Rare Exports is a strange film indeed. It is set at the base of the mythological Korvatunturi Mountain, on the border between Finland and Russia. The small community up there makes a living farming reindeer, but up the top of a nearby mountain there’s an archaeological dig going on to uncover something frozen deep within the earth.
Told from the perspective of the local Finnish kids, Rare Exports feels like it should be a kids’ film. Except, that is, for the fact that it’s pretty darn scary. There’s kids going missing, scary eyeless straw dolls, lots of blood and evil grinning old men – not the type of thing you’d expect to take your kids to see. Whilst it mightn’t be as horrible as The Witches (the film that terrified me as a 12 year old), it’s certainly pretty dark. Strangely enough, however, the film is a bit too childish to be a proper horror flick. There are several thrilling scenes that ratchet up the tension, but there’s also a childlike sense of wonder and the overwhelming Christmassy mood that pervades throughout.
Considering how few Finnish films make it to this country (or indeed get an international release at all) it’s a little strange that Rare Exports was given such a rare opportunity. It’s a decent film, sure, but I wish I knew what it was about this particular feature that distributors thought had international potential. Anyone wishing to take their kids to a very offbeat Christmas movie will most likely a) be a little shocked and b) be comforting some scared children by the end of it. I suppose they might be aiming at the Pan’s Labyrinth audience, since that was another film featuring a juvenile lead that definitely wasn’t made for kids.
As an offbeat anti-fairy tale, Rare Exports is quite unique. Like Roald Dahl’s wickedly black sense of humour, or some of the darker episodes of ‘Round the Twist’, it certainly pushes our understanding of what might normally be a children’s story (and indeed, it received an M rating here in Australia). For those who feel like a uniquely ominous fantasy tale, then perhaps this is just the thing to counter the imminent release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.Rating: