Jalmari Helander on ‘Rare Exports’

The director of the best Christmas movie in years explains why his "Killer Santa" saga isn't a horror film.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

We're big fans of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale here at CraveOnline. Finnish director Jalmari Helander has directed a new Christmas classic that blends horror, fantasy and adventure elements to create a new, suspenseful and surprisingly Christmasy story about a boy who believes in Santa Claus, or rather, that Santa Claus is an ancient god who has escaped his ancient tomb to wreak havoc on his tiny town. (He's right of course.) We reviewed the recent Blu-Ray release of Rare Exports a short while ago – it's highly recommended – and now we present our brief interview with the director, which we conducted via e-mail.


CraveOnline: I adored 'Rare Exports.' It seems like a horror movie, but it's also an almost Spielbergian child empowerment fantasy. What is 'Rare Exports,' really?

Jalmari Helander: It’s definitely not a horror movie, that’s for sure. Many people like to say that it is but I don’t like to say that. Rare Exports is some kind of adventure film in my mind. I am actually quite proud that people have very hard time to but a label on it. That’s why I don’t want do it myself either.


There aren't many "Evil Santa" movies, but there is a small group of memorable titles like 'Silent Night Deadly Night,' 'Christmas Evil' and 'Santa's Slay' out there. What are your thoughts on those films, and the Christmas horror subgenre? 

I actually haven´t seen any of those films. I don’t like so much horror films (except a few good ones).  


This has to be one of the most beautifully lit movies I've seen in a long time. What were your goals, visually? You seem to use a warm, colorful Christmas aesthetic but then subvert that for frightening purposes.

Yes, it was nice to have normal Christmas stuff and colors in this movie. I like myself very much to have bright colors. The key elements was red and greenish blue mixed to warm light. I quess it was the opening scene of Hellboy 2 where I thought that looks awesome!


Beyond the fantasy and the scares, there's a really sympathetic story going on with the boy's father, who seems like a decent man trying desperately to give his son a good Christmas, although the child doesn't seem to realize it. What is the role of adults in a movie with a child protagonist? Does this part of the movie, or any other, come from a personal place for you?

Of course. There is a lot of me in Pietari. I like the theme that grown ups don’t realize all the things happening in this christmas. They got themselves in a big mess and only one who knows what to do is the one who believes in Santa. It was like me telling I want to be a movie director when I was a child. Everybody laughed at my dreams or thought they were silly. I was supposed to get a REAL job, but here I am. Hahahaha.


'Rare Exports' is a thoroughly impressive feat by any country's standards, with excellent special effects in particular. It holds up perfectly well with larger budgeted American films of a similar ilk. What were the hardest parts of the production process?

All the CGI stuff. I hate CGI and it is hard for me. I wanted to do everything for real, but it was not possible. Next time maybe?


And finally, you've made one short film since 'Rare Exports,' but what's next goal as a feature film director? Where do you want to go from here?

There has been a lot of offerings from hollywood, but I am currently writing my next feature film. I want to do something my own. To have my own world and own stories. But I can’t say anything more. You just have to wait and see!