Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
This Christmas Everyone Will Believe In Santa Claus
It's funny when I find ties between movies I've watched without intentionally doing so - such as the first ten or so minutes of the movie having me go "Isn't that the kid from Big Game?" Anyways, December continues, and this time I pulled in something that's somewhat relevant to a few other movies that are supposed to be hitting the big screen soon - no, not Star Wars. See, there seems to have been a kick in the whole Santa thing this year, to be more specific in the portion related to the Krampus. In turn, consider this a little bit of a prep for that, while also still being about Santa - well, dark-side Santa that loves his kid snacks. Puts a whole new spin on "girl scout cookies" right?
A group is drilling up on a mountain, looking for something special for the man paying them to drill. Core samples from the mountain start getting pretty weird though - first they hit a layer of sawdust - a lot of sawdust - and then they hit ice underneath that. It's around now that the backer decides to pass out the new workplace rules (which also may be related to one of the two shorts that came out before this movie) that the workers see as silly. Still, spurred on by finding the ice he anticipated would be there, the backer tells them to start bringing down the mountain, because deep underneath their feet is a tomb, and greatness awaits these grave robbers.
A group of local reindeer farmers aren't having as much success - turns out wolves have been getting driven down towards them from all the blasting and drilling up on the mountain. Still, it's that time of the year for the roundup, so they all get together with a few bringing their kids along to gather up their livelihoods - but they are in for a shock. As they wait, they finally see two runts come running up from the woods, but strangely no others. Finding this incredibly suspicious, they head out to try and find their herd - but aren't prepared for the grisly sight awaiting them. The entire heard - hundreds - has been killed off by what they presume was some very big wolves that came through a hole in the fence marking the border - the hole two of the kids made but don't want to fess up to and get in trouble for. As they decide what to do, our main hero-kid notices a footprint, and already he's starting to suspect that Santa Clause is at fault here - but the rest of the group wants to go have a word with the men up on the hill.
They get there, but the place is abandoned with a huge hole that something must have been excavated from. When the next day comes, the hero-kid and father find something snagged the bait on his wolf trap - and the father notices it's a man in the trap. He ushers his kid inside and hides the body in his shed with the help of one of his fellow deer-farmers who just arrived, and due to the illegal nature of the wolf trap tries to think of what to do next. As they go to cut up the body they find out this scrawny older dude isn't dead yet. In fact, he's started to smell something that's got his attention - and from the direction his head turns, it's the hero-kid taking a peek through the window. To make things stranger, houses have all been robbed of things like radiators and hair-dryers leaving the local policeman baffled. Things with the old man are getting even stranger, and it's decided that after receiving a message from an American on the radio in the old guys pockets that this must be Santa, and they could be in for quite the paycheck to make up for the loss of their deer. If only things were actually as simple as they thought...
The plot is stupidly-straight forward about it's premise. Of course, that doesn't say much in a movie like this and I can really appreciate the lack of beating around the bush the entire movie. When they hear that maybe it's Santa buried in that mountain, the hero-kid instantly does some research on the Santa Claus tale - digging into the rather grim parts of the story most modern parent's like to leave out. Not only does it get the kid up to speed for the rest of the movie, but it gets the watcher set for exactly what they are going to be seeing. Well, maybe not ready for all the man-parts that will be flailing around later on in the movie, but at least plotwise! Likewise, even though the plot is simple, it does have a rather nice reveal towards the end that for whatever reason I didn't see coming and kind of felt silly about afterwards.
Actors do a fine job - kid-hero does just as good a job acting in this as he did in Big Game (which came out later), so props to kid actors that don't stink. Most of the reactions of characters in the movie seems pretty fitting, and it's refreshing for characters who've seen something abnormal that they can't explain just go with it instead of stupidly blaming twelve other things in some annoying fashion of disbelief. You could argue that maybe they believe too quick, but at least personally I felt that the change in mind was warranted at the pace given, and helped from keeping the movie stagnate while they argue over it.
Some effects are better than others, but for the most part things are done well. Sure, there are some parts that are noticeably CG or CG enhanced, but by the time you get to it you should be having too much fun to really care. There isn't a whole lot of costumes going on surprisingly in a movie that is essentially a creature feature (probably due to the whole naked-thing), but that scrawny old guy is one heck of a convincing skin-coated skeleton. The hero-kid's hobbled together hockey armor with butt-protecting cardboard is amusing and much more fitting than, say, a frying pan or something and the main three herders all look pretty boss by the end of the movie - even if for the most part it's just being dressed for the super-cold looking environments they are in in the first place.
To be frank, I didn't really expect a whole lot out of this movie, but it was pretty amusing. It has a rather polished value to it, and it's a concept that wasn't too overdone in mainstream movies (yeah, you've had a couple of "killer in a Santa suit" movies before, but most have been relegated to B-movie cult status at this point). The actors are pretty good in their roles, and the only major thing I can find to complain about currently is that you have to read - which is one of those situational things at best, as only sometimes does reading really bother me. Some might be more agitated by the reading than others (since the non-deer group does speak English), but that's just par for course with subtitled movies. Beyond that, CG is passable even though not top notch, and it's certainly not a movie for the little kids (beyond scary, they'd end up getting a face-full of man parts at a handful of movie moments). Fun movie though, if you want a little something different for the holiday, maybe check it out.