Film festival of horrors returns

  • 2010-04-14
  • By Ella Karapetyan

PALE COMPLEXION: This year’s HOFF brings together audiences who are out for an evening of film horror and thrills.

TALLINN - Horror films are unsettling films designed to frighten and cause panic, cause dread and alarm, and to invoke our worst hidden fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience. Horror films effectively center on the dark side of life, the forbidden, strange and alarming events.
This year’s fifth annual Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Festival (Hoff) will reawaken zombies and feast on modern French horror and, for the fifth time, the dark skies and gloomy tides will mark the return of the realm of fantasy and horror to the shores of the Baltic Sea. HOFF promises to be more thrilling than ever before.

Estonia’s only festival devoted to fantasy, horror, science fiction and trash film genres will run from April 23 - 25 at Haapsalu, Estonia, once a popular summer retreat for the Russian czars, and now a picturesque spa town known for healing mud treatments. The fifth Hoff features the screening of over 19 full-length films from more than 10 countries, a thematic photo exhibition and make-up effects workshop, the latest offerings from Estonian horror films and plenty of celebrations and special events, such as a parade of the living dead through the streets of central Haapsalu (luckily, it’s only a costume party).

Hoff is a three day independent festival focusing on screening the best films from the darker side of cinema from fantasy to horror, forgotten classics, filmmaker and country retrospectives, extreme films and celebrated guests in the unique setting a small country. The festival generally takes place either on late March or April, usually coinciding with the full moon.

The mission of Hoff is to present to the audiences of Estonia and the neighboring countries with horror, fantasy, sci-fi and cult films from the world’s cinema heritage with a geographically diverse and contemporary program.
The festival is organized by the Tallinn Black Nights  Film Festival, one of the largest art house festivals in the region, together with Haapsalu Culture Center and the City of Haapsalu. Part of the festival’s unique atmosphere is derived from its location - an ex-Soviet culture with two cinema halls, renovated to its full crystal glory. The festival program is divided into two sections. The main section will feature new fantasy and horror films not older than two years, with a focus on a theme or a genre. For example, in 2009, the festival paid a tribute to contemporary Scandinavian horror film, in addition to presenting recent features from Japan, Korea and Great Britain. The second part of Hoff is targeted for audiences with the strongest wits and guts - introducing the most extreme and obscure films ever made, such as in 2009, the highly controversial Japanese extreme film ‘Guinea Pig.’

Over the years Hoff has attracted several recognized filmmakers and guests, including Brian Yuzna (Reanimator), Magnus Paulsson (Frostbite), producer Gregory Rossi (Il Busco Fuori), Polish cult director Marek Piestrak (Navigator Pirx), festival programmers Tuomas Riskala, Liisa Lehmusto, Mikko Aromma and many others. Moreover, Hoff is increasingly featuring premiers, such as the international premier of British gothic horror ‘Splintered,’ in 2009.
Along with the new films in the main program, representing the latest science fiction and horror film classics from all over the world, the festival is dedicating this year’s installment to 21st century French horror, in all its frightening forms. The French zombie film ‘Mutants,’ which made waves with its fast-paced action and gore, will open this year’s festival on a giant outdoor screen at Haapsalu Bishop’s Castel.

The second focus of the festival is the homage to Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto’s cult classic experimental series ‘Tetsuo,’ which first premiered exactly 20 years ago. The first and last film in the trilogy, completed last year, will be shown non-stop on a big screen on 35 mm film.

More emphasis will lie on the freak film program this year, where every B movie buff and fan of the slightly eccentric will find something in the work of scandalous Siberian-based film-maker Andrei Iskanov - banned in his native Russia.
On the festival’s opening night, all visitors are invited to take part in a horror make-up effects workshop, where one can turn himself into a zombie. On the Hoff opening ceremony the guests are also welcomed to participate in a 100 zombie march on Haapsalu’s main street, where zombies will gather to frighten the city. 

In addition, Hoff’s opening film ceremony is free of charge, and all films have English subtitles.
In addition to the visual experience, HOFF features live shows by musicians and thematic performances by artists, to build up a truly haunting festival experience. According to Sten Saluveer, Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival Director, the festival team has done its best to bring you a fresh selection of films, and to continue the tradition that has found its place in the hearts of film buffs.