For those who are thus far uneducated about Finnish Christmas traditions like me, here are some things you should know before this review gets started.
Finnish folk don’t just celebrate Christmas (Joulu- ‘yo-loo”), they celebrate something called “Little Christmas” which is the last Saturday of November. They drink and have some festive things happen
Their Christmas happens on the 24th of December.
Finnish people are fond of saunas, so they do that the morning of Christmas eve, they eat porridge, and at 12 O’ Clock, they watch the Peace Declaration which is where an old dude reads a document that claims that anyone being rude, mean, or doing illegal stuffs on Christmas gets extra-punished. They also broadcast the Snowman as well, which is one of my absolute favorite Christmas movies.
Dinner is a huge thing too, there’s fish, ham, casseroles, and dessert. A whole three course meal and leftovers often last until New Years.
Flavors like gingerbread, prunes, almonds, mulled wine, and raisins are common throughout meals, treats, and desserts.
Santa visits each house individually through the door, it’s typical for the man of the house to “ take out the trash” when Santa comes. He hangs out for a bit, deliver gifts, and enjoys some songs.
They don’t have reindeer in their mythology
The coolest thing I learned about Finnish Christmas is that they have these things called Jaalyhty (Yall-uth-to) which are made of ice and Lumilyhty (Lumil-uth-to) which are made of snow. They place lights inside and decorate the front of their houses with them, I’ll see if I can find some photos online and share them on instagram alongside the pictures from this movie.
Synopsis: Pietari and his father suffer through the Christmas season with little to no food thanks to something having eaten all of the reindeer they hunt. However, when Pietari does some research about Santa, he finds out that he’s actually evil AF and is out to punish he and anyone else that’s been bad. Little does Pietari know, Santa is actually a 50ft tall horned beast that has a legion of naked old men willing to kill anyone that stands in the way of him torturing those kiddos.
Year Released: 2010
Director: Jalmari Helander
Rating: Actually Not Terrible
Director: Guys, what if Santa was a 50ft horned monster and the Santa we know and love is just working for him to bring all the bad kids to his feet to be smushed.
Movie people: YES
Favorite Death: Santa is the only one that dies, though that’s technically unconfirmed because we don’t see his body after the explosion. Aside from that, the only death that occurs is a flock of reindeer.
Funniest Part: Before the group of men tasked with killing Santa fulfills their duty, they cut off the horns jutting out from Santa’s ice block. We never know if they plan to sell these, use them for something, or simply keep them as trophies, but it’s hilarious anyway.
Also, the hay children are pretty comical. Especially when the one cop is all like “meh, I’m pretty sure Juuso made this and went to look for girls.”
What they did right: Literally everything. From the kid actor to the giant monster Santa, this movie is perfect and doesn’t need to change a thing.
Special effects and lighting: Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous lighting and use of scenic shots to set the creepy scenes. It seems like they had very little set building to do because the entire town looks so authentic.
What I thought would happen: I really thought the guy that fell into the wolf trap was zombie Santa and everyone would get eaten and some weird zombie apocalypse would happen involving reindeer, but I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
Thoughts from Interviews/Trivia: Regretfully, there are no behind the scenes clips available on YouTube or interesting trivia from IMDB.
Fair warning, this movie is entirely in Finnish, so all of the dialogue has been translated and might not be exact compared to the original. I might not have any fans in Finland, but just in case I do, I’m sorry for being an American. Anyway, the setting is mountains, basically. Snow, mountains, and snowy farm land that’s pretty much off the grid, so much so, the father of the story just slaughters animals in his barn and his kid runs around in underwear outdoors as if that’s normal.
Our first scene starts off 24 days from Christmas with a man going to his boss and showing him some sawdust he’s found while drilling through a mountain. Why these men are drilling through a mountain is not made clear. We then see this boss guy get really excited about seeing sawdust because it’s apparently a thing to encase things in 65ft thick wooden cases in ice. Boss man then gives the drilling dude a piece of paper with rules like “no cursing” and “no smoking” on it as some new safety guidelines. Then the boss gives a grand speech to all of the workers about how they’re going to blow up this mountain and rob a grave. No one seems to complain about this even though, according to the locals, they’re only there to collect samples. Instead of being confused about why adults have chosen to blow up a perfectly good mountain, one of the two boys that have snuck into the work site overhears this boss man’s speech immediately concludes that Santa must be the thing buried under the mountain.
