DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

RARE EXPORT: A CHRISTMAS TALE (director/writer: Jalmari Helander; screenwriter: Jalman Helander; cinematographer: Mika Orasmaa; editor: Kimmo Taavila; music: Juri Seppa/Miska Seppa; cast: Onni Tommila (Pietari), Jorma Tommila (Rauno), Per Christian Ellefsen (Riley), Tommi Korpela (Aimo), Rauno Juvonen (Piiparinen), Ilmari Jarvenpaa (Juuso), Peeter Jakobi (Santa), Nils Nymo (Elf); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Petri Jokiranta; Oscilloscope Pictures; 2010-Finland-in Finnish and English, with English subtitles)

"OK. it's a silly folklore tale. But I found it both pleasingly absurd and funny."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of Jalmari Helander ("Big Game"), where he is writer-director of this dead-pan humorous take on Nordic myth. To the right viewer, this offbeat Finnish Christmas tale should be a hoot. Jalmari's brother Jalman is co-writer. It's a horror tale about an evil Santa brought back to life in modern times, that offers many nightmarish surprises and a vision of Christmas not a part of the jolly American experience.

It's set in northern Finland a few days before Christmas, in the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, wherein lies a guarded secret of Christmas.

The cute Finnish kid, Pietari (Onni Tommila), suddenly becomes Woody Allen-like paranoid after all his friends go missing, believing Santa hates his guts and wants a piece of him. If you think this is ridiculous, you're watching a film not meant for you. The kid protects himself wearing at all times hockey gear (pads and helmet) and slinging a rifle over his shoulder. The kid lives with his widowed butcher father Rauno (Jorma Tommila). The father and son here are also a real-life pair.

Meanwhile some workers at a multinational corporation have unearthed an ancient burial site, where they plan on recovering a preserved frozen old fat man believed to be Kris Kringle. The Finns call their Santa "Joulupukki" ("Yule Goat"). The Joulupukki of Scandinavian legend was a demonic, horned goat-man who would make the rounds during Christmas to either carry off or torture the bad children. Also dug up were Santa's helpers, who are just as mean-spirited as the boss and eager to get their mitts on the bad kids.

OK. it's a silly folklore tale, that's played straight and not for camp. But I found it both pleasingly absurd and funny. It was done in an arty way, and the acting is as solid as a block of ice. The comedy has its funny moments, such as an elf hanging on a meat market hook.

REVIEWED ON 12/19/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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