Just in time for Christmas, THE ZONE has my review of Jalmari Helander’s Evil Santa picture Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
Much like Dick Maas’s anti-clerical Saint, Rare Exports draws much of its humour and all of its horror from confronting children’s stories with the eyes of an adult. As with Maas’s take on the story of Saint Nicholas, Helander’s take on the more familiar story of Santa Claus finds something distinctly unsettling in the idea of an immortal being who hangs around children. Given the gimmicky nature of the subject matter, it would have been easy for Rare Exports to get away with being cheap and shoddy but instead, the project boasted quite a lavish budget that made it all the way to the screen thanks to some wonderful cinematography and a script that knows when to place tongue in cheek and when to allow the surreal horror of Santa Claus to speak for itself:
Rare Exports [repeatedly] toys with the idea of arrested development. Indeed, the head of the multinational corporation that are trying to unearth Santa is a man who dresses and acts in a manner that suggests that adulthood does not necessarily become him. Aside from spending an absolute fortune trying to meet the real Santa, the man also hands out a set of safety precautions in order to prevent his men from being seen as ‘bad boys’. These precautions include statements such as ‘no swearing’ and ‘no drinking’, precisely the kinds of rules that adults apply to their children. By attempting to ensure that his workmen are seen as ‘good boys’, the foreign businessman is effectively trying to envelop them in the same state of arrested development as him.
Regrettably underused, this character is fiercely reminiscent of both the collector character from Toy Story 2 (1999), and Michael Jackson, in that all three give off an image of adulthood that is just far-enough out of alignment to set people’s teeth on edge. Although Rare Exports never delves into the capitalist’s motivations, it is clear that there is something very wrong with a man who would destroy a mountain, risk dozens and lives and spend a fortune in order to meet Santa. The childlike glee displayed by the capitalist when he first encounters the reindeer herders’ old man is beautifully unclean; the way he strokes the old man’s filthy and matter beard speaks of a profoundly broken form of humanity.
Lovely, wrong and distinctly Finnish.