Guests

Mark L. Lester

Present at the screenings of:
Wed, Nov 22nd at 10.10 pm (KP 9) Class of 1984
Thu, Nov 23rd at 7.40 pm (KP 9) Roller Boogie
Fri, Nov 24th at 10.15 pm (KP 2) Commando
Sat, Nov 25th at 6.05 pm (KP 9) Class of 1984

Christina Lindberg

Present at the screenings of:
Thu, Nov 23rd at 5.15 pm (KP 9) Thriller – A Cruel Picture
Fri, Nov 24th at 3.45 pm (KP 7) Christina Lindberg: The Original Eyepatch Wearing Butt Kicking Movie Babe
Sat, Nov 25th at 3.50 pm (KP 9) Mätäkuu
Sat, Nov 25th at 8.30 pm (KP 7) Thriller – A Cruel Picture

Thomas Aske Berg

Present at the screenings of:
Wed, Nov 22nd at 5.45 pm (KP 7) Vidar the Vampire
Sat, Nov 25th at 6.30 pm (KP 7) Vidar the Vampire

Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Present at the screenings of:
Fri, Nov 24th at 7.55 pm (KP 9) The Endless
Sat, Nov 25th at 11.oo pm (KP 7) The Endless

Simeon Halligan, Rachel Richardson-Jones & Elliot James Langridge

Present at the screenings of:
Thu, Nov 23rd at 7.50 pm (KP 7) Habit (Simeon & Rachel)
Sun, Nov 25th at 1.20 am (KP 7) Habit (all three)

Reinert Kiil & Marte Saeteren

Present at the screenings of:
Thu, Nov 23rd at 10.00 pm (KP 7) Christmas Blood
Sun, Nov 25th at 1.15 am (KP 9) Christmas Blood

Marko Mäkilaakso

Present at the screening of:
Fri, Nov 24th at 8.15 pm (KP 2) It Came from the Desert

Teemu Nikki

Present at the screening of:
Wed, Nov 22nd at 8.00 pm (KP 1) Armomurhaaja

Graham Skipper

Present at the screenings of:
Wed, Nov 22nd at 8.oo pm (KP 9) Sequence Break
Sat, Nov 25th at 8.45 pm (KP 9) Sequence Break

Morten Traavik

Present at the screenings of:
Fri, Nov 24th at 3.30 pm (KP 9) Liberation Day
Sat, Nov 25th at 4.15 pm (KP 7) Liberation Day

Guest biographies

Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

The director duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to Helsinki for the Night Visions International Film Festival with their third feature The Endless. This mystical tale of terror and suspense had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and has since won a substantial number of awards from both juries and audiences of several international film festivals.

Benson and Moorhead visited Helsinki also with their first feature Resolution (2012). Their second feature, the H.P. Lovecraft inspired monstrous love story Spring (2014) was one of the audience favourites of the spring 2015 edition of Night Visions.
Justin Benson grew up in San Diego, California. After graduating from UCLA, he worked on a number of short films and ad projects as a writer and director.

Aaron Moorhead comes from the small town of Tarpon Springs, Florida. He studied film at the FSU Film School in Tallahassee, Florida, and directed his first short film when he was 19.

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Thomas Aske Berg

Thomas Aske Berg (b. 1980, Stavanger, Norway) arrives to Helsinki with his directorial debut Vidar the Vampire (VampyrVidar), an edgy genre comedy co-directed by Fredrik Waldeland. This cross between What We Do in the Shadows and Troll Hunter has grown to be one of the biggest Nordic genre sensations in the international front this fall. In addition to being produced and co-written by Berg, he is also playing the titular character Vidar the Vampire in its leading role.

Berg is a trained actor and an autodidact filmmaker, who studied acting at Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York (2003 – 2005). He has has starred in several films both in Norway and the USA. In 2012 he co-founded the production company UFOh! with partner John Iver Berg. Together they have made several short films and music videos, most noticeably, ‘BELIEVEtheDANCE‘, a fantasy-horror-dance-comedy short which screened at festivals all over the world, winning four ‘best short film’ awards along the way. Thomas Aske Berg is the CEO of UFOh! and works as a screenwriter, producer, director and composer/sound-designer.

