Night Visions 3015: Hell Up In Helsinki
Earlier this month I went to the future. I mean this somewhat literally, as my flight from Toronto to Helsinki, Finland put me 8 hours ahead, but also because I was attending the Night Visions Film Festival, a biannual celebration of genre cinema that endearingly dates its Halloween editions 1000 years into the future (there's also a June edition that sets its date in the 21st century).
This tradition goes back to the festival's inauguration in the late 90s, when the late Mike Vraney and Lisa Petrucci visited Helsinki with a programme of Something Weird titles. Despite preceding the new millennium, the programme was billed as "Something Weird 2000," anecdotally because Vraney thought 2000 sounded so much cooler.
Mikko Aromaa, the editor-in-chief of GoreHound, a popular genre film zine in Finland at the time, agreed and as festival director of Night Visions, he cast subsequent fall editions of the festival in the year 3000. Fifteen years later, here I was, experiencing a barrage of horror, sci-fi, and all-around weird cinema at the Maxim Theatre in the heart of Helsinki, and having a damn good time.
A casual glance at the "Night Visions Maximum Halloween 3015" programme and any
genre film connoisseur will be quick to recognize a robust ensemble of the year's most popular genre fare, from the blood-soaked Kiwi festival favourite Deathgasm to the American love letter to Fulci-style spook-em-ups We Are Still Here, but the devil's always in the details and upon immersing (and indulging) myself in the festival's offerings (both inside and outside the cinema) over my four and a half days in the 30th century, I came to observe more then a few elements that elevated the proceedings from a typical genre fest experience.
Scroll through the gallery below to hear about some of them!
Retrospective screenings can be a hard-sell as festival audiences are typically hungry for the latest and greatest, with older fare sometimes taking on the stigma of a vegetable garnish on a steak plate. Fortunately, from my perspective, the denizens of Night Visions were enthusiastic to eat their broccoli, with sizeable and enthusiastic audiences turning up to the festival's vintage programming.
And with good reason, as this year's retro offerings were anchored by special guests Brian Yuzna and Richard Stanley, both of whom were on hand to introduce and answer questions following pristine 35mm presentations of their work. I was particularly delighted that while their more notable works were covered (Yuzna's Society, Stanley's Hardware), we also got to see Richard Stanley's 2001 documentary on SS officer Otto Rahn's fixation with the search for the Holy Grail (The Secret Glory) and Yuz na's delightfully gooey and underrated anthology of (very) loose Lovecraft adaptations Necronomicon (with segments directed by Christophe Gans and Shusuke Kaneko).
Complimenting these two career retrospectives were in memoriam screenings of The Wicker Man and A Nightmare on Elm Street for Christopher Lee and Wes Craven respectively, plus an amazing presentation of Lee's seminal turn as Dracula in Terence Fisher's 1958 Hammer adaptation on an immaculate archival print, preceded with candid footage of Lee's previous visit to Night Visions in 2002 when the festival curated a Hammer Film retrospective.