Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival announces features lineup
Approaching its 14th edition, the Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (HÕFF), the biggest genre film festival in the Baltic countries, has unveiled its feature film programme consisting of 30 films from 15 countries. HÕFF takes place from the 25th until the 28th of April.
The main programme is headed by the surprise zombie comedy hit from Japan One Cut of the Dead (dir Shin'ichirô Ueda), a student film shot in eight days that has earned its 27 thousand dollar budget back a thousand fold, earning over 27 million dollars in Japanese distribution alone, having won awards at over 24 festivals already. The story follows a small film crew with an overambitious director, shooting a zombie flick in an abandoned factory who come across an actual flock of zombies.
The US will be represented by several films, including Body at the Brighton Rock by up and coming director Roxanne Benjamin (director of segments in XX, Southbound), a SXSW-premiering survival tale of a young park ranger who finds a corpse in the wild. The forest is also the essential element of Headhunter by director Jordan Downey, a gory tale set in a mythical medieval kingdom where a hunter of forest monsters confronts his biggest nemesis.
The opening film, a genre hybrid Freaks directed by Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein and starring Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern, is a sci-fi action family drama set in a dystopic near-future America, where the government hunts down people suspected of having genetic mutations after an unexplained global disaster. It’s impressive festival run includes Toronto, Vancouver, Sitges, Trieste and Brussels.
Another sci-fi entry that arrives after an impressive international run is the Swedish country invasion / action thriller / love story The Unthinkable (dir Victor Danell as Crazy Pictures). It is an international hit that has already sold rights in over 100 countries and blown the minds of viewers and critics alike with the smart directing and enormous production value that has created Hollywood-level special effects and action sequences, achieved at a minuscule 2 million dollar budget.
Another entry from Sweden is Koko-di, koko-da, the next film by auteur Johannes Nyholm who won the Special Prize of the Jury at San Sebastian for his last film The Giant. Offering a disturbing, violent and fantastical setting to a couple suffering grief after losing their daughter, the film has had an impressive festival run including Sundance, Rotterdam and Gothenburg among others.
Latin America is represented by two critical successes, the first of which isMurder Me, Monster. The Cannes premiering film is set in the bleakly shot Argentinian countryside, where the story follows police investigators on the trail of a serial murderer, director Alejandro Fidel’s (The Wild Ones) slowburner has been hailed for creating an unsettling, uncompromised atmosphere of terror, rural alienation and xenophobia.
Arriving from Brazil, The Nightshifter is a story chronicling the psychological breakdown of a morgue worker in a big, violent city. The frightening-fantasy-turned-supernatural-horror is imbued with an especially dark streak of humor balanced skillfully with gory horror elements by the promising first time director Dennison Ramalho.
Paying homage to an animation legend
An honorary guest of this year’s edition is Vladimir Tarasov, a Russian animator and animation director who is best known for his Soviet-era sci-fi short films like The Pass, Contract and Contact - the Yellow Submarine-inspired psychedelic journey that brought him several awards at international festivals and is generally considered his calling card as a filmmaker.
Tarasov has also been active in promoting the discipline of animation, having worked in the union’s biggest animation studio Soyuzmultfilm first as an animator, then as an art director and finally, from 1970 until 1991 as its director. He was also an organiser and founder of the film schools Zee Institute of Creative Art in India and Tarbiat Modares University in Iran.
HÕFF will screen five of the director’s films: Cowboys in the City (1973), Contact (1978), The Return (1980), Button (1982), The Pass (1988).
HÕFF is organised by the team at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Film still: One Cut of the Dead, director Shin'ichirô Ueda
Film still: The Unthinkable, director Victor Danell / Crazy Pictures
Film still: The Return, director Vladimir Tarasov
Festival still: average festival goers at the 2018 opening (photo by Aron Urb)
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