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Simeon Halligan

Director Simeon Halligan (b. 1967) arrives to Helsinki with his third feature Habit, an erotic nightmare set in the underworld of his hometown Manchester. Based on a novel by Stephen McGeagh and adapted to the screen by Halligan himself, the feature has been compared to the literary works of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk.

Halligan created waves in the international genre front already with his directorial debut, a graphic teen horror Splintered (2010). He visited Night Visions for the first time with his second feature White Settlers in October 2014.

A Royal College of Art graduate, Halligan trained initially as an art director and worked on numerous commercials, TV shows and feature films before directing a selection of award winning short films. He also heads up Not a Number Productions, UK film production company, the international genre film festival Grimmfest and Grimm Entertainment, a horror oriented distribution label in the UK.

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Reinert Kiil

Reinert Kiil (b. 1982, Hammerfest, Norway) arrives to Helsinki to celebrate the Finnish premiere of his fifth feature Christmas Blood (Juleblod). This nod to the classic slasher feature series Silent Night Deadly Night was not only directed but also written and producer by the Norwegian auteur.

Kiil moved from Hammerfest to Nordkapp at the age of 1. He lived in Nordkapp till he was 14, then he moved to Alta, where he went to high school and then to the military in Trondheim. He was in the air force, and then went to Tromsø and worked with films and TV.

His first job in films other than his own was as a production assistant on Nils Gaup’s The Kautokeino Rebellion (2008). Kiil has worked in over 300 TV series, features, commercials and stand up shows as a production assistant, 1st assistant director, prop master, cinematographer, director, producer, art director, animal trainer, grip, best boy, production coordinator and in the make-up department.

Kiil’s previous directorial efforts include the splatter comedy Fuck Norway (2004) and the exploitation thriller Whore (2009), both very independent genre productions. Directed, written, produced and edited by Kiil, Whore has so far been released in 14 countries and playing at over 30 film festivals around the World. It got banned in Minneapolis in the United States, and in the Netherlands it made the news after a member of the audience passed out in one of its screenings.

His third feature Inside the Whore (2012) tells a fictional story about the making of Whore. In addition to directing, Kiil also wrote and produced Inside the Whore.

He has also directed a number of short films, among them a short documentary Inside the Mind of a Splatter Director (2007) on Jörg Buttgereit. Additionally, Kiil is also known for the music videos he has directed for the Norwegian metal band Mortiis.
Kiil visited Night Visions also in April 2016 with with his fourth feature The House (Huset), a striking horror thriller set in World War II. The House was just recently released also in Finland on dvd and Blu-ray.

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Elliot James Landridge

Elliot James Landgridge (b. 1987, Kingston upon Thames, UK) arrives to Helsinki with Simeon Halligan’s erotic shocker Habit, in which he has the starring role.

Langridge has an extensive career in acting in feature films, shorts and TV. He’s best known for the lead roles in Bafta nominated, 2014 cult hit feature Northern Soul (alongside Steve Coogan, Antonia Thomas and Lisa Stansfield), and Beautiful Devils (2017), a modern day adaptation of Othello, in which he played the equivalent of one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains Iago (2017).

Elliot started his career in the camera department of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). His parents who had careers in the camera and makeup departments were a strong influence.

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Mark L. Lester

Night Visions’ guest of honour Mark L. Lester (b. 1946, Cleveland, Ohio) has gone full circle in the field of genre filmmaking. He began his career churning out flicks for the drive-in theatres advancing to more personal exploitation and culminated his professional journey with Hollywood actioners and left an indelible mark on action movie history with the iconic image of Arnold Scharzenegger.

After his stint in Hollywood, Lester founded his production and distribution company American World Pictures in 1993.

Each phase of Lester’s career has left behind a range of hard-edged cult films. Night Visions presents a comprehensive selection of these works including Roller Boogie (1979), Class of 1984 (1982) and Commando (1985).

