Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Horror Of...Christmas Night, Rare Exports

Hello, from the dark and frostbitey days of the year! ...Gosh, it's cold. So. Cold.

The snow is falling, the cold winds have come, and night falls so swiftly. And then we put up lights outside, and bring trees in the house? Why? Maybe it's to keep safe from what is outside.

Maybe it is because we secretly dread that Santa Claus will be coming to town tonight.

Well, to argue on that side, we have Rare Exports, a 2010 Finnish movie, that has garnered a much deserved cult status.

It started out back in 2003. At the time a Finnish production company, Woodpecker Film, created a short film. It took place in Lapland (in Finland), and functioned through voice overs (which was an easy way to create new vocals, and spread online).

The result is a rare and strange treat. Rare Exports, Inc.

It tells the tale of a seasoned trio of hunters who go out every year to continue a sacred tradition. A tradition that has them hunt down and capture the most dangerous of prey. A wild Santa Claus. Or rather, as he's called in some parts of the world, Father Christmas.

The hunters: Marker, played by Tommi Korpela. Tracker, played by Tazu Ovaska. Sniper, played by Jorma Tommla.

It was put together by Jalamari Helander and Juuso Helander.

So they catch this wild creature, that looks much like us. Then they train it, to be docile. And it gets commoditized.

It is so odd, and interesting. In reality, they are abusing a creature, to make it act a way. Conditioning. Or, a dancing Russian bear. But that's reality. And none of this really touches reality.

And if it stopped there, this would be an oft mentioned short online, that people would get introduced to around Christmas (Hope you liked it!). But it didn't stop there!

Two years later they released another short movie (written by bother Helanders again). Safety Instructions. Learn why you have to be extremely careful in handling and transporting Father Christmas. Learn just why you don't smoke, swear, or drink in it's presence.

The three hunters return, as do the actors. They also add Boy, played by Onni Tommila.

This gives us a sad end to our Father Christmas from the 1st short (Yes. Same actor.)

And then five years on, we got the idea expanded into a movie. And depending on how you look at it, it could be a prequel.

This movie was released in 2010, by Cinet. Jalamari Helander worked with the company to take the original shorts, and create a new longer tale. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

For this movie two of the actors that played hunters returned. And they get names. Now, Jorma Tommila is playing Rauno Kontino. Tommi Korpela is playing Aimo. The third is now played by Rauno Juvonen, and is called Piiparinen.

The Boy also returns, as continues as the son of Tommila's character, now called. Pietari.

The narrator from the two shorts, Jonathan Hutchings, also has a role, playing Brian Greene (though he isn't called this in the movie directly).

So what happens this time?

This time we start out 24 days before Christmas.

And, yes, this is a Finnish movie, so it's text its Finnish, as is the dialogue.

December has started, and at a dig site atop a mountain, they have a visitor. He has come to check on the status of the dig, and learns that they have gone down deep into the hill and hit wood. Actually, sawdust.

Curiously, for a Finnish movie, the two people in the scene are speaking in English. I don't know if that is for the benefit of English speakers they sold the movie to, or just a matter of plotting for later.

The visitor is very intrigued. He explains that in centuries long past, the people in the region would bury items, cover them in saw dust, to refrigerate and freeze items.

He know wants the dig team to keep digging. Go down and find just what was frozen away all those centuries back.

"And, No calling it X-Mas."
But first, he gives the team manager new rules for everyone there.

No Drinking. No Smoking. No Cursing. Etc. Safety Instructions.

They then go outside. There, the visitor gives a speech, still in English. He begins talking about how momentous this is. Also that he's dreamed of this since he was a child. They all stand on a sacred grave. A site larger than the pyramids of Egypt.

He then beckons them to begin blowing into the mountain, and reveal it's secrets. They only have 24 days to act.

It is never clear who the visitor really is. Or, why he knew this was the spot (I'd guess years of research.). Or, why he wants to bring the thing inside up. He's eager to bring it out. But he's also scared.

