as the boy tries to convince the gun-toting grown-ups what’s going on, but once that’s resolved, the action jacks up nicely. Then there’s a final twist, and then another, until you feel compelled to add this one to your all-time favorite holiday movie list.

The DVD bonuses are generous and informative, particularly the making of featurette. It’s a frank daily diary by young Helander kept during the shoot. For once, a refreshing behind-the-scenes look that is entirely absent of self-congratulatory smugness. Thanks you!

And on the Blu-ray — what’s this? — a full version of that other bizarre Santa movie, 1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians starring a young Pia Zadora. You gotta love it.


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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.