Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Rare Exports official film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jalmari Helander
Produced by Petri Jokiranta
Screenplay by Jalmari Helander
Story by Jalmari Helander
Juuso Helander
Starring Tommi Korpela
Per Christian Ellefsen
Jorma Tommila
Jonathan Hutchings
Onni Tommila
Risto Salmi
Peeter Jakobi
Rauno Juvonen
Ilmari Järvenpää
Music by Juri Seppä
Miska Seppä
Cinematography Mika Orasmaa
Edited by Kimmo Taavila
Distributed by FS Film Oy (Finland)
Scanbox Entertainment (Norway)
Chrysalis Films (France)
Release dates
  • September 24, 2010 (2010-09-24) (AFF)
  • December 3, 2010 (2010-12-03) (Finland)
Running time
81 minutes[1]
Country Finland
Language Finnish
Budget 1.803 million[3]
Box office US$4,015,133[4]

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a 2010 Finnish horror-fantasy-thriller film directed by Jalmari Helander about people living near the Korvatunturi mountain who discover the secret behind Santa Claus. The film is based on a 2003 short film, Rare Exports Inc., by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander.


A group of local reindeer herders have their Christmas disturbed by excavations on the mountain. A scientist has ordered a team of workers to dig open what he calls "the largest burial mound in the world". An explosive used by the team uncovers what is referred to as a "sacred grave". However, the occupant of the grave is still alive.

Soon, the reindeer important to the local people are mysteriously killed, and children and supplies begin to disappear from the town. It emerges that the occupant is the source of the original Santa Claus myth; a supernatural being who, rather than rewarding good children, punishes the naughty. One family manages to catch an elderly man with a long white beard, who they believe to be the evil Santa Clause, in a trap, and plans to sell it to the scientist to cover the losses caused by his excavation. It turns out this creature is one of hundreds of "elves" who lure and trap the naughty children for the actual Santa, who remains in the grave, commanding his elves who are eager to free him. The herders and one lone child, a good child, set out to capture the elves, eliminate Santa, and save the village and its captured children.


  • "This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus."
  • "This holiday season, the real Santa Claus is coming to town."
  • "You thought you didn't believe in Santa Claus anymore..."
  • "From the land of the original Santa Claus."


  • Onni Tommila as Pietari Kontio
  • Jorma Tommila as Rauno Kontio
  • Tommi Korpela as Aimo
  • Rauno Juvonen as Piiparinen
  • Per Christian Ellefsen as Riley
  • Ilmari Järvenpää as Juuso
  • Peeter Jakobi as Pietari's Elf
  • Jonathan Hutchings as Brian Greene
  • Risto Salmi as Sheriff
  • Jens Sivertsen as Main Elf
  • Sigmund Bøe as Main Elf
  • Olav Pedersen as Main Elf
  • Nils M. Iselvmo as Main Elf


The film was produced by Cinet Film in co-production with Pomor Film (Norway), Davaj Film (Finland), Love Streams Agnès B. Productions (France), with support from the Finnish Film Foundation, FilmCamp and Filmpool Nord.[5]


In 2003, the Finnish commercials production company Woodpecker Film published the short movie Rare Exports Inc. online.[6] (It is available on other YouTube channels as well.) Here, the film's writer and director Jalmari Helander established a band of three hunters (marker, sniper, and tracker) searching the wilderness of Lapland for the wild Santa Claus. After the positive reception from an online audience, Woodpecker Film produced and published the sequel short movie Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions in 2005,[7] again with Helander as writer-director.

In 2007, Jalmari Helander introduced producer Petri Jokiranta to his idea of a feature length Rare Exports film based on his short films that had already acquired a cult reputation on the Internet. Jokiranta's company, Cinet, picked up the rights and Helander started to develop the concept together with Jokiranta.


In 2009, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale was in production and in Christmas 2010 it was released simultaneously in Finland, Norway, Germany, the UK, the US and Australia. The film was distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film distribution company.

Box office[edit]

Domestically, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale earned $236,347, while abroad it fared much better at $3,778,786, with total worldwide sales at $4,015,133.

Critical reception[edit]

The film won numerous awards such as the Locarno International Film Festival's Variety Piazza Grande Award[5] and Best Motion Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Director - as well as a "Special Mention" for the Silver Méliès for Best European Motion Picture Award - at the 43rd Sitges Film Festival in 2010.[8] In 2011, director Jalmari Helander and producer Petri Jokiranta received the Finnish Film State Award for their collaboration.

The film and crew earned further awards in 2011: nominated for Best Film for the Jussi Award, it won for Best Cinematography, Best Music, Best Sound Design, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. The film won the Pegasus Audience Award at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films's Saturn Award in the category of Best International Film.[9]

The film received positive criticism. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 89% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 87 reviews, with an average score of 7/10, making the film a "certified fresh" on the website's rating system.[10] The film holds a score of 71 out of 100 on fellow aggregator Metacritic, based on reviews by 18 critics and 19 users, indicating "Generally Favorable Reviews".[11]

Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and called it "a rather brilliant lump of coal for your stocking" and considered it "an R-rated Santa Claus origin story crossed with The Thing." He continued, "Apart from the inescapable [fact] that the movie has Santa and reindeer in it, this is a superior horror film, a spot-on parody of movies about dead beings brought back to life. Oh, and all the reindeer are dead." Ebert concluded that "this is a fine film. An original, daring, carefully crafted film, that never for one instant winks at us that it's a parody. In its tone, acting, location work, music and inexorably mounting suspense, this is an exemplary horror film, apart from the detail that they're not usually subtitled A Christmas Tale and tell about terrifying wild Santas."[12]