Near by, two boys watch the speech. One of them, Juuso, knows English, and translates for the other, Pietari.

Pietari inuits the meaning of it all. It's Father Christmas. They are digging up the grave of Father Christmas.

They then slip away, and back down the hill. They then go through a hole they cut in the fence for the dig.

Pietari wonders some about Father Christmas, and Juuso rebukes him for being a little child, and believing.

As they head off, the first explosions from the mountaian can be seen and heard.

Wondering about what is and isn't true about Father Christmas, Pietari does some heavy research. No Wikipedia for him, he gets a room full of old books on Father Christmas and begins developing understanding of his reality.

And we get an interesting montage of images, a montage that shifts into more and more dark images of the jolly old elf.

Some of the early images take quite a deviation, with a horned being, dressed in robes.

Seems Father Christmas is known for going about barefoot. Tracking around.

The earliest figure he finds is quite terrifying. A giant, horned being. One who has an inordinate interest in kids.

They make great Christmas Stew.

He finally has what he thinks is a complete image if the figure of Father Christmas. A nasty creature that was reshaped into a benevolent one.

It has a certain truth to it. Many fairy tales have gotten reworked over the centuries to be more gentle. Historic or legendary figures often get makeovers.

Also, the image of the terrifying Santa Claus/Father Christmas, with horns and a taste for killing kids is quite familiar. Some of these images remind greatly of the Krampus. Which means they are saying hear that the two figures were once the same. Then, they were divided into two separate figures in some cultures.

Usually it seems characters in tales get melded into fewer characters, not more. But it is an interesting idea.

Pietari is worried now that Father Christmas is coming. For when you disturb a grave, you can never tell what will come out.

I would almost find it odd that there are books one can easily get that explain what Father Christmas is. But it's not exactly the first time I've seen this done inexplicably. And it does advance things, along with portraying interesting aspects of Pietari.

He got (I wonder from where in such a small and isolated town) all these books and poured over them. He did some effective research. The kid is small and shy, but seems to have a keen mind.

Outside his father, Rauno, is at work, cutting
spikes. He's making a trap for just down the hill from his house. It's a pit trap where he covers the pit with some branches and snow. He then places a pigs head over it.

Man, Finnish Christmas is weird.
Inside the house, Pietari is trying to stand guard, watching from his bedroom window

But he's asleep.

His dad calls him to get up. Looking around he sees all seems okay. But then he notices footprints in the snow under his window.

He goes out his dad, and asks if he was up there. And he learns that he wasn't.

Later they head out to a meeting with the other hunters in the community. They are meeting at a corral. What they do is allow reindeer to range out in wild lands, then they migrate back, and into there corral...I am not a farm kid, I am not the best to explain the process.

There they are met by Juuso and Piiparinen. Piiparinen is preparing the fencing's electric current.

Don't you hate it when you get to a party, and no one
else has arrived?
Then everyone waits and watches for the reindeer. And when they come...it's only two, and they are sickly.

Where have all the reindeer gone?

They need to find out. There are supposed to be 435 of them. And they spent 80,000 Euros on them. If they don't find them, all these families will be in severe trouble.

Snowmobiling for work? Is that done?
So Rauno, with Pietra, Juuso, and Piiparinen head out on snowmobiles to see where the rest of the deer are now.

And then they find them. Dead. Slaughtered. Torn apart.

They think it must be wolves that did it. But...all of this carnage? They head over to the dig site fence, where the carnage stretches to. They find the hole in the fence, and think the wolves may have come through it, or whatever is in there.

So they knock in the gate and ride into the site. They arrive at night and find that it's abandoned. They do though find a huge and deep hole. A now empty hole.

Luckily this isn't Doctor Who. So there isn't a giant ancient horned evil down there...

Now they have a mystery. What happen to their animals? And what will they do now to survive?

At home now, Pietari is convinced that Father Christmas was dug up, and is stalking him. It all makes sense to him.

