Saturday, October 27, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 27

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

147. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010- dir. Jalmari Helander)

Jusso (Jorma Tommila) is incensed to learn the reindeer he planned to harvest are already dead, because someone cut a hole in the fence intended to keep wolves from the herd. Just a short while earlier, Jusso’s young son Pietari (Onni Tommila) had cut that hole to spy on a local excavation site. Very naughty. Pietari is worried, not because his family now has nothing to eat, but because Christmas is approaching, and we all know what happens to naughty boys on Christmas. Or do we? Pietari would probably heave a massive sigh of relief if he suffered the traditional lump of coal in his stocking. However, the real Santa Claus ain’t your merry, ho-ho-ho-ing Santa. Rather, he’s a giant horned beast who tortures bad kids come December 25th. And guess what’s just been unearthed in a Godzilla-sized block of ice at that excavation site? Jalmari Helander delights in playing with horror and action-movie clichés in the aggressively original Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. An ominous advent calendar ticks off the days to Christmas like the date cards in The Shining. Pietari thumbs through terrifying pictures of Demon Santa like Roy Scheider poring over shark attack photos in Jaws. A creepy, face-biting old man arrives naked as The Terminator. The frozen beast evokes The Thing. That’s all fine and clever, but Helander does not merely use his retro references to please genre fans with recognizable images. He uses them to orient viewers as we navigate a world beyond anything we recognize; where Christmas elves are full-frontally naked old men with murder on their minds and a small child leads his elders into battle and resigns himself to suicidal self-sacrifice and the heroes end the picture as slavers and our main monster is used as a great, big shaggy dog. That last matter leaves Rare Exports with a slightly disappointing aftertaste, but it remains an innovative item essential for horror fans tired of the usual slicing and dicing and desperate for a seasonal alternative to Miracle on 34th Street.

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 2010s here.
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