Kim Newman, an English novelist, critic, and winner of multiple awards (such as the The Horror Writers of America's Bram Stoker Award for Best Non Fiction - his book Horror: 100 Best Books), is a specialist in horror in many media. In Empire, he gave the movie 4 out of 5 stars ("Excellent") and praised its "very black humour and a strange mix of revisionist mythology, gruesome horror and authentic Christmas spirit. It has a gritty, outdoorsy feel appropriate to an exploration of the brutal side of a harsh, all-male life in an extreme climate... Helander also shows suspense chops in vintage John Carpenter mode — the scenes with the captured Santa, a grinning creature waiting for a chance to kill, are good, straight horror stuff, and there's an effective climactic siege of bearded monsters."[13]

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter describes the movie as "a fiendishly entertaining Christmas yarn rooted in Northern European legend and lore, complete with a not-so-jolly old St. Nick informed more by the Brothers Grimm than Norman Rockwell. While the richly atmospheric package has been wrapped with a healthy dose of wry satire, it's not of the mean-spirited Bad Santa variety. Helander, a successful commercial director in his native Helsinki, shrewdly blends just the right amounts of fairy tale wonder and action movie heroics into the oddball mix to highly satisfying effect."[14]

Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times called the movie "a thing of frigid beauty and twisted playfulness... Kids will love the diminutive, motherless hero and a plot that's completely bonkers; adults will enjoy the exuberantly pagan images and deadpan humor." It was rated a New York Times Critics' Pick.[15]

Sheri Linden (The Los Angeles Times) praised the "twisted black humor in this frosty Finnish fantasy... What unfolds is a dark comic thriller and action-hero send-up, a strange alloy of daredevil helicopter maneuvers and night of the living elves. Captured in atmospheric widescreen camerawork, the end-of-the-world frozen landscape (actually Norway) is spectacular and spooky."[16]

Reviewer Annika Pham, writing for Cineuropa.org, described it as a "Tim Burton-esque version of Santa's story" and said, "The icy Lappish landscapes are beautifully captured by [director of photography] Mika Orasmaa and the feel of the large-scale adventure epic is wrapped up in sweeping musical orchestration. The scary elements (suggested more than shown) are sufficient to keep 13+ viewers on edge, but could have been further elaborated – along with the original concept – to make Rare Exports a timeless seasonal delight."[5]

Collider.com's reviewer Dave Trumbore called the film "a darkly humored tale that fits perfectly in line with such anti-Christmas classics as Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas" and wrote, "The contemporary Nordic setting that's so fitting for horror movies these days (Let the Right One In, Dead Snow) is a perfect backdrop for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, not only in mood but in mythology as well... While Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale does not have the level of gore of Dead Snow or the emotional impact of Let the Right One In (although Pietari does earn his father's respect in the end), it's a uniquely entertaining tale that adds a bit of welcome darkness to the often saccharine times leading up to Christmas."[9]

Home media[edit]

Rare Exports was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on October 25, 2011. The Blu-ray version includes the two original short films and a variety of featurettes, such as a "Making Of", a look at the concept art, explanation of the animatics and computer-generated imagery, the notoriously contemptible[17][18] feature film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and other extras.[9]


  1. ^ "RARE EXPORTS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2010-10-27. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  2. ^ Weissberg, Jay (August 13, 2010). "Variety Reviews - Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale". Variety. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  3. ^ Finnish Film Foundation, Facts & Figures 2009 (Finnish), p. 6. Retrieved 22 July 2011
  4. ^ "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Pham, Annika (November 25, 2010). "Bloody Christmas greetings from new Finnish wunderkind". Cineuropa. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ Rare Exports Inc. on the official YouTube channel of production company Woodpecker Film on YouTube[dead link]
  7. ^ "Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions" on the official YouTube channel of production company Woodpecker Film on YouTube[dead link]
  8. ^ Sitges Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya (October 16, 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, by Jalmari Helander, wins the Best Motion Picture". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Trumbore, Dave (2011). "RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE Blu-ray Review". Collider.com. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale". Metacritic. 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (22 December 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 31 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Newman, Kim. "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: You better watch out, you better not cry". Empire (United Kingdom: www.empireonline.com). Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  14. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (December 10, 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  15. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (December 2, 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) - Discovering a Sinister Santa in Finland". The New York Times. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  16. ^ Linden, Sheri (December 9, 2010). "Movie review: Rare Exports". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)". The Public Domain Review (Open Knowledge). Retrieved December 1, 2014. ...a 1964 science fiction film that regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made. It is regularly featured in the 'bottom 100' list on the Internet Movie Database, and was featured in an episode of the 1986 syndicated series, the Canned Film Festival. ... The film took on newfound fame in the 1990s after being featured on an episode of the comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 ... It became a holiday staple on the Comedy Central cable channel in the years following its 1991 premiere. It has since found new life again in the 2000s having been riffed by Cinematic Titanic. 
  18. ^ Hall, Phil (December 17, 2004). "THE BOOTLEG FILES: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS". Film Threat (New Jersey: Mark Bell). Retrieved December 1, 2014. ... the film is still a source of wonder – basically, people wondering how such a crazy movie ever got made. 

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