He really seems to effectively intuit what is up. Could be a childlike innocence leading the way. Or, he could be a future Sherlock Holmes, or brilliant hunter.

"I'm not saying it's Santa Claus,
He tries to warn Juuso, but he doesn't believe it. He shows Juuso a sonar printout that he found in the dig site. And then he explains Father Christmas's fate. He angered the local people long ago. Seeing what he did to kids, I'm not suprised. But he was a massive mythic being. So they lured him onto a lake. and then they broke the ice, sending him into the depths. They then waited until the lake fully froze, and dug him out in a block of ice (Worked for Captain America.). They then buried the block under hundreds of meters of dirt and stone.

Juuso finds it all too ridiculous.

At a nearby isolated landing site, the dig team is waiting and calling in the visitor. They have the item he wanted. But it's troubling them. It has a pulse. They want to leave.

Angry, the head of the dig team swears at the visitor over the phone.

Then things go bad for them. Suddenly, he's surrounded by empty helmets. His whole team is just gone. And quickly, so is he.

The next day, Pietari sees that his dad's pit trap has worked. Heading out, his dad finds something unexpected, a human body. A man. A dirty haggard old man, with a long white beard. Rauno quickly sends Pietari away.

Scared, Rauno gets Piiparinen to come over and help him move the body to his meat locker. They don't know what to do. But they do find papers on him saying that he's an American.

Finnish Christmas is really weird.

They decide they want to hide the body. And to do that they'll just have to cut it into pieces. As they prepare to put a saw to the body, it flinches. He lives.

Is this a Friday the 13th the Series crossover.
While the two talk, Pietari scopes out the pit. In it, he finds a sack. And in the sack he finds a large and creepy doll. He goes to see what his dad is doing, and seeing that the man is alive, Pietari runs off.

His dad sees this and runs after him, scare he might tell someone what he almost did. In his truck, he sees Pietari get picked up by the local sheriff. So, he quietly follows them.

They end up at Aimo's house, who is also Juuso's father. He gets there and quietly walks up to them, trying to get his son alone. But the sheriff is more interested in why he was called out. Aimo explains that he was robbed. It was an attack on his potato harvest. But the potatoes are fine. All the sacks are missing.

Okay. Maybe it is aliens. Only aliens could do this.

"Glad nobody notices I'm walking around in a
bloodied smock."
The sheriff then notes that there were robberies all over town overnight. Heaters. Ovens. Blow dryers. Swiped. Ripped out of walls. All gone.

"Why Juuso, what a wooden head
you have." 
Pietari slips away to check on Juuso. He goes up to Juuso's room, and sees a figure sleeping. But in his bed he finds another creepy doll instead.

Pietari figures that Juuso was taken, and the dolls are left in the kid's places. He tries to tell everyone, but they all think Juuso has snuck off again.

Rauno asks Aimo to come home with him. Aimo knows some English, so he could translate the old man they found.

Rauno tells Aimo they need help with a business deal he has with an American. Aimo agrees.

When they get back, they find Piiparinen nursing a wound to the ear. The old man tried to bite it off.

Rauno decides to use the man to get compensation for the 85,000 Euros they all lost. If he's tied to the work on the mountain, then his company owes them.

They talk to him, and threaten him. They want him to agree to get them their money. But even as they try to coerce him, he doesn't respond.

Then Pietari calls out from outside. Now the old man looks up.

"What did you say about why belly?"
Outside, Rauno tries to keep his son out, asking him what's wrong. Pietari explains that it's his fault that there was a whole in the fence around the mountain. And then he tells him dad that all the other kids in town are gone. He called every home, and they all are gone.

But his dad won't believe it. So Pietari comes into the room with the old man, and the old man stares at him. Pietari explains that it's Father Christmas. He came to take Pietari away, but fell in the pit. Then the old man moves towards Pietari, and everyone points guns at him. And then, they tie him up.