Lester began his directorial career with the documentary Twilight of the Mayas (1971) which dealt with the Maya indians and was awarded at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. However, the director continued his career in decidedly less anthropological fashion and delivered road movies at a rapid pace fit for the earthy tastes of drive-in audiences.

In Steel Arena (1971) a moonshine smuggler becomes a stunt driver. In Truck Stop Women (1974) the redneck proprietors of a brothel and the mafia run into each other. In Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976) a wannabe country songstress and a hobo join forces and the duo blast through Texas with bloody results.

Roller Boogie which followed in the wake of Saturday Night Fever’s (1977) popularity and the last embers of the disco boom raised Lester into a more expensive category of production. Lester’s irrepressibly breezy direction follows the exploits of a bunch of youths who hang out on Venice beach and whose lives revolve around the rollerskating discos that are staged every weekend. One of the trump cards of this film, positively pulsating with seventies party energy, is a post-Exorcist Linda Blair finding her footing in her adult career.

Class of 1984 elevated Lester to a new level and genre in the diverse world of exploitation cinema. The catalyst for this depiction of an educational institution was a visit to the director’s own high school.

”When I went to it, it was a peaceful wonderful place. All of a sudden it was a dangerous place. I thought, ’wow, this would make a really good film.’”

This was the genesis of a modern version of the urtext of all school flicks i.e. Blackboard Jungle from 1955. Class of 1984 depicts the conflict between schoolteacher Perry King and a gang that runs amok in a school on the brink of anarchy and would quickly become a landmark film among modern gang movies.

Legendary Pulitzer Prize winning critic Roger Ebert immediately realized the potential of the film that predicted a tide of future school violence. At a screening of a market event in conjunction with the Cannes Film Festival Lester’s direction made a bigger impression on the critic than the festival’s official selection.

“Class of ‘84” is not likely to make many critics’ “Best 10” list next January, but after a week of an anemic, disappointing Cannes Festival, it was a reminder of what movies are, and what they can do: it was a strong story, well-acted, confidently directed, exciting, moving and controversial,” Ebert praised.

The impact of the film didn’t go unnoticed in Hollywood. Lester’s next project was the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter (1984) which was earmarked to be directed by John Carpenter. The movie which was distributed by Universal Studios and produced by Dino De Laurentiis continued the trend of telekinetic horror that was blossoming in the early 80s.

The movie starring a young Drew Barrymore was the most technically challenging film so far in Lester’s career with its multitude of pyrotechnic effects.

”The fireballs you see…that’s not CGI. Back then we actually did fireballs that could fly through the air,” Lester reminisces.

In Hollywood circles the director gained access to new collaborators often in surprising places. At a slumber party thrown at the Playboy mansion Lester ran into Joel Silver. The man who would become a crucial figure in the action boom of the 1980s, only had a single hit under his belt at this point – 48 Hours (1982), but had a new idea for a movie.

In the middle of a discussion during the slumber party Silver offered his idea to Lester.

”He said: you gotta direct this picture – we have Schwarzenegger, ”Lester remembered from the meeting.

The script was still skeletal, but that didn’t bother Lester. He agreed point blank to direct Commando.

In this ultra stripped-down movie an ex-special forces soldier is on a mission to save his daughter from the ex-dictator who kidnapped her. During his journey, the soldier manages to dispatch an entire company of mercenaries employed in this fictional banana republic.

An airline stewardess portrayed by Rae Dawn Chong tags along for the ride, and the salty exchanges between the pair enlivens and punctuates the action.

Schwarzenegger, who had his breakthrough with Conan the Barbarian (1982) and The Terminator (1984) was enamoured with his heroic role and the humour of the film. With James Bond as a template Lester kept adding immortal oneliners to the script for his musclebound leading man.

The final result was the biggest box office success of the director’s career and a cornerstone of the action genre. The victory lap of Commando reinvigorated in a tangible way a genre which would go on to experience its heyday in the late 1980s.

Lester’s directorial triumph also had a knock-on effect in terms of the careers of Silver and Schwarzenegger. The producer became increasingly convinced that the recipe for action success was a suitably proportioned combination of physicality and humour. Commando transformed Big Arnie into the laidback action maestro we know and love.

