Our North American, contemporary version of Santa Claus apparently comes from Coca-Cola; the red suit trimmers with white, the beard, the jolly laughing belly. Santa Claus or some version of him has been around for several centuries, of course, but our modern age has skewed the origins quite a lot. In this tale of the man, director and writer Helander conceives not of a jolly person who brings presents to little children, but of a demon buried deep under a mountain, a demon that eats children. And it will take a child to stop him.
Helander has made two short films on the subject. His feature proves he can enlarge his story to tremendous effect. Pietari and his father live in the north Finland, herding reindeer. But this Christmas someone (or something) has killed the reindeer. They think it has something to do with the Americans who are digging into the nearby mountain. It seems whatever got out needs raw meat, and when Pietari’s father and his friends capture it, they discover it has a purpose: the capture young children for Santa. The real Santa. The one who will eat children and wreak havoc on the world.
This is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen, in order to capture the barren and haunting landscape of this isolated part of the world. This is also works to understand the child’s perspective. The film is reminiscent of the great 80s young adult adventure films, such as The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes: it’s most definitely frightening (in particular the terrifying eyes of Santa’s Helpers), and has great action sequences. And at the same time it knows the sense of humour and keeps it smart enough for adults and funny enough for kids. This belongs on the shelf alongside other Christmas favourites such as A Christmas Story; it brings that kind of sardonic sensibility, along with a sense of adventure, and a fresh take on the usual Christmas fantasy narrative.
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