During the beginning credits, we watch our main kid, Pieteri go through a terrifying history book about Santa Claus that gives not only the history of Satan but also that of Krampus. However, there is no distinction made between the two, so we’re led to believe the Santa in this movie is evil AF.
We meet Pietari’s father who is both a single dad trying his best to do what he can for his son, and a butcher. We’re never shown that he sells to other people or whether or not his friends also have a butcher shop akin to the bathroom from the first SAW movie at their houses, but suffice it to say it’s a bit creepy.
Because Pieteri and his father do something on Christmas Eve called The Round-Up every year, they head off on their snowmobile towards a group of other men and Pieteri’s friend from the beginning. These men have just finished setting up an electrified enclosure they hope to trap some reindeer in. However, before they can funnel these reindeer into the enclosure, they find an entire hoard of them slaughtered in the snow. This means they are out about $85,000. Obviously, they are devastated. They believe wolves did it since they’ve been going nuts with the work being done on the mountain, but Pietari knows better, he knows it was crazy zombie Santa. He’s done his research. Thanks to the hole that Pietari and his friend Juuso cut in the fence surrounding the mountain, the men assume that’s how the wolves go to to the reindeer. Now, As we learned before, bad kids and anyone doing something illegal, like cutting a fence, gets flogged, beaten, or boiled by Santa, so Juuso convinces Pietari to stay quiet.
Pietari’s dad then shoots the lock off of the gate to the border of the mountain and the men barge through, knowing that the guards have orders to shoot anyone in sight. I’m not sure what the border is for, though, so all suspense is completely lost on me. Maybe it’s just between the town and the mountains, who knows.
When they arrive at the guard’s station, they find it deserted. They also find that the men working there had been excavating something deep beneath the mountain. Somehow, when prompted shortly after this scene to explain why Santa would be encased in ice beneath a mountain, Pietari knows everything. Granted, he studied Santa books for nearly a month, but still, doesn’t this kid have a life? Essentially some people got mad at Santa and trapped him in ice and covered him with rocks.
Next we meet the mountain digger from the first scene. He’s screaming over the radio to his boss that the “cargo” isn’t what he thinks it is and that it still has a pulse. He then refuses to follow the safety measures and we finally meet zombie Santa. Well, we meet his feet.
The next day is Christmas and because he finds a bear trap in the fireplace, Pietari’s dad grounds him for Christmas. Like a fucking savage, Pietari simply responds “I have to wee” and goes outside to do so. While he’s peeing, Pietari sees that the pig’s head trap has been sprung. When they go to investigate, Pietari’s father uncovers a bloody hand and won’t let Pietari see it. However, because this kid is a brat, that’s all he wants to do.
Pietari’s father and a neighbor dressed like Santa drag the body from the wolf trap and lay him out on a table in the butcher barn. They reveal a dirty old man that looks like a skinny Santa. We then learn that the wolf trap is illegal to have in the first place, so to avoid getting jail time for having one, Pietari’s father and his neighbor decide to chop up the body. They soon realize that this man is somehow not dead at all and can also smell children through walls. Pietari is soon revealed to be watching the men from a window of the butcher barn and runs off when he’s discovered.
As his father drives off after him, we see the boy flag down a cop car. We’re not really sure why he does this because he’s in his own but of trouble with the fence. Nonetheless, he hops in the car and goes with the cop to a neighbor’s house who’s had all of the sacks from his potatoes stolen. The cop then reveals nearly the whole village has had their radiators stolen and the neighbor reveals a hairdryer was also taken. Upon some investigating by bratty Pietari, he finds another straw kiddo in his friend’s bed. Though he tries to warn the adults, no one listens to the kid and thinks the terrifying hay child is just some normal thing a 12 year old is capable of making.
