I suppose it’s a little early for Christmas revelry, but this uncanny Finnish import written and directed by Jalmari Helander is reason enough to get in a (twisted) holiday mood. Creepy and often hilarious, Rare Exports has the look and feel of a wondrous Spielberg project (E.T. meets Super 8?), right down to the charismatic leading moppet (Onni Tommila) who intuitively understands that a certain unearthly entity (in this case, Santa Claus) does not come in peace.

On Christmas Eve in the remote hinterlands of Finland, a corporate-sponsored archeological expedition digs up a towering, horned creature frozen in ice. Pietari (Tommila) deduces it to be the “real” Santa Claus, a fearful demon who brutally kills naughty children. Meanwhile, his father (Jorma Tommila) and his fellow reindeer hunters have captured a vicious, wizened old bearded man, whom they wish to exchange with the corporate bosses for enough money to get them all through the winter. Chaos reigns for a time, leading up to a left-field ending that works once you give it a chance to sink in.

As one might expect, given the Spielberg sensibility, the key to the story is the relationship between a boy and his widowed father, the latter trying desperately to protect and provide for his son—who at the same time is hoping to prove to his dad that he’s a brave and resourceful young man, and perfectly capable of protecting himself. It’s a heartwarming coming-of-age fable replete with an evil giant Santa and a whole bunch of murderous elves. Given that premise, it’s mostly gore free, but the disturbing picture of jolly ol’ St. Nick depicted here, is more than enough to inspire Christmas nightmares in the heads of impressionable children of all ages. I approve this message.

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