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Yes, Virginia, Santa has claws!

The Grand presents "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale"

Santa goes dark in "Rare Exports."

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There seems to be an odd trend in cinema where some filmmakers feel compelled to make Santa Claus evil. There's the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, Christmas Evil, Santa's Slay starring master thespian/wrestling enthusiast Bill Goldberg and countless others. It's almost become a modern holiday tradition. We have a modern holiday tradition of our own at The Grand Cinema. Every December since its release, we've screened Finnish director Jalmari Helander's 2010 horror-fantasy film, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

Pietari Kontio (Onni Tommila) is a young boy living a simple life with his widowed father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) in the snowy mountains of Lapland along the Russo-Finnish border. It's Christmas Eve, and being young boys with little to occupy their time, Pietari and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) investigate a mysterious archeological dig at nearby Korvatunturi Mountain, (rumored in Finnish folklore to be the home of Joulupukki, or "Father Christmas").

A team of scientists unearths a massive "burial mound" at the site. Being scary movie scientists, they don't know that an ancient mystery grave is best left undisturbed, and the explosive excavation unleashes a throng of vicious elves on the unsuspecting populace.

You see, Korvatunturi Mountain is the home of "Father Christmas," but this Santa is not the beloved cultural icon crafted by Coca Cola and centuries of melding cross-cultural folktales. There's no red suit, no flying sleigh, no reindeer, and no bag of toys. This Santa would likely eschew sliding down the chimney in favor of ripping the roof off a house to get at the occupants. That's because the original Santa Claus is a monstrous Lovecraftian demigod with absolutely zero interest in rewarding good children, but a huge appetite for naughty ones. That's right, the only way Cthulhu-Claus' belly is going to jiggle "like a bowl full of jelly" is if it's filled with naughty children. (And honestly, how many children have really been "good all year"?)

Fortunately for Pietari, Juuso and the rest of the children, Santa is frozen in a block of ice. Unfortunately, his loyal army of elves is eager to thaw out their malevolent Murder-Claus, and their master will be hungry when he wakes up.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a film that navigates the narrow path between laughter and terror with red-nosed reindeer-guided precision. A film in the vein of predecessors such as Tremors and Gremlins, (another perennial Christmas classic), it's self-aware enough to make you laugh and it's scary enough to make you jump.

A word of warning: this is not a children's film. This is a horror film after all, and although it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, it's not that tongue-in-cheek. Furthermore, the elves perform all of their elven duties au natural. Of course, the trauma of seeing some elves' ungirded yule logs sort of pales in comparison to the trauma a kid might suffer by seeing Santa Claus depicted as a Great Old One who feeds on children.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! And remember ...

He sees you when you're sleeping.

RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE, 10 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, photos with demented Santa after evening show, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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