Rare Exports

Christmas.

A time of giving. Of sharing. Of fellowship and good will.

Gah.

When it comes to holidays, there are only three I don’t loathe and shun: Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Krampusnacht. I know what some of you are thinking. I would argue my choices don’t make any more or less sense than the rest of such silliness (a position I’ve suggested elsewhere).

That said, I’ve nonetheless made it a rule to avoid running any holiday themes here at Castle Blogferatu. This applies even to the very times I hold dear, and applies tenfold to Christmas. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I didn’t have and entire month of Creepsmas, Christmassacre, or Happy Horrordays.

rareI had at most two individual movie posts in mind. One was Good Tidings. Sadly, I need to see that at least once more before I can decently talk about it. So for now, let’s have a look at Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

A research team discovers that the mountain they are exploring/examining is really a tomb or, more precisely, a containment facility. What’s being contained is Santa Claus, the real one, in a massive block of ice.

Santa Claus?

Yes. Santa Claus. Not the merry Thomas Nast/Coca Cola/Odin knockoff. No, this Santa is more a conflation of Germanic paganism (gimme that old time religion), Father Christmas, Krampus, and Joulupukki.

In fact, the “Santa” trapped in the ice may be closest to Joulupukki who lives on Korvatunturi mountain where the movie is set. In the legend, Joulupukki’s helpers look most like the Santa we typically think of, and they cause all the problems in the movie.

I like Rare Exports. Lots. It’s a clever and slightly twisted take on two classic concepts: the mythology of Father Christmas and the creature feature. I don’t love it. It wanders too far from director Jalmari Helander’s original concept which can be found in the two short films that led up to the feature.

The first was Rare Exports Inc. (2003) which is really the premise of the 2010 feature. Father Christmases are in fact vicious, wild creatures that are captured, cleaned up, trained, then sold all over the world. No easy task. A good sized Father Christmas, for example, “would easily tear apart a fully grown bear.”

I couldn’t stop laughing.

Two years later came Rare Exports Inc. Official Safety Instructions.

This one is so dark, so tongue-in-cheek, and so unflinching in terms of what happens to a Father Christmas gone bad that I’m sure it would deeply offend more than a big ol’ handful of folks.

On one hand, good.

On the other hand, I doubt they’d read this blog or watch these kinds of movies anyway.

safetyIf Rare Exports Inc. is a little off center, then Rare Exports Inc. Official Safety Instructions is merciless. I don’t mean this in a graphic, gory, hack-and-slash sense. I mean Helander is beyond brutal in skewering the entire Father Christmas concept right through its “Better not shout/Naughty or nice” core.

What makes these shorts so relentlessly hilarious is that neither is played for a single laugh. Ever.

They have all the look and feel gravitas of any well crafted industrial film (including the distinguished dread-and-gravitas inspiring voiceover courtesy of Jonathan Hutchings). In fact, for some true appreciation of what Helander is doing, have a peek at some industrial films. Hoptocopter is a good place to start.

This especially makes the opening of Rare Exports Inc. Official Safety Instructions even better: “Every year, we ship hundreds of these distinguished, extremely rare products to far away countries all around the world. Your mission is to guarantee a safe journey for the product from beginning to end. Last season, you failed.”

Again, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s shriekingly funny in the same way as Max Brooks’s Zombie Survival Guide. Here’s another suggestion. Watch the feature first. Next watch Rare Exports Inc. for a look at where this all started. Finish with Official Safety Instructions.

Think of it like getting your dessert if you eat all your vegetables.

This is, of course, my completely subjective opinion and is no more or less valuable than yours or anyone else’s, but I believe you’ll thank me. Why? Because Rare Exports Inc. Official Safety Instructions is one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever seen.

I for one couldn’t be merrier.

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