HÕFF 2023 sneak-peek: Lapland Rambo beats out the nazis

The 18th edition of HÕFF has revealed two films from the programme. Both features premiered at Toronto Film Festival and won awards at Sitges Fantasy Film Festival thereafter.

Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (or HÕFF, derived from Estonian) is a hidden feast of the darker side of the cinema. Organised by Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF), HÕFF has developed into a internationally highly appreciated small art house festival in the the Nordic area. The festival offers eclectic selection from fresh horror & sci-fi to forgotten classics and cult film retrospectives. In 2012, HÕFF became a part of the Mélies International Festivals Federation (MIFF) and is proud to be the only member in the Baltics.

For the 18th time, HÕFF takes place in a small coastal resort Haapsalu, North-West of Estonia. Located just 100 kilometers from the capital Tallinn, the city is well-known for the local ghost legend - The White Lady. As usually, HÕFF coincides with Walpurgis Night, a traditional holiday celebrated on April 30 in northern Europe and Scandinavia.


The festival has already revealed two films -- both of them premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won awards at Sitges Fantasy Film Festival thereafter. "Sisu" (FIN) by Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports, 2010) is a dark and twisted absurd thriller-comedy during Lapland War. Finnish newspaper Helsingit Sanomat has already announced "Sisu" as the best finnish action thriller of all times. Episodi, the biggest cinema magazine of Finland, describes the film as "The wet dream of action fans". Indeed - Sony bought the film distribution rights even before the shooting had started. Considering that, "Sisu" is going to be the most presented Finnish film in Northern America of all time.
So what's it all about? The plot is quite unprecedented: in 1945, during Lapland War, a Finnish man finds gold from the arctic tundra. The nazi enemies also want the gold and the Finnish guy refuses to hand it out. A brutal clash occurs. The film is forbidden under 16 and not recommended for the faint-hearted.
"It is a bombastic, yet unpretentious thriller, and rather uncommon among Finnish films. We will certainly hear about it a lot," speaks head of the festival, Helmut Jänes.

The director, Jalmari Helander, makes no secret that his childhood idol was John Rambo. "Near to my house there was a VHS rental shop where they did not ask for the ID. We skipped the classes with the boys when our parents were at work and watched "Rambo" instead. The film changed my entire life," says Helander.

However, the film is not just an ode to John Rambo. The protagonist Aatami (Jorma Tommila) has traits of a real-life Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, who killed over 500 russians during the Winter War.

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"Sisu" by Jalmari Helander

The second feature, "Project Wolf Hunting" (KOR) by Kim Hong-sun is an anarchistic splatter story about arrested criminals on a cargo boat. Soon it seems, that the squad on the boat is not alone..
"It is one of the most savage and rebellious splatters from this years programme", says Jänes. "This will definitely thrill even the most trained horror fans."

"Project Wolf Hunting" by Kim Hong-sun

From the festival retro section, "Friday the 13th Part 2" is the first revelation. "Since 2022, we are going to screen a sequel of "Friday the 13th" on each HÕFF edition, says Jänes. "Hopefully, we wont stop until we've shown them all."

Friday 13 part 2

A still from "Friday the 13 Part 2". Source: imdb.com