For Lester the larger than life action fantasy was that which he had pursued throughout his career: ultra-entertaining pop art.

The director went on to make the studio-backed comedy Armed and Dangerous (1986) and buddy actioner gem Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991). When Warner Bros cut 10 minutes from the director’s cut of Showdown, Lester decided to explore other avenues of possibility.

”Today I’d probably just brush it off and go on to the next movie, but back then I took it more personally and decided I needed to be in a position of total control,” Lester recalled.

This equation influenced the establishment of the American World Pictures company which specialised in genre filmmaking. Through this arrangement Lester began to focus more on the production and distribution of movies. He still directed occasionally and mainly action and thrillers, although production values had dropped significantly since his Hollywood salad days.

A state of affairs which didn’t deter Lester. The director feels he has come full circle.

”I did enjoy doing all these movies in that $3 to $5 million budget range where I had complete control again, like I did in my early days as an independent.”

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Christina Lindberg

BIOGRAPHY INFO COMING SOON

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Marko Mäkilaakso

The Finnish genre auteur Marko Mäkilaakso (b. 1978, Hämeenlinna, Finland) arrives to Night Visions to present the Finnish premiere of his long-awaited third feature It Came from the Desert, a pulpy science fiction action adventure inspired by the legendary Cinemaware video game of 1989 by the same name. It Came from the Desert is also a milestone of local feature film history by being the first ever giant monster movie made in Finland.

Mäkilaakso is an established feature film and music video director who has gained an international reputation for his strong visual style and storytelling abilities. In 2001 he co-founded Double Cross Media House Ltd. which produced commercials, documentaries, TV-series and award winning music videos in Finland. He then moved to Los Angeles and worked as a 2nd Unit Director in a feature film Nightbeasts starring Zach Galligan.

After returning Finland, Mäkilaakso continued making commercials, music videos and TV. Furthermore, he worked closely on several projects with Lloyd Kaufman, the president and co-founder of Troma Entertainment, and developed projects with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Rodin Entertainment, to name but a few.

In 2007 Marko directed his first feature film War of the Dead – Stone’s War, which had its Finnish premiere at Night Visions in April 2012. The international co-production between USA, Lithuania and Italy was shot in Lithuania, and Mäkilaakso also served as its co-producer and writer.

In 2011 he was hired to direct Syfy / NBC Universal TV-movie Deadly Descent which was shot in Bulgaria. The actioner premiered as a Syfy Original movie in the US in January 2013.

In 2013 Mäkilaakso was hired to a sequel to a successful family film Ella and Friends, based on the popular childrens’ books by Timo Parvela. Ella and Friends 2 – Paterock had its domestic theatrical premiere December 2013 and became an instant box office hit in Finland.

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Teemu Nikki

Teemu Nikki (b. 1975, Sysmä, Finland) arrives to Night Visions to present the Finnish premiere of his third feature Euthanizer (Armomurhaaja), one of the biggest surprise hits of the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017. After the world premiere at TIFF, Euthanizer travelled to Japan as the first Finnish film in 24 years in tha main competition of the Tokyo International Film Festival, where it also won the award for best screenplay (for the script written by Nikki).

Producer, director and writer Nikki is a self-educated film maker and a son of a pig-farmer. He has directed more than ten short films and hundreds of commercials and music videos – and 3 feature films and 2 TV-series too. That makes him a genre-free thus genre-enthusiastic director and storyteller. Teemu’s work has been shortlisted and awarded in e.g. Sitges Filmfilm festival, Sundance Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Eurovision Creative Days, Cannes Young Directors, CICFF, Tampere Film Festival, Popoli e Religioni Film Festival and Darryl’s Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival.

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Rachel Richardson-Jones

Producer Rachel Richardson-Jones (b. 1967) arrives to Helsinki with her latest feature, a Manchester-set erotic nightmare Habit. Richardson-Jones heads up Not a Number Productions with Habit screenwriter-director Simeon Halligan and has also produced Halligan’s previous features Splintered (2010) and White Settlers (2014). Experienced in raising production finance and over seeing film production, she has produced award winning broadcast shows, corporates and TV commercials as well as feature films. Richardson-Jones has also worked with Island Records for bands such as U2.

