Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Rare Exports official film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJalmari Helander
Produced byPetri Jokiranta
Written byJalmari Helander
  • Onni Tommila
  • Jorma Tommila
  • Per Christian Ellefsen
  • Tommi Korpela
  • Rauno Juvonen
  • Ilmari Järvenpää
  • Peeter Jakobi
  • Jonathan Hutchings
  • Risto Salmi
Music by
  • Juri Seppä
  • Miska Seppä
CinematographyMika Orasmaa
Edited byKimmo Taavila
Distributed by
  • FS Film Oy (Finland)
  • Scanbox Entertainment (Norway)
  • Chrysalis Films (France)
Release date
  • September 24, 2010 (2010-09-24) (AFF)
  • December 3, 2010 (2010-12-03) (Finland)
Running time
82 minutes[1]
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • France
  • Sweden[2]
  • Finnish
  • English
Budget1.803 million[3]
Box officeUS$4,015,133[4]

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a 2010 Finnish dark fantasy horror thriller film written and directed by Jalmari Helander about people living near the Korvatunturi mountain who discover the secret behind Santa Claus. The film is based on the 2003 short film Rare Exports Inc., and its 2005 sequel Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions, by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander, both of which involve a company that traps wild Santa Clauses and trains and exports them to locations around the world.


A British research team from Subzero is taking drill core samples on top of Korvatunturi (Ear Fell) in the Finnish province of Lapland. The fell is believed to be the home of Joulupukki, a figure in Finnish folklore that helped shape modern day versions of Santa Claus.

It becomes clear to team leader Riley that the entire fell is an ancient burial mound built by the Saami over centuries to conceal and imprison something. Two local boys, Juuso and Pietari, watch the team at work and eavesdrop on their discussions. They run to Juuso's nearby snowmobile quarreling about Santa Claus's existence, as the team begins to excavate the fell using explosives. Pietari returns home to read some books about Santa Claus, which suggest that he was a horned being who whips misbehaving children and boils them in a cauldron.

The day before Christmas Eve, Pietari's father Rauno, a local reindeer slaughterer, digs a trap pit in the yard to protect the remaining reindeer in case of wolves. He wakes Pietari up by throwing a snowball at his window and tells him to prepare for rounding up reindeer herds with the other herders at the electric reindeer pen. This year, there were only two skinny reindeer runts, so Rauno and the herders go to a glacier by Korvantunturi. When they reach there they find the remains of hundreds of reindeer that were gnawed to the bone. It looks like the explosions that have been going on at the fell for months have driven the wolves in the area mad. Rauno examines the carcasses worriedly. Farther away Pietari too examines the traces and is convinced that it's not the work of wolves, while Juuso warns him not to tell his father that they plied open the fence to Korvantunturi.

Rauno's reindeer slaughterhouse has been on the brink of bankruptcy for a long time. The attack of the wolves seems to be the final straw. But Rauno has one more chance. He heads to Korvatunturi to demand retribution from the Subzero company, whose personnel were killed for provoking a mysterious new threat by their rude behaviour. On the top of the fell all Rauno and his group find is a pit 400 meters deep and no trace of the Subzero personnel. It looks as if something was lifted from the depths of hell. Having lost all hope Rauno returns to his farm.

On the morning of Christmas Eve the trap has worked, but there is no wolf trapped in it. Even though Pietari was grounded for playing a trick with his father for using reindeer traps in the fireplace, he has been full of fear of the approaching Christmas, like an animal sensing a more powerful beast in its territory. He sneaks out of his father's house to a police truck, with his disappointed father in hot pursuit. They reach a village, where Rauno hears from other villagers that potato sacks, heaters, and Piiparinen's wife's hair-dryer, have gone missing. Pietari enters Piiparinen's house, and finds that Piiparinen's son Juuso is also gone, with a straw effigy in his place.

Piiparinen brings a sack, which contains a skinny old man, and leaves his inactive body on a table in Rauno's reindeer slaughterhouse. While he, Rauno, and Aimo discuss their plans, Pietari calls his friends on the telephone, and finds that they have all gone missing. Piiparinen teases the old man with a piece of gingerbread, and the old man bites off his ear. Piiparinen comes out and asks the other two men to come and see the old man. Pietari asks his father to spank him for his bad deeds, such as plying open the fence to Korvantunturi, as he fears that the children's bad deeds might have caused Santa to take them away. They are interrupted when Piiparinen tells Rauno to come and see the old man again, as the old man is strong enough to break a metal bar. When Pietari enters, the old man notices him, as the other men try to defend Pietari from being harmed.

They dress the old man in Piiparinen's Santa costume, and message the Americans that they "have found Santa Claus". They take the old man in a cage to an airbase, where they meet Riley. Riley warns that the old man in a cage is not Santa Claus, but one of Santa's elves, and that they must not behave rudely. When one of them mutters a curse word, the other elves (who look like naked old men) destroy the electric lights, and kill Riley and his pilot. The men and Pietari run to Hangar 24, where they find a horned being in an enormous block of ice being melted by the missing heaters. Underneath the block of ice are several sacks containing the crying stolen children, including Juuso. They are attacked by the elves, who attempt to break into the hangar.

As Rauno, Piiparinen, and Aimo disconnect the heaters and use them to block the elves from the doorway, Pietari devises a plan. Piiparinen comes out of the hangar, and distracts the elves by throwing gingerbread at them, so that he can reach the helicopter. The other two men make a net, which Pietari climbs on as it picks up the sacks of children to lure the elves to the reindeer pen. The other two men place explosives all over Santa Claus' ice block, and cut off his horns, before fleeing the hangar in a truck. Pietari climbs down the net of children and an antenna to open the reindeer pen, as the horde of elves runs toward him. Rauno and Aimo detonate the explosives, killing Santa Claus and causing the elves to stop at the reindeer pen before they can hurt Pietari.

After the children are returned to their homes, Rauno decides to start a new business with the Subzero company, in which the captured elves are trained to become mall Santas and exported to various locations around the world.


  • 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 (Finland) in co-production with Pomor Film (Norway), Davaj Film (Sweden) and Love Streams Agnès B. Productions (France), with support from the Finnish Film Foundation, Norwegian Film Institute, 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, UK, US and Australia.[citation needed] The film was distributed in US by Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film distribution company.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

In US, 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.[citation needed]

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[8][9] feature film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and other extras.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 104 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Rare Exports is an unexpectedly delightful crossbreed of deadpan comedy and Christmas horror."[11] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".[12]

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."[13]

Novelist and critic Kim Newman 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."[14]

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter described 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."[15] 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.[16] Sheri Linden of 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."[17] 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."[10]


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.[18] In 2011, director Jalmari Helander and producer Petri Jokiranta received the Finnish Film State Award for their collaboration.[citation needed]

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.[10]


  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. ^ "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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c Trumbore, Dave (2011). "RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE Blu-ray Review". Collider.com. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  11. ^ "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Metacritic. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (22 December 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 31 December 2010.3.5/4 stars
  14. ^ Newman, Kim. "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: You better watch out, you better not cry". Empire. United Kingdom: www.empireonline.com. Retrieved December 1, 2014.4/5 stars
  15. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (December 10, 2010). "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Linden, Sheri (December 9, 2010). "Movie review: Rare Exports". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  18. ^ 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.

External links[edit]