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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Finnish DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • Finnish DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
    The two original short films in which the Christmas tale was born,
  • Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and Rare Exports - The Official Safety Instructions (2005)
  • The Making of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
  • "Blood in the snow" - a look at the concept art
  • Animatics & computer effects video comparison
  • Behind the scenes production stills photo gallery
  • Original theatrical trailer from Finland

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jalmari Helander
2010 | 82 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.99 | Series: Oscilloscope Laboratories | Edition: #34
Oscilloscope Laboratories

Release Date: October 25, 2011
Review Date: November 7, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn't the one you want coming to town. When the local children begin mysteriously disappearing, young Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter by trade, capture the mythological being and attempt to sell Santa to the misguided leader of the multinational corporation sponsoring the dig. Santa's elves, however, will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare - a fantastically bizarre polemic on modern day morality.


PICTURE

Oscilloscope Laboratories presets Jalmari Helanderís Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (one of the stranger titles Iíve yet come across) on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz transfer.

A newer film it wasnít too much of a surprise to see that the presentation we get wasnít bad but I was truly amazed at just how great it does look! The presentation really pops but not overly so. A good chunk of the film takes place in bright, snow covered landscapes, which presents bright but not overbearing whites, sharp clean blues from the skies, and then beautifully rendered reds and yellows found throughout the film. Even darker scenes, which take up a vast majority of the latter half of the film, even manage to pop, but never in favour of losing the deep blacks or shadows.

The print is in pristine condition with nary a blemish that I could detect. Film grain isnít very noticeable except maybe in some darker sequences and fine object details are still there and are as clear as possible. Knitting in some of the sweaters worn by the characters are the best examples of this; you can really make out every single thread. Longer shots also present some sharp details in the landscape. I detected some minor halos but this could be an artifact from the lighting conditions of the shoot itself but even if thatís not the case theyíre really not bothersome enough to detract in any way from viewing.

In all itís a fabulous transfer. Again the film is very new (I believe it was released just last year) so maybe I shouldnít be too stunned but itís still quite the stunner.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Oscilloscope also presents the film with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track, which is very active. The filmís style is, similar to something like Super 8, where the film seems to pay tribute to the likes of Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante, and its sound design, including its score, is similar. With the score you hear different instruments and arrangements split across the speakers with incredible depth and range. The lower frequency is also used to a beautiful effect with some subtle and not-so-subtle effects.

Sound effects and some of the general action within the film also move smoothly and naturally between the speakers. Sound quality is also exceptional with everything from dialogue to footsteps to gunshots coming out sharp and crisp with incredible depth as well. Itís active, clean, and effective, and perfectly suited for the film.

9/10

SUPPLEMENTS

For what is an otherwise sharp release this is really the only area where the disc falters. This is such a bizarre (and fairly fun) film with what seems to be an intriguing back story and I was expecting a little more.

Helping somewhat in explaining the origins of the film (and also helping in explaining the ending of the movie, which I still feel doesnít entirely work) we get two short films. The first one, the 7-minute Rare Exports, Inc., was apparently made as a sort of holiday video by a production company for their clients and appeared on their website, gaining some acclaim and a cult following. Itís a sort of mock-promo video for a company called Rare Exports, Inc., which deals in (as I understand it) the distribution of Father Christmases across the world, and focuses on the hunting process of said creatures (itís sort of hard to explain beyond that.) Itís definitely cute, especially the training process to tame these creatures to serve as what I believe are to be mall Santa Clauses. Following this is a second 11-minute video called Rare ExportsóSafety Instructions, which serves as an educational documentary for employees of the company on how to handle these dangerous Santa Claus creatures (I particularly enjoyed a playful Matrix-like moment where I Santa jumps in the air to devour a ďnaughtyĒ victim.)

Theyíre both quite funny and fairly well done but work best on their own. I can see how they led to a feature film but I still donít know if the fitting of the Rare Exports business into what is otherwise a fun and offbeat monster movie really worked. But thatís beside the point I guess and Iím happy that Oscilloscope included these for some reference.

A 28-minute Making-of is included next, which appears to be more of a video journal. We get general comments about the production followed by footage of rehearsals, scouting, the actual production, and then its festival premiere. It offers a decent look into the making of the film with a fly-on-the-wall effect, just simply covering everything, but I canít say it offered anything truly insightful or surprising.

ĒBlood in the SnowĒ presents a look at the concept art made to help show investors their intent with the film. The artwork is shown with quick comparisons to the actual sequences. It runs about 3-minutes in total.

A 6-minute effects comparison compares two sequences before and after the special effects are added. Split in to two portions the top of the screen shows the raw footage from the shoot without any of the added effects, so you get green screens in the background in some cases and absent snow effects, while the bottom shows the complete sequence. The comparisons are of the ďSanta exchangeĒ sequence near the end and then the climax which involves a helicopter (trying not to give away too much for those who havenít seen the film yet.) These prove usually a little fascinating but this one was more fascinating if only because I was actually surprised by what was actually CGI in the film in some cases. There are cases where you can tell what is CGI but the work overall is very good and a lot of it does blend in fairly well.

A Finnish theatrical trailer is next followed by probably the coolest addition on here (and an exclusive to the Blu-ray) which is the (in)famous cult film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I didnít watch the whole thing (in all honesty the filmís never been my cup of tea despite my fondness for bad films and camp) but itís here. Unfortunately many may be disappointed with the presentation itís presented in standard-definition and has received no restoration what so ever. Colours are washed and pale, the print is in horrific condition with scratches and imperfections galore, and the audio drops out and just sounds terrible overall. The only plus is that the standard-definition transfer itself isnít half bad.

But forgetting that out-of-left-field addition itís a pretty sparse collection of supplements. But at least most of it proved interesting.

6/10

CLOSING

I found the film fun and entertaining in the same manner I found the Gremlins films fun and entertaining. Though weíve seen similar things elsewhere (itís a running gag on Christmas episodes of Futurama for example) this monster movie involving a demonic Santa Claus is a clever twist on the Christmas legend. And whatís more surprising is it actually worksóat least up to maybe the last few minutes anyways. But it has some rather creepy imagery, and some funny, off-kilter humour.

Though supplements may have been a bit of a letdown thereís no knocking the audio/video presentation, which is near perfect, and makes this disc an easy recommendation for fans or the simply curious.




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