Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Blu-ray review

Macabre comedy fantasy Rare Exports arrives on Blu-ray just in time for Christmas. But is it good enough to make Glen’s list of festive favourites…?

I have a number of festive treats that I in the lead up to Christmas, usually accompanied by some mulled wine. These include films such as Gremlins, Die Hard, Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol, which I watch every year, and then there are titles such as Gremlins 2, Elf and Home Alone that I try to fit in there too. Still, I’m always on the lookout for films to add to my roster festive films, and when I heard of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale last year, I was certainly intrigued.

Rare Exports was adapted from a 2003 short film called Rare Exports Inc, which followed three hunters tracking down a wild Santa Claus. The director of the short, Jalmari Helander, was allowed to develop the short into a feature film following the positive buzz it received.

Set in the Korvatunturi mountains in Lapland, which sit on the border of Finland and Russia, we follow the efforts of two teams on either side of the border. On the Russian side, we have a team excavating on behalf of a rich eccentric, searching for the largest burial mound in the world. On the Finnish side, we have a group of reindeer herders whose Christmas is disrupted when their herd is massacred and their children go missing.

The Finnish blame the massacre of the reindeer on those across the border, and show little concern for the missing children, but soon find that the true cause was Santa Claus; someone who punishes bad children rather than rewards the good, and certainly not the jolly chap depicted by the Coca-Cola company.

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale does a lot right. It’s incredibly well paced, handles the relationships between the key cast well, and is well directed and shot. The main issue I had is that it is nowhere near dark or sinister enough, given its subject matter. The fairy tale depiction of Santa shown here falls some way short of the reputation set up in the earlier in the film, and Helander opts to focus more on the comedic elements of the premise. For the most part, this works, but when something sinister is hinted at for so long and fails to materialise in an effective way, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

Many of the great Christmas films contain elements that might be troubling to younger audiences; Gremlins contains the reveal that a certain rotund festive figure doesn’t exist and is quite sinister at times, Die Hard is spectacularly violent, and Home Alone has that creepy bearded chap with the big shovel. Rare Exports doesn’t let the side down, and in many ways, raises the bar, for it offers up old bearded chaps running around and stealing children. This will certainly take some beating.

I know it’s kind of unfair to compare the film to Gremlins, given that Joe Dante so masterfully blended the comedic and sinister, but it’s that skilful blending of elements that Rare Exports reaches for, but ultimately fails to deliver. Despite its flaws, the film is still highly entertaining and certainly worth checking out for those who fancy something a little different from their festive film viewing.

While it doesn’t reach the classic status of many of the films I watch in the run up to Christmas every year, it’s still something I can see myself watching on a regular basis as I look to get in the festive mood.


Sadly the release lacks any extra features, which is especially disappointing, considering the existence of the short the film it’s based on, and the opportunity to explore the fairy tale of this alternative take on Santa Claus. It’s even more of a shame when you consider that the US release is packed full of extras, including the aforementioned short film, as well as behind the scenes material, such as a making of documentary and the cult film Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. With the lack of extras on the UK release, it might make the prospect of purchasing the Blu-ray seem far from an essential purchase.

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Fortunately, it delivers where it counts. The picture is outstanding from start to finish, with only minor faults appearing in some of the more effects heavy scenes. The landscapes are captured beautifully, and there’s a clarity and crispness to the picture that puts this well ahead of films that carry a similar budget, and even puts some blockbuster material to shame.

It really is one of the finest visual transfers of the year. The sound is also of an incredibly high standard, and only fares slightly less well than the visual aspect of the presentation. There’s a real sense of atmosphere, with sound echoing at times, and later on the effects really fill the room. It’s a shame this release is so light on extras – and sadly, the US release is region-locked, so unless you have a multi-region Blu-ray player this will be the only way of seeing the film in high-definition. It’s a solid film with a great audio and visual transfer that would more than justify the upgrade over DVD.


4 stars

You can rent or buy Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale at Blockbuster.co.uk.


2 out of 5