Tyler Phill: twisted delights at Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival

When someone travels halfway across the world to attend a film festival they hope it’ll be worth their time. All I knew going into HÕFF was that it was a “horror and fantasy” film festival. I intentionally avoided researching the movies that were playing as I was hoping to be surprised by the movies. And surprised I was.

I expected typical horror films to play at HÕFF. Jump scares. Creepy music. Your standard Hollywood films. That was nothing like what I experienced. While watching the first film, which was a documentary of Flemish horror, I got a huge smile on my face. I started to learn that the movies I was about to watch throughout the weekend were dark, twisted, freakish, and offensive.

Each movie I watched was beautifully done. The effects of heads exploding, the creativity of the storylines, and the overall production value of the films were phenomenal. The talent required to produce some of the movies I watched is impressive.

The films that played at HÕFF deserve to be seen around the globe. There is much more in the film industry than just the mainstream Hollywood films. Lesser known actors, producers, directors, and musicians deserve to have their work seen and to be enjoyed by the masses.

My favourite films of the festival were Tigers Are Not Afraid and Malvinator. The two films had very different styles of production. The diversity of films at HÕFF was a pleasant surprise and allowed for me to be engaged throughout the whole festival. While reflecting on HÕFF I imagine I would have gotten tired of the same genre for three days straight. HÕFF’s diversity of films exposed me to action, horror, and comedy.

Malvinator held my attention throughout the whole film. There were certain aspects of the film that you could miss if you weren’t fully engaged in the movie. The first time I experienced one of those aspects, realizing how easily I could have missed it, I ensured I paid attention to every second of the film, and I’m glad I did. Malvinator was delightfully goofy, action-packed film which I thoroughly enjoyed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there was Tigers Are Not Afraid, which maintained a serious style throughout the movie. The production style grabbed me from the opening scene and had me hooked for the following 83 minutes. From the cinematography to the acting to the soundtrack, Tigers Are Not Afraid was a delight to view.

HÕFF was a delightful experience. From the films to the venue to the town, it was all wonderful. Haapsalu was one of the most beautiful towns I’ve experienced while traveling through Europe. Having the types of movies at HÕFF being played in such a beautiful, quiet town is an amazing contrast to the style of the films.

I should probably stop writing this review now and go book my plane ticket to attend HÕFF 2019.