RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)
Finnish people spend their time doing one of two things: defending themselves from Russian invaders or defending themselves from bloodthirsty elves. Finnish cinema is full of classic films about the Russian invasion (“Talvisota” is particularly recommended) but so far the high point of Finnish bloodthirsty elf fiction would be “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” a 90-minute feature based on the two earlier “Rare Export” shorts about the traditional Finnish practice of capturing and taming wild Santa Clauses. "A Christmas Tale" is sort of a prequel to the shorts, detailing the origin of the wild Santas and a young boy with a very justifiable fear of that right deadly old elf. The uniquely weird and threatening Finnish and Scandinavian Christmas traditions play a big part in this movie—Santa and his elves (brainwashed and aged humans capable of incredible speed and resistance to pain) are shown as being able to whip the naughty to shreds with a bushel of twigs, to sense the presence of children in order to hunt them down and make them into “Christmas stew,” and to be appeased only by grisly slaughter or gingerbread cookies. Although the plot sort of wanders a bit, the movie manages to be both hilarious and genuinely frightening (sometimes simultaneously) and the gorgeous Lapland countryside helps distract from the occasional low or no-budget special effects.