Netflix Watch: It’s a Very Scary Christmas

While families gather together to watch traditional holiday classics, why not add a pair of twisted alternatives to the schedule this Yuletide season? Just be sure the kiddies are all snug in their beds first, because this Santa Claus is a thing of nightmares.

‘Saint Nick’

A dark comedy horror movie that imagines the most festive time of the year as also the most dangerous, ‘Saint Nick’ is a jolly and cheekily fun alternative to traditional holiday viewing. While playing with standard slasher genre conventions such as promiscuously misbehaving teens, the Dutch movie rewrites and disfigures the mythology of Santa into a supernatural being who wreaks vengeance upon Amsterdam every time a full moon lands on the 5th of December. According to one character, this apparently happens every 42 years.

The last time St. Niklas went on a murderous rampage, hundreds were massacred, One survivor, Goert (Bert Luppes), was unfortunate to discover the remains of his butchered family. That boy grows up to be a police detective in 2010 who no longer observes the Sinterklaas holiday. While not shooting at wrapped presents, he waits for the zombie-like ghost’s return in hopes of ending its reign of terror once and for all. Along the way, a falsely accused teen named Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber) unwittingly joins the hunt after a brief but scarily funny encounter with the formerly benevolent, gift-giving saint.

The film marks Dick Maas’s return to the horror genre in over a decade. While he doesn’t quite deliver on the scares, he sustains a bizarre tone of spooky atmospherics and a twisted sense of humor. This is one Santa Claus who cares little for checking his list twice, because he doesn’t discriminate. All kids, naughty or nice, are welcomed unto his ghost ship of death. Nicely blending the supernatural with some cheeky laughs, Maas (who also penned the script) doesn’t shy away from the mayhem and carnage, which makes for a cheerfully bloody good time for mature viewers.

‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’

With one of the best modern references to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in its closing moments, ‘Rare Exports’ delivers a perfect combination of fantasy, comedy and horror. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered when the adults want to take a break from traditional Christmas programming. While sipping away on the eggnog, audiences can laugh at various other jabs at festive clichés. Who knew gingerbread cookies were meant to appease Santa’s elves, which hilariously turn out to be a bunch of old, naked geezers with a familiar Yuletide face? I wonder if the producers hired members from the local Polar Bear Club for some of these sequences.

From Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander (making his feature-length debut), the movie is a delightfully twisted tale that turns the Santa Claus origin story on its head. The holiday figure of the most magical time of the year may be real, but he’s actually a demonic being who feeds on naughty little boys and girls. His helpers, the aforementioned geezers, kidnap children into burlap sacks while they sleep from a small village near the Korvatunturi Mountain – which by the way is the actual home of Father Christmas, according to folklore. When a scientific excavation crew unearths the supernatural creature from its prison-like slumber, things quickly go horribly wrong.

From a script that he co-wrote with his brother, Juuso, Helander directs this low-budget gem with a terrific air of suspense and mystery, drawing audiences into this wickedly fun fable without missing a beat. It also has a great B-movie, creature-feature feeling with a wonderfully animated energy and originality. Grounding the story is a drama about a family struggling to survive the holidays after a heartbreaking loss. Rauno Kontio (Jorma Tommila) is a widowed father fighting to regain a sense of normalcy for his son Pietari (Onni Tommila), and this bizarre misadventure where they try to profit from the discovery of the real Santa Claus ironically gives them that opportunity. Full of laughs, thrills and plenty of heart, ‘Rare Exports’ is indeed a rare holiday treat.

4 comments

  1. EM

    Huh. From the first paragraph I was expecting a write-up of The Polar Express.

    I’ve seen Rare Exports—it’s amusing enough. Saint Nick sounds like fun, but I won’t be able to squeeze it in before the 25th. Maybe I can see it by next Saint Nicholas Eve.

  2. “Saint Nick” (originally called “Sint”) caused a big controversy in the Netherlands, because parents were appalled that the children’s hero was used as the subject of a horror film. Several groups pressured cinemas into boycotting the movie, which of course proved that there no publicity like bad publicity. “Sint” became a box office success 🙂

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