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Graham Skipper

Graham Skipper arrives to Night Visions with his directorial debut Sequence Break, a science fiction tale with a twist of body horror à la David Cronenberg.

Skipper is an actor, writer, and director living in Los Angeles. He is best known for originating the role of Herbert West in Re-Animator the Musical (directed by Stuart Gordon), as well as starring as Seth in Almost Human (IFC Midnight, TIFF Midnight Madness 2013). Skipper also starred in The Mind’s Eye, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF Midnight Madness), and last year’s Night Visions hit Beyond The Gates. His most recent genre role on the big screen can be seen in the Midnight Meat Train director Ryuhei Kitamura’s latest slashfest Downrange, which had its world premiere in the Midnight Madness section of Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.

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Marte Stav Sæteren

One of the stars of the Norwegian holiday season horror Christmas Blood (Juleblod), Marte Stav Sæteren arrives to Helsinki for both Night Visions screenings of the film together with the film’s director-screenwriter-producer Reinert Kiil.

Sæteren graduated from NISS in Oslo in 2009. She played a leading role in Scandinavia’s longest running soap series Hotel Cæsar from 2010-2013. Then she appeared in Joan Kaos’ dramedy feature, the novel adaptation Pornopung (2013) as Elisa. She played in Sykt fett for Akershus Teater, and with this stage play she also toured in Norway. In 2016 she produced and appeared in an adaptation of Ingvild Rishøi’s short story, Riktig Thomas.

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Morten Traavik

Norwegian artist and filmmaker Morten Traavik (b. 1971) arrives to Helsinki for the Night Visions International Film Festival with his feature length directorial debut Liberation Day, a stunning documentary on the Slovenian art-rock band Laibach’s trip to North Korea.

Traavik trained initially as a theatre director in Russia and Sweden and is astonishingly productive across a wide range of artistic practice. He works in the hinterland of art, activism and social issues. These artistic interventions range from such projects as controversial beauty pageants for landmine survivors Miss Landmine Angola (2008) and Miss Landmine Cambodia (2009), as well as a stint as unlikely artist-in-residence in 2010 for the Norwegian Armed Forces, something he dryly notes is the only such residency so far. This latter engagement included such unique works as a 7 metre long condom that ensheathed an Honest John surface-to-surface missile from the Cold War era. Many of these projects have perhaps unsurprisingly inspired public debate and discussion.

Liberation Day (2016) is in some ways the culmination of his longstanding engagement with North Korea and collaboration with its artists and cultural authorities and his status as authorized cultural affairs liaison. The film documents among other things the sometimes fraught and often hilarious negotiations that allowed Slovenian art-rockers Laibach to perform their offbeat versions of songs from the Sound of Music, as well other cover versions in Pyongyang on their Liberation Day Tour.

The film, which was also co-directed by Latvian film-maker Ugis Olte, is billed as a document of the ‘first rock group ever to perform in North Korea’. Some Night Visions alumni have gently noted that legendary Finnish post-punk outfit Sielun Veljet may have beat Laibach to the post as they performed in Pyongyang at the International Youth Festival as far back as 1989.

Be that as it may, the Slovenes have previous form in this area as they had already recorded a version of the North Korean folksong We Will Go To Mount Paektu. In some sense it feels entirely appropriate that Laibach should play in Pyongyang and as they noted in a Rolling Stone interview ‘Laibach has, since its foundation been dealing with Totalitarianism in all its manifestations; and therefore visiting North Korea was absolutely a must-do’. But as an amusing aside and parallell Traavik has elsewhere mentioned that the band itself was may be even more cagey than their Korean hosts by noting that catching a member of Laibach off-guard is more difficult than interviewing the Loch Ness monster. Traavik also professed in a Variety interview that Slovenes are the Finns of former Yugoslavia in this respect. After screening the movie to the band, he received a favourable response which he then took as a major compliment on a par to being on ecstasy given the otherwise tight-lipped demeanour of the band.

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