Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This year’s Holiday choice: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Christmas is littered with movies that in some form or another celebrate holiday spirit and cheer. And while those are great for keeping the kids occupied or reminiscing about your own childhood, once the sun goes down and rugrats are nestled in bed (with visions of new iPads dancing in their heads), the adult in us hungers for more substantial fare. Rare Exports fills that niche perfectly, presenting a story replete with snow, reindeer and Santa (which makes it apropos), while adding in spike pikes, revenge and an abattoir. What would serve perfectly well as a horror movie plot under any other circumstances proves its masterful storytelling by stoically incorporating the “naughty or nice” fairy tale from our childhood. With a little creative license on the age-old Santa story, Oscilloscope Laboratories have crafted a story that you would swear must have been one of Grimm’s Fairytales.
The movie begins with two children having snuck across the Finland/Russian border, to investigate a company that’s supposedly performing seismic research. But instead of scientific pursuits, the corporation is drilling and blasting their way down into the mountain, to recover something buried long ago. Predictably, that mystery was buried for a reason and disturbing what lies beneath the mountain leads to mayhem and death. The ramifications of this bad behavior soon reach nearby homesteaders, where odd items begin disappearing and children silently go missing. Local reindeer herders scramble to find a way out of financial ruin when they discover their entire herd decimated, slaughtered by what they first believe are wolves.
The entire tale is told in a serious tone, where lines and situations raise the occasional chuckle for the viewer simply because of how far away things are from the “normal” Santa stories we know, while the characters on screen remain stoic and terrified throughout. As most good movies do, this one concludes with a twist or two, revealing elements of the story and deepening the mystery under the mountain just when you (and the ranchers) suppose everything is figured out. Then in true human (and possibly Christmas) spirit, the every-day heroes of our story not only find a way to carry on, but manage to turn their loss into a financial windfall that’s sure to make you grin.
This is one of those unsung movies, deserving of every award it was nominated for, but which sadly underperformed at the box office (possibly because it’s subtitled). But that in no way indicates a lack of quality; on the contrary, the acting, setting, plot and cinematography are better than most triple-A Hollywood titles. So if you’ve had enough of Charlie Brown and 24-hour marathons of movies that were better when you had to dig to find them, start here. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is one such hidden gem that’s worth the effort of finding.