Rare Ex­ports,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

rein­deer-herd mi­gra­tion winds up mas­sa­cred near the min­ing op­er­a­tion. Pi­etari (Onni Tom­mila), the young son of gruff wid­ower/rein­deer butcher Rauno (played by Onni’s real-life fa­ther, Jorma Tom­mila), thinks he knows what led to the herd’s demise but wor­ries that he might be partly re­spon­si­ble.

The men pin the deer slaugh­ter on a pack of wolves, but Pi­etari, hav­ing read up on Joulupukki and Kram­pus, is con­vinced that some­thing more sin­is­ter is afoot. Af­ter food sup­plies, cold-weather equip­ment, and some chil­dren dis­ap­pear in the dead of night, Rauno be­gins to be­lieve his son’s wild sto­ries about the un­leash­ing of a blood­thirsty Santa. When Rauno learns of the min­ing op­er­a­tion’s sub­ter­ranean find, he and the other hunters con­coct a not-so-solid plan to re­coup their losses from the rein­deer herd’s dec­i­ma­tion while restor­ing safety and se­cu­rity to their vil­lage.

He­lander ab­stains from turn­ing his bizarre hol­i­day tale into a for­mu­laic B-movie gore fest in the vein of many other bad-Santa films by danc­ing at the edge of horror, let­ting the un­known and un­seen serve as volatile fuel for his con­stantly whirring ten­sion ma­chine. There are uniden­ti­fi­able foot­steps in the snow, strange sounds in the bit­ing wind, bait missing from over­sized traps, and some­thing shape­less in the dark. Juri Seppä’s dra­matic score main­tains the mood.

Fans of John Car­pen­ter’s The Thing will ap­pre­ci­ate cin­e­matog­ra­pher Mika Oras­maa’s abil­ity to cap­ture north­ern Fin­land’s panoramic beauty and sense of iso­la­tion. Plein-air scenes con­vey a crisp cold­ness, while in­doors, there’s a feel­ing that the wooden walls and sturdy hearth pro­vide lit­tle pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments — and the evil — lurk­ing just out­side.

He­lander writes, and his two main ac­tors de­liver, a com­pelling and con­vinc­ing fa­ther-son dy­namic heav­ily in­flu­enced by the ab­sence of a once-fa­mil­iar wife/mother fig­ure. Ma­cho-man Rauno’s mar­i­tal loss even­tu­ally sur­faces, and Pi­etari’s de­fi­ance and fear of his fa­ther are grounded in the seem­ingly sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance of ma­ter­nally based emo­tional sup­port. Pi­etari is wary of en­ter­ing the barn where his fa­ther butch­ers the rein­deer, and he drags around (and talks to) a stuffed an­i­mal on a leash. When things go wonky in the weather-out­side-is­fright­ful neigh­bor­hood, papa doesn’t con­sole his pre­pubescent son with hugs and lul­la­bies. He gives the kid a loaded ri­fle and sends him on the path to be­com­ing a man.

Pi­etari’s mother’s ab­sence from the home is never ex­plained, and there seem to be no other women in this neck of Fin­land. Af­ter hon­ing and ex­pand­ing on this par­tic­u­lar story line for the bet­ter part of a decade, He­lander’s omis­sion of the fem­i­nine is un­doubt­edly in­ten­tional, al­though he doesn’t see fit to let the rest of us in on that in­tent.

What the writer/di­rec­tor does clar­ify, through plot and al­le­gory, is his dis­dain for the con­sumerist na­ture of the hol­i­day sea­son, man­i­fested here in a greedy cor­po­rate min­ing in­ter­est and its im­pact on a small vil­lage of ca­reer hunters strug­gling to sur­vive. Af­ter the big fi­nale, which is drenched in E.T: The Ex­trater­res­trial-styled Spiel­berg splen­dor (mi­nus space aliens, thank good­ness), a sur­prise twist finds the hunters swap­ping their ri­fles for wooden crates and rare ex­ports. And as for Pi­etari? He still be­lieves in Santa Claus, but he’s traded in his teddy bear for the scope of a shot­gun.

I’ve been nice! Re­ally nice! Onni Tom­mila

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