Wide World of Horror: ‘Rare Exports’

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Rare Exports
Written by Jalmari Helander
Directed by Jalmari Helander
Finland/France/Norway/Sweden, 2010

The payoff is a very important moment in a horror film. The build that leads to the payoff is just as important, but without a payoff the build is rendered moot. Rare Exports is a film with a ton of build and nearly nothing in the way of a payoff. That’s not the way to structure your horror movie if you’re seeking more than a lukewarm reaction. Sadly, it is lukewarm that most adequately describes how to react to Rare Exports.

The first half of Rare Exports is something any horror fan should be able to get behind. Jalmari Helander builds up the main characters and forms a key relationship at the core of the film that creates an investment in what is to come. Unfortunately, this is where the payoff factor rears its ugly head yet again. With nary a payoff to be found the amount of time invested in the main father/son relationship ends up coming across as time wasted. Why should the viewer feel an investment in their relationship when the big reveal that is supposed to galvanize said relationship is such a whimper of a moment?

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The groundwork is laid well in the first half of Rare Exports. It’s certainly a film with a great premise at its base. It feels like a great premise wasted as outside of the opening minutes of the film the Santa Claus mythos is largely ignored. The audience is given some characters running around who may or may not be up to no good. Those characters aren’t enough on their own because they are not fleshed out. There is no investment in those characters and the Santa Claus character ends up as nothing more than a never seen opportunity.

Horror doesn’t need to be scary, but any good horror film needs to have some meat on its bones. Rare Exports isn’t just skinny; it’s borderline anorexic in all the areas that matter. The story wilts away under the weight of the films inaction. The characters quickly resort to being the type of stock Europeans that one would expect from a lesser film. The big reveal never happens, and when it becomes obvious that Rare Exports has no secrets to reveal its failings as a film quickly make their way to the surface.

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Rare Exports is all surface, and what’s on the films surface isn’t anything worth making the time to see. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Rare Exports, and once again the buzz appears to have been misplaced when it comes to a recent foreign horror effort. A decent first half of building does not make up for the lack of payoff found in the remainder of the film. As far as Rare Exports goes there’s no reason to import this wasted idea of a film.

Bill Thompson

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