Back at the barn, the neighbor dressed as Santa investigates the body a bit and teases him with a gingerbread cookie. Zombie Santa does not stand for that, so he bites off part of his ear.
As the three men and small child group up to interrogate zombie Santa, he does nothing. His interest is sparked, however, when Pietari shows up. He chooses now to tell his father that he put the hole in the fence while in the barn, zombie Santa is going crazy and biting brooms in half. His father basically tells him it’s not a big deal even though Pietari has been stewing over this guilt for the entire movie.
Pietari then joins the men inside and, because zombie Santa seems to like him the best, his dad brings him closer to the insane, naked old man. No one seems to question the fact that this is Santa when Pietari mentions it, but they do tie him up and suspend him from the ceiling. They then hear a radio from the jacket Santa had with him and make a plan to sell Santa back to the boss man from the beginning for the money they lost from the reindeer.
The boss man comes out of a helicopter that’s waiting for Santa to be delivered. The Finnish men pull Santa out of their truck and present him in the costume the neighbor was wearing earlier. Boss man pulls a Miracle on 34th Street and tugs on his beard to make sure he’s the real deal. Pietari, ever the investigative brat, goes through a random door into a giant warehouse without anyone seeing him do it.
The boss dude turns around to the men waiting to make a deal and says that this is, in fact, NOT SANTA. My mind is blown, your mind is blown, and Santa has yet to be revealed. Suddenly there are hundreds of naked old men with beards surrounding them and ready to fight for their master. The main men run inside the warehouse after the boss has something thrown at his head and dies. They find a huge chunk of ice with horns jutting out of it surrounded by radiators and ovens. I proceeded to die because of course this is the real Santa and he’s 50 feet tall.
At the base of this gargantuan…thing, there are children tied up in potato sacks waiting to get punished for being bad kids. Of course, because it would be too easy otherwise, Santa’s little helpers (i.e. the old naked men with beards) come knocking with their pickaxes and hatchets at the walls of the warehouse. The men begin to panic, but because of all of the research Pietari has done, he knows that all the elves want are the kids, no matter where they are. Pietari then proceeds to activate beast move and makes a plan.
Piiparinen then escapes the warehouse and makes his way to the helicopter he, for some reason, knows how to fly. Taking some gingerbread cookies with him, he tempts the elves and distracts a few of them. Pietari enacts his plan to airlift the kids with the helicopter through a huge hole in the roof. He guides the elves away from Santa with the kids in a huge load suspended from the helicopter and tries to lead them through the border gate and into the electrified enclosure from before. Regrettably, the gate is closed. So, being a badass 9 year-old, Pietari takes one for the team and drops down from the helicopter, climbs down the electrified tower, and opens it on his own. Fully prepared to be attacked by the elves once the gate is open, he screams over the radio to Piiparinen “tell my dad what I did” and closes his eyes. The elves stampede towards him but freeze while, in a quick scene shift, his father drives off from the warehouse, both horns in the back seat, and detonates the 50ft Santa still solidified in ice.
In the end, the men keep the elves barricaded in the electrified fence they initially made for the reindeer, clean them off, train them to become real Santa’s, and start a franchise of Santa’s they ship all over the world as “rare exports.” This makes them incredibly rich and they never have to worry about how many reindeer they catch from then on. It’s fucking amazing and the best ending to a Christmas movie I’ve ever seen.
I loved this movie so much and now plan to watch it every year. While I wouldn’t call it “horror” it was definitely suspenseful and better than all of the other Christmas movies Amazon Prime had to offer that were clearly shot with a cell phone.
The characters were interesting, the plot made sense, and everything came together in the end. The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was that we never got to see the real Santa. I realize this was probably intentional because they don’t want you to really know what he looks like, but I would have loved to see what the developers had in mind for how scary this dude was. Also, I wish we had seen more about the lore Pietari researched. I want to know how he knew about the elves, but didn’t know that they were Santa’s little helpers and he was really a 50ft tall beast with horns and stuff.
Overall though, I can look past these plot holes because this movie was kickass, it had great acting, beautiful scenery and camera work, and it made me happy. 10/10
Last Week’s Review: It Follows
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