Enlarge / (left) A younger boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) battles a mythic/demonic Santa in Uncommon Exports: Christmas Story. (proper) A younger woman named Josefine (Sonia Steen) befriends a wierd woodland creature and upsets the fragile stability of a distant island in Elves.

Oscilloscope Labs/Netflix/Sean Carroll

Western Christmas custom facilities on the jolly determine of Santa Claus and his workshop manned by adorably cheery elves on the North Pole. Fantasy is dominated by figures like J.R.R. Tolkien’s majestic elves within the Lord of the Rings trilogy, impressed by Outdated English poetry.  However there are different, darker incarnations of elvish creatures in folklore from all over the world.

Should you’re within the temper for one thing a bit completely different on your vacation leisure this weekend, I extremely advocate a Christmas double function drawing inspiration from Nordic folklore:  Elves, a brand new Danish collection that debuted on Netflix final month, and a pleasant 2010 Finnish movie known as Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story (2010).

(Some spoilers beneath however no main reveals.)

You higher be careful: an ‘archeological’ dig on Christmas eve in Finland finds the true Santa Claus in Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story.

Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story

Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story has its roots in a pair of quick movies by a Finnish manufacturing firm specializing in commercials. The primary (Uncommon Exports Inc.), launched on-line in 2003, confirmed a trio of hunters looking the wilds of Lapland for a wild Santa Claus. It proved so widespread that the corporate launched a sequel quick movie in 2005 (Uncommon Exports: The Official Security Directions). Each had been directed by Jalmari Helander, who ultimately discovered financing to supply a feature-length movie primarily based on the idea. And we’re so very glad he did.

Per the official synopsis:

It is the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an ‘archeological’ dig has simply unearthed the true Santa Claus. However this specific Santa is not the one you need coming to city. When the native youngsters start mysteriously disappearing, younger Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter by commerce, seize the mythological being and try and promote Santa to the misguided chief of the multinational company sponsoring the dig. Santa’s elves, nevertheless, will cease at nothing to free their fearless chief from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare—a fantastically weird polemic on modern-day morality.

The movie takes place close to Korvatunturi (Ear Fell) within the Finnish province of Lapland, a spot mentioned to be the house of a Santa Claus-like determine in Finnish folklore known as Joulupukki. The literal translation is “Christmas goat” (or ‘Yuletide goat”), and the folklore determine is normally depicted carrying pink robes, with a sleigh pulled by (non-flying) reindeer. Joulupukki is not essentially an evil creature within the legends, though his goat-like look was mentioned to frighten youngsters. The model in Uncommon Exports appears to share commonalities with Krampus, a determine from Central and Japanese Alpine lore who assists St. Nicholas, punishing naughty youngsters on Christmas with birch rods

Tonally and aesthetically, Uncommon Exports owes extra to the Brothers Grimm, Tim Burton, and that Christmas horror traditional, Gremlins, than to the cheery wholesomeness of, say, Norman Rockwell or Miracle on thirty fourth Road. Visually, it is fairly hanging. Helander’s digital camera lingers lovingly over the frigid Lapland panorama, and the story strikes alongside briskly, with all the precise beats in all the precise locations.

Onni Tommila, who performs Pietari (and is Helander’s nephew), is an amazingly expressive younger actor who anchors the movie. We really feel his worry and dedication to thrust back Santa and his elves, fueled partly by his deep must win his father’s grudging approval—significantly given the current lack of his mom. Bonus: the movie offers its personal rationalization for the traditional conundrum of how Santa may be so many locations without delay on Christmas eve. All of it provides as much as a genuinely suspenseful, action-packed, and sometimes poignant Christmas story.

Christmas trip turns right into a nightmare for a younger woman and her household when an historical menace stalks their island getaway in Elves.


Whereas Uncommon Exports riffs on Joulupukki, Elves finds inspiration in what appears to be a mix of elverfolk that inhabit hills and piles, and the trolls and huldufólk (“hidden folks”) of Scandinavian folklore. These are wild, forest-dwelling creatures and within the fingers of collection director Ron Ezra, they make very efficient menacing Christmas monsters. Per the official synopsis:

Hoping to reconnect over Christmas, a household of 4 travels to a distant island within the Danish archipelago, solely to seek out it managed by members of a strongly non secular group residing in stability with fierce creatures within the woods revealed to be… elves. Actual, monstrous beings that impressed the folklore and myths everyone knows. When the woman within the household finds and brings house a child elf, she inadvertently disrupts the stability and throws everybody on the island right into a life-or-death battle for religion, household, and pure survival.

The woman who causes all of the chaos is Josefine (Sonja Steen). She has a smooth spot for just about all animals, but her dad and mom—Mads (Peder Thomas Pedersen) and Charlotte (Lila Nobel)—refuse to let her get a canine. That is a call they will come to remorse. En path to their trip rental, they hit one thing with their automobile, however there is no signal of no matter it was once they get out to analyze. Josefine ultimately finds the wounded creature: an lovely child elf.  She befriends the creature and nurses it again to well being, telling solely her brother, Kasper (Milo Campanale) about its existence.

Alas, the grownup elves do not take kindly to what they interpret because the theft of considered one of their offspring. And when a misguided Josefine decides the elves are being locked up in opposition to their will and turns off the electrical fence protecting the creatures at bay, issues get bloody in a short time. (The very first scene depicts the providing of a cow by native islanders, which is devoured by unusual, unseen snarling creatures in a matter of minutes, so the elves are formidable opponents.)

Students are inclined to interpret these mythological creatures as consultant of the highly effective forces of nature in a reasonably harsh atmosphere vulnerable to earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes, and the like. Problem or disrupt that pure order at your peril. That theme is infused all through Elves.

Josefine and her household are disruptive from the beginning, ignoring island handyman Møller’s (Rasmus Hammerich) warning to stay to a specific street on the island. In addition they lower down an area tree for his or her Christmas decorations in specific violation of native customs. They can not plead ignorance both, since that taboo was spelled out for them by Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), an area girl who has been elevating her orphaned granddaughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm) to succeed her as island guardian in opposition to the elves.

Josefine, too, ignores the warnings of Karen and Møller, however she additionally has real bond with the newborn elf. That unlikely friendship, and the competing factions intent on protecting them aside, fuels the emotional stakes of the collection. Neither can safely inhabit the opposite’s world, and a painful separation appears inevitable. With its six half-hour episodes, Elves is an ideal Christmas binge, and the finale leaves open the potential for a second season—assuming this sleeper gem of a collection manages to seek out an viewers.

Uncommon Exports: A Christmas Story is out there for streaming rental on Amazon Prime Video. In Finnish (with subtitles) and English. Elves is streaming on Netflix. In Danish with English subtitles. And if you’d like a triple function this vacation weekend, strive including the 1989 French movie, Dial Code: Santa Clause (alternate title: Lethal Video games), to your viewing checklist. The darkly violent (like all the perfect fairy tales) predecessor to 1990’s House Alone is vailable on Blu-Ray and DVD and effectively definitely worth the funding.


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