Then they realize a walkie talkie was in the coat they found with him. Someone is coming for him. They also mention wanting to know if Father Christmas is ready.

So, they dress the old man in a handy Father Christmas costume.

They are eager to make a deal, get their money, and leave.

But when they go, they meet the visitor. And when they offer him "Father Christmas", he says that it's not him. The old man is just one of many little helpers.

"Really. What's with all the comments on my weight?"
He's looked into the old man's eyes, seen the menace and glow to the eyes. They are all in danger.

The visitor tells them to lower their weapons, and be quiet. They get angry at all this news, and keep swearing. ...Then the lights go out.

Meanwhile, Pietari is exploring again. And he finds something in the last hangar. A massive towering ice block, with horns sticking out of it.

The visitor is quickly killed, and the Rauno, Aimo, and Piiparinen fight their way back. All around them more old men appear, naked, and charging them.

Oh my god! ZZ Tops have become zombies!
Pietari calls to them, and they finally see what they are dealing with. The ice block is surrounded with all the featers and ovens, blazing away. Father Christmas is being thawed out.

...Still not a Doctor Who episode...
Also around the ice block, all the kids from town, trussed up.

The men panic a little, the helpers have massed on the from of the building and are bashing the door.

Pietari forms a mad plan.
  • Piiparinen will use a side door, and get to a nearby helicopter. (He can fly them.)
  • All the kids will stay tied up and in sacks, and be lifted out of the top of the building.
  • The helicopter will fly away, and the helpers will give chase, drawn to capture kids.
  • Rauno and Aimo will set off the explosives all around the hangar, and blow up Father Christmas.
Man, I am trying to avoid any interesting views of these
guys bits.

Mad. But better than  letting 50 foot immortal killer of kids wander the Earth (with his army of cranky and super strong old man minions).

So they set off with the plan. Pietari will ride with the rest of the kids, so the helpers won't be tempted to stay (in which case they'd kill Rauno and Aimo, and free Father Christmas.) They head off, and Pietari tells Piiparinen to head to their corral. It can be used to trap the helpers.

He jumps from the helicopter and lands on the tower in the middle of the corral. He climbs down, turns on the electricity in the fence, and get the gate open. And they, in mass charge at him.

Meanwhile, Rauno and Aimo set up the explosives, and put a detonator in place. Then they saw off both of Father Christmas's horns (Hey, a trophy.). They drive off, trying to get some distance.

Then Aimo has a hilariously great line (Which is weirdly changed in the trailer at the top of the page.
"A peaceful Christmas to all... [The explosives go off.] ...And a fucking banging New Year."
That's a line that stays with you...for some reason.

With that, the helpers all stop running. They've become docile. Apparently without Father Christmas around, they turn into more of a herd creature...Until provoked.

At morning's light they look at the sight of 198 helpers, in their corral. They try to figure out what to do next.

What the Tea Party thinks Obamacare is.

Then they come up with an idea. Sell them as Father Christmas. 85,000 Euros each. That'd be millions of Euros.

So they begin training them. Clean them up. Show them how to treat children. And then, ship them off around the world.

So no black Santa for Tanzania?

And this could take up back to the short films.

The thing is that this is different from the shorts. The ideas have clearly been played with an expanded on to make a feature length movie. So some of the conceits like having an ancient tradition of hunting Father Christmas are untrue.

But, if you look at the first short as advertisements for the product, then they do fit nicely.

Also, doing this, means that we could consider the helpers as a whole species. More of them pop into being in their natural environment (Let's all agree not to think about their reproduction.) that the town can cultivate yearly.

It is a curious idea. But it makes for an engaging movie. A kid comes into his own. Father and son bond. Santa Claus, a monstrous being. The elves, fiendish beings.

It's all stuff we've seen around. But it comes together her nicely. It's charming. It's characters feel true unto themselves.

It's movie great to enjoy during this Holiday Season. Just be ready to see a lot more of numerous older men than you may be ready for...That may be the main reason you hide your eyes.

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