Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clausploitation - A Holiday Film Tradition Comes of Age

The idea is not new. Santa Claus in the midst of a violent cinematic adventure is a time honored tradition.

This 'Clausploitation' was forshadowed brilliantly in Richard Donner's 1988 classic Scrooged. In this movie, crazed (a.k.a. highly successful) TV exec Frank Cross, brought to vibrant life by Bill Murray, envisions the ultimate Santa Destruction flick, complete with a bullet riddled rescue by Lee Majors.

Since then we have had a number of films involving Santa in a less than peaceful setting, sometimes as the actual perpetrator of evil. A great example: the 2005 "Santa is really a demon who lost a bet" movie, Santa's Slay, a film just big enough to book Robert Culp, Fran Drescher, and Chris Kattan.

Then there is the victim twist ... the story where someone does something bad to Santa, trying to pull him out of the Christmas picture. Who did this better than Jack, the Pumpkin King, in The Nightmare Before Christmas? Timothy Burton's wonderfully stylistic movie had Santa all ready for destruction at the bug-formed hands of the monstrous Oogie Boogie, a character so sinister that he was apparently cloned later in the supernatural horror film (and personal favorite) Constantine.

So what does all this have to do with science fiction? Well, it seems we have a new entry on the Sad Santa roster this year, a movie with definite science fiction elements called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

Warning ... mild SPOILERS, so stop reading now if you want to avoid them.


Still with us? OK!

This Finnish export starts out with the discovery of a huge burial mound. With the usual arrogance and corporate greed, they go ahead and do the unthinkable: they dig it open.

Is this Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Preditor vs. Alien? Not quite. Here's the official STORY, from the English version of the movie's official website:
A film for those who think
they don't believe in Santa Claus anymore
In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up!

This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.

Based on award winning shorts of director Jalmari Helander that have already acquired a cult reputation in the internet.
Later in the story, a trio of characters arrive who's appearance in the trailers and posters remind me alternately of Larry, Darryl, and Darryl from the old Newhart show or of Jacob and Hank, the hapless Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton brother characters from A Simple Plan. A hostage situation ensues. (end of spoilermania)

I have not actually seen this movie yet, but I love the premise and the trailers ... and the short films. And I am liking bigtime that the film is not a Hollywood project or even a US project, but rather a product of a whole 'nuther creative fountain, fed by the wellspring of funny, offbeat Internet-hosted short films. No offense to the US film industry intended ... it's just nice to see that our American fondness for creating twisted new spins on old tales is indeed a worldwide tradition.

I have just found out what the showtimes are for my city (click HERE, PDXers!). That, and I have a free "sorry our theater is broken" movie ticket left over from when the recent Harry Potter movie had 'projector issues' at the Regal Cinema up the street.

Now if I can just find someone to go with me ...

- D. E. Helbling

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