Horror & Fantasy for every taste

  • 2012-04-25
  • By Laurence Boyce

NOT FOR THE TIMID: Spooks and thrills await audiences at this festival celebrating 100 years of Estonian film.

TALLINN - As you pick through the distinguished history of Estonian cinema – which is celebrating its 100th birthday during 2012 – you’ll notice plenty of intense drama, funny comedies, some stark and clever animations and many excellent documentaries. What you’ll be hard pressed to find is classic sci-fi, horror or fantasy as Estonian filmmakers seem to have avoided the fantastic for a more down-to-earth approach. However, if the search is proving difficult, then the Haapsalu Horror & Fantasy Film Festival (HOFF) will provide you with help as it prepares to focus upon the lost classics of Estonian genre cinema.

During its 7th edition, which takes place from April 27-29, HOFF will screen “The Curse of the Valley of Snakes” and two shorts from Raul Tammet, those weird and wonderful – and sadly forgotten – slices of European cinema. The former is a Soviet/Estonian/Polish co-production that sees a soldier take a precious artifact from a Buddhist temple. When he returns to the site some thirty years later, with colleagues in tow, he soon discovers that evil forces are afoot as snakes soon threaten their lives. With shades of the Indiana Jones films, the film is a tremendous amount of fun and shows that escapist fantasy did have role to play in the history of Estonian cinema. More sober are Tammet’s shorts, which have many of the hallmarks of Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” the Russian director’s metaphysical foray into sci-fi (much of which was filmed in Tallinn).

“The Wedding Picture” follows a man who finds an alien close to his home and, in their communications, learns his own place in the universe. Praised for its wonderful cinematography (the work of Juri Garsnek, who died tragically before the film was premiered) and its treatment of humanistic ideas amongst a fantastical setting, it’s a delicate film. The same can be said for Tammet’s second short “Solo,” based on Peet Vallak’s short story “Death of the Barge Bridge Keeper.” Examining ideas of reality, fantasy and perception, the almost silent film is a thoughtful and profound work showing that – again – genre films can be as multi-layered as the supposed ‘more serious’ counterparts. HOFF will also showcase a new generation of genre filmmakers with four new fantastical shorts from the Baltic Film & Media School.

Other countries will get a look, though, as HOFF will also present some of the best horror and sci-fi films released over the past year. There’s the festival opener “Jackpot,” a crazy Norwegian black comedy about a group of disparate characters who win the lottery together: when they can’t decide how to split the money, things to start to go horribly wrong. A mix of British crime caper movies with some Tarantino edge, the film should start the entire festival off with a bang. Jaume Balaguero, best known as the director of the ultra-successful first installment of REC, will have his latest film “Sleep Tight” screened. A Hitchcockian thriller about a flat caretaker and a woman he is intent on destroying mentally, it’s a tense affair. There’ll also be brand new U.S. thrillers “V/H/S” and “Aggression,” some British black humor in the world-renowned horror hit “Inbred” and classics in “Robocop” and Pasolini’s “Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom.”

There’ll be a special section for modern ‘B’ Movies, whilst the ‘For Freaks’ strand does, well, appealing exactly to the people it wants to. Let’s put it this way: if you’re put off by the titles “Vaginal Holocaust” or “Caged Lesbos A-Go-Go,” then you’ll definitely not want to watch them. And if you’re intrigued by the titles, then I am sure you have got your tickets already.

So if you need a weekend of being scared, then Haapsalu is the best place to go. And, for once, that’s a positive statement.

For more information on HOFF program and venues go to: www.hoff.ee