It’s summer—not that that means much if you live in SF proper—so you might be contemplating vacation travel of one sort or another. Or if work commitments, poverty and/or gas prices are keeping you home for the season, maybe passive travel via the wonderful world of available local cinematic entertainment will have to suffice. That’s a pretty safe way to get around, but beware nonetheless: Even movie tourism can be dangerous to your health. Certainly if you’re a movie character, at least.
This year’s edition of SF Indiefest-presented Another Hole in the Head, the two-week horror, sci-fi and fantasy fest, offers a plethora of destinations it turns out were a very bad idea to visit. We can’t guarantee fate will deal you cards as grim as it does the cast in these representative ’08 HoleHead titles. But one can never be too cautious, right? So, for the time being one might want to avoid the following top ten locations for terror:
1. The Woods Well duh. Anyone who’s ever seen more than a couple horror movies—especially a couple ‘80s horror movies—knows you never, ever go camping or frolicking or god forbid smoking weed where all those squirrels and Sasquatches and insane inbred hillbillies dwell. In the British Summer Scars, several 14-year-olds skip school (uh-oh), steal a moped to joyride (whuh-oh), and crash right into an adult weirdo who at first seems harmless enough, even fun….This is the latest film by writer-director Julien Richards, who stirred up HoleHead audiences in 2004 with the very good, quite disturbing Last Horror Movie. One guesses from that slicker, more blackly comedic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer update that these teens’ day off will not go well.
2. Baja, and/or Purgatory Driving to rendezvous with her boyfriend, debuting Bay Area writer-director Ryan Harper’s Mexicana heroine Ana (Yvonne de la Rosa) in Circulation runs out of gas. She then runs into an abusive ex-husband and his loutish pals; kidnapped, she succeeds in running their vehicle off the road. Regaining consciousness, she hitches a ride with widowed older Yank Gene (Sherman Koltz). But both of them now appear trapped in a desert limbo from which there’s no escape.
3. Trailer Park of Terror Well, naturally, if it were called Trailer Park of Terror you wouldn’t go there in the first place, would you? But what if it had an innocuous-sounding posted and your minibus got in a wreck en route to Jesus Camp so all you, the hunky counselor and six troubled teens of variable deserving-to-be-killed-ness could do to escape the sudden driving rainstorm was seek shelter at….guess. And what if the over-friendly and excessively buxom resident who welcomes your party turns out to be the wrathful possessed ghost of a put-upon former Ellie May-type innocent (the excellent Nichole Hiltz) who’d given up her soul to wreak vengeance upon the trailer trash who’d made her entire mortal life a living hell? Equal parts camp-comedic and genuinely nasty, Steven Goldman’s is a crowdpleaser. A HoleHead kinda crowdpleaser, that is.
4. The Beauty Parlor That seems an innocent enough choice, eh? Oh ho, not in Japanese Suicide Club director Sion Sono’s latest Exte: Hair Extensions. A sometimes-animate corpse found in a harbor shipping container continues producing hair—virulently. When an obsessed hair-extensions profiteer starts hawking her locks to an unsuspecting salon—where our exasperatingly cheerful heroine is a trainee—bad things start happening. Notably hair growing from the least likely places, including eye sockets, tongues, even fax machines and toasters. Alternatively bizarre, spectacular, cloying and willfully silly, Exte might leave you disappointed when the next time sometime snips your tresses they don’t bleed.
5. High School, When the Bullies are Sons of Yakuza Bosses Being shaken down for your lunch money can be fatal under such circumstances, as two geeky nice boys discover to their grief. Community and cops are too scared of the local crime syndicate, leaving tough-as-titanium schoolgirl Ami (Minase Yahiro) to investigate and avenge her brother’s murder. Literally singlehandedly—briefly captured by the bad guys, Ami loses one arm to torture, then gamely replaces the missing limb (a la Rose McGowan in Planet Terror) with major weaponry. Blood geysers and outrageous gorte are just a few of the hilariously over-the-top elements in Noburu Iguchi’s movie, that rare deliberately-outrageous genre mashup which actually succeeds in constantly topping itself. Highly recommended.
6. The Hood Particularly when there are Mutant Vampire Zombies in the Hood! Thunder Levin’s movie stars C. Thomas Howell as a white cop in South Central whose attempted bust of two rival gangs takes an unexpected turn when everyone starts shooting at everyone else—then a huge radioactive solar flare turns anyone outside at the time into…guess what. Los Angeles filled with mindless shuffling bodies void of intelligent thought? What a fantastic imaginative leap!
7. Wartime Vietnam (Tunnel Rats) He’s baaaack! Uwe Boll returns with a horror-tinged action movie which sounds like the ultimate nightmare for claustrophobes. Inspired by actual combat experiences, this fictive tale has Michael Pare as the leader of a US Army unit dedicated to pursuing Viet Cong in the endless, serpentine, frequently booby-trapped tunnels dug beneath the already dense ‘n’ perilous jungle. Ick!!!! Can’t wait.
8. Community College Science Class Look out, cuz Freddy Kreuger’s the teacher! Robert Englund indeed plays the initially harmless professor whose bored students include the future Jack Brooks Monster Slayer (Trevor Matthews), a young plumber who’s had an anger-management problem ever since he witnessed his entire family’s death-by-forest-troll during a childhood camping trip. When a malignant spirit turns Prof. Crowley into a pupil-devouring monster, Jack finds his true vocation at last. Jon Knautz’s somewhat slow-moving but diverting horror comedy proves continuing education can be hazardous to your health.
9. Abandoned Fishing Lodges A combination of college girls, escaped cons and crusading Christians end up at one in Sacramento-based Kevin Tenney’s alien-zombie-goo gorefest. Who will end up munched? Losing faith? Topless? One can guess just how unpleasant this vacation spot turns out to be from the promotional line "A mind is a terrible thing to taste."
10. In your Body That personal temple is at high risk of desecration in Pearry Reginald Teo’s futuristic thriller The Gene Generation. Bai Lin stars as an assassin hunting down "DNA hackers" who’ve turned genetic technology—now capable of healing any wound or curing any disease—into a means of destroying people. This Hole Head opening nighter features Hong Kong-style martial arts and bullet ballets, not to mention Faye Dunaway as the mysterious missing scientist who made all this protoplasmic monkey business possible in the first place.
That list covers just half the features in Hole Head ’08. Other highlights include the premieres of more locally-tied efforts—Philip Hudson’s sci-fier Homeworld and Cronenburg-ian Mindflesh from SF’s own Robert Pratten—plus a 40th anniversary revival screening of the soon-to-be-remade Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy, with Jane Fonda in all her pre-activist sex kitten glory.
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