Written and directed by Jalmari Helander
Distributed by Oscilloscope
Imagine if Steven Spielberg and Stephen King got together to craft a coming-of-age Christmas horror movie. Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander imagined it for us and in doing so has gifted us with the best Christmas horror movie since Gremlins.
It’s so rare these days to see a motion picture that can be described as completely original, but then how many movies have been made based upon the Finnish legends of a Santa Claus that has…
Hang on just a minute. Haven’t I written this review already? I did. I did write this review already. Back in November of 2010. I gave it 4 out of 5. I went on to list it is as my favorite horror movie of the year and one of my altogether favorite films of 2010. Seems kind of redundant for me to be doing the DVD/Blu-ray review of a movie I’ve already reviewed theatrically nearly a year ago. But here I am.
If you want my full review of why I believe Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is destined to become a Christmastime cult classic, then go read my original Rare Exports review. For those too lazy to click a link, here are two paragraphs from that review that perfectly sum up my love for this fantastically strange anti-holiday flick:
The true triumph of Rare Exports is how seriously Helander treats his subject matter. It wouldn’t have taken much to turn this into a wacky comedy or some splatter-filled Troma-esque flick. Instead this is a class act all the way. Helander shows a deft hand taking the same route as the likes of Spielberg, Joe Dante, and John Carpenter in their prime by giving us a period of discovery to set up the mystery and never winking at the audience by having the circumstances unfold in a moronic manner. The premise is indeed ridiculous, but I never found myself thinking “This is just stupid.” I found myself thinking this was a wonderfully weird Yuletide fairy tale – more Brothers Grimm than Rankin-Bass – that gracefully crisscrosses genres, often in the same breath. It’s a horror movie, a coming-of-age family film, a fantasy adventure flick, and, yes, it’s even a Christmas story.
Rare Exports feels like it could easily be appropriate entertainment for the whole family until the occasional f-bomb gets dropped, mutilated reindeer are found by the dozens, a pick ax winds up in someone’s skull, and naked filthy Santa dong flaps freely in the freezing Scandinavian breeze. I’d still recommend the film for older children with parents less restrictive since those “adult” moments are fleeting and still considerably tamer than much of what you find in many of today’s PG-13 movies. I have no reservations recommending Rare Exports to anyone that wants to watch a truly unique motion picture that is all but assured instant cult classic status.
Oscilloscope has released Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale in a two-disc set containing the regular DVD and the Blu-ray version of the film that comes in a decorative cardboard fold-out slipcase. Even before you pop either disc in, you can already tell Oscilloscope has gone out of its way to make sure this release is a must.
Both discs boast beautiful prints, but the Blu-ray in particular looks astonishingly gorgeous, no surprise. The brilliantly white winterscapes that permeate the movie are positively breathtaking in 1080p, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Look; I’m no tech head. I’m still a fairly new convert to Blu-ray with a fairly small collection of Blu-ray discs. Watching this – seeing how vibrantly detailed the pristine picture is – will make you a Blu-ray convert.
Best of all, the subtitles are easy to read without being too obtrusive into the picture.
I’m certain the 5.1 DTS-HD audio would have blown me out of the back wall of my living room if I had a full theater sound system.
Both discs come with the same extra features with one major exception on the Blu-ray. First, let’s talk about the features they share.
If you want to know how it all began, both of the original Rare Exports short films from 2003 and 2005 have been included. Both shorts are readily available online, but I assure you they don’t look this crisp and clean. In some ways these short films are even more surreal than the feature film they eventually spawned. The original 7-minute Rare Exports Inc. starts off like your typical BBC nature documentary until the reveal that these Scandinavian hunters are hunting Father Christmases in the wild. The 11-minute follow-up, Rare Exports – The Official Safety Instructions, is done in the vein of an industrial short listing the dos & don’ts of wrangling feral Father Christmases. Even though the shorts came first, the movie is almost a prequel explaining how the whole Rare Exports business came about. Even some of the actors are carried over from the shorts to the motion picture. Great stuff.
A nearly 30-minute making-of feature that is mostly a bunch of behind-the-scenes footage assembled is enjoyable but probably at least ten minutes too long for my taste. Much like the movie it alternates between English speaking and English subtitled. The highlight is seeing the filming of the full frontal naked old man stampede, which upon completion prompts someone to declare, “That was fucking insane!”That’s pretty much what you’ll be thinking when you see the finished scene in the movie. There’s plenty more dirty old man dong shown during this making-of. I sure hope those old fellers got paid well to let their shortcomings hang out in front of the whole world.
A concept art slide show compares drawings done to give an idea what certain key shots were meant to look like as to how they actually looked on film. Should have used these sketches to craft a Rare Exports storybook.
An animatics and computer effects comparison shows what a pair of key scenes during the climax look like side-by-side with and without rendered digital effects. It’s mostly impressive to see a couple of shots were done using CGI that I honestly thought were the real deal.
There’s a photo gallery boasting a few production stills and behind-the-scenes photos. Honestly, nothing really to see here.
The original Finnish trailer shows once again why so many got excited over this film in the first place.
Trailers for other Oscilloscope releases like Bellflower, The Messenger, and a couple others I’m not familiar with round out the shared extras.
Now I did state there was one exception. The extras are exactly the same except the Blu-ray features one final treat not found on the regular DVD. The final extra on the Blu-ray disc is…
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Seriously? Yes, seriously. The complete 1964 bad movie camp classic about Santa Claus being abducted by dopey Martians to bring the joy of Christmas to the planet Mars is a Blu-ray extra, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you why. A surprising treat for those that have never experienced its awfulness, but personally, I find the movie unwatchable without the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” crew riffing on it at the bottom of the screen. Suffice to say the print has not been digitally restored for the world of Blu-ray; yet, even with all the pops, scratches, and visual compression, this is probably the best Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has ever looked.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5