In Tim Burton's Mars Attacks, the President of the United States, in a final bid to save the human race, implores the space invaders before him with the exhortation: "Little people, can't we all just get along?" Needless to say, he doesn't live. A cursory scan of the battle-poised titles at this year's Another Hole in the Film Festival similarly answers "Hell nah" to any notions of smiling on your fellow brother, be they alien, lycanthrope or simply psychotic. There's Alien vs. Ninja, Dr. "S" Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies, Jimmy Tupper vs. The Goatman of Bowie, Mil Mascaras vs. The Aztec Mummy, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl and, last but not least, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. And that's not even counting the other films in SF Indiefest's 7th annual showcase of the wildest and weirdest in independently produced sci-fi, horror and fantasy that include their share of supernatural showdowns and savage fights to the death.
To be sure, the above list borders on the ridiculous, but mixing goofy humor with extreme bloodshed has become something of a Hole in the Head trademark. Many of this year's Japanese entries don't disappoint in this regard, upping the silliness quotient and onscreen body count with over-the-top panache. Seiji Chiba's aforementioned Alien, which makes its West Coast premiere, shoves Predator into the Wayback Machine set to "feudal Japan," pitting a band of ninjas against an alien menace with a taste for human flesh. Meanwhile, Tomo' o Haraguchi's Death Kappa updates the rubber-suited legacy of Toho Studio's kaiju back catalog, unleashing a radioactive water goblin (the mythic creature of the film's title) the likes of which Godzilla was lucky to never have to face.
Robogeisha, the latest from Machine Girl director and Hole in the Head vet Noboru Iguchi, arrives with plenty of Internet and festival buzz. For those viewers such as myself who thought finally watching the entire movie would spoil the wack-a-doodle magnificence of its decapitation, fried shrimp and tank-geisha hybrid-filled trailer, fear not. The sibling rivalry between an apprentice geisha and her domineering geisha sister at the film's center makes all that spilled, toxic demon breast milk all the more sweeter.
Iguchi and Yoshihiru Nishimura, the extremely talented makeup effects supervisor behind RoboGeisha and Machine Girl, also helm two thirds of the less hilarious omnibus Mutant Girls Squad. Vampire Girl's titular she-wolf and female bloodsucker would probably fit right in with Mutant's uniformed gang of killer coeds if they weren't so busy using the student body as collateral damage in their ongoing battle for their school's resident dreamboat. The phrase "teen heartthrob" has perhaps never been treated so literally on film.
Unfortunately, most of the US features are more likely to elicit groans rather than screams and cackles. Aforementioned Reefer Madness spoof Dr. "S" Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies unsuccessfully attempts to splice the stoner comedy with the zombie film. Mil Mascaras vs. The Aztec Mummy, something of a crossover vehicle for legendary Mexican wrestling icon Mil Mascaras, has a certain retro charm but can't compare to the (staged) drama of an actual luchadore match. And despite the GLAAD protests that greeted it when it played at the Tribcea Film Festival, Israel Luna's Ticked off Trannies with Knives is more offensive for its shot-by-shot derivativeness of Deathproof than for the graphic violence suffered by its transgender characters. Besides, these club divas have far worse things in store for their attackers, although nothing so brutal as what befalls the unfortunate young torture victims in Koji Shiraishi's endurance test of a film, Grotesque.
Some of the festival's more riveting selections come from further afield, both in terms of their country of origin as well as their approach to what is admittedly well-covered ground. (Exactly how many times can a viral infection be unleashed that transforms the populace into the brain-hungry undead?). In the Romanian-set Strigoi British filmmaker Faye Jackson recasts the vampire myth in light of the recent political history of Dracula's actual homeland. Vlad initially seeks to pin blame for his grandfather's mysterious death on the village's creepy ex-Communist official, but soon finds out that the current ruling class has fangs of its own. And Icelandic entry Reyjavik Whale Watching Massacre earns points simply for the absurdity of its premise: What if Texas Chainsaw Massacre took place on a whale-watching cruise off the coast of Iceland?
Save for the atrocious 1984 Redux version of Fritz Lang's dystopian classic Metropolis, this year's '80s-heavy choice of rep screenings are also strong. Run, don't walk, to Lady Terminator, an Indonesian re-make of James Cameron's 1984 blockbuster. Long a cult favorite, Lady swaps out Arnie's robo-assassin for a female anthropology student possessed by an ancient spirit. Her mission: to kill by any means necessary the great-granddaughter of the man who originally defeated the supernatural being. Preceding Lady by eight years but matching it in firepower is James Glickenhaus' similarly titled, The Exterminator, in which a disabled Vietnam vet "cleans up" the streets of New York a la Travis Bickle.
And if choosing which films to see wasn't enough to tussle over, there's also the concurrent Summer Music Fest to consider. Storied rabble-rousers such as The Dwarves and Triple Cobra, among many others, take the stages of Potrero Hill venues Bottom of the Hill and Thee Parkside, providing a musical counterpart to the mayhem onscreen. Just be sure to leave the black eyes, and nicks and scrapes, to the make-up experts. No one wants to be the guy who has to mop your cranial soup off the floor after a failed stage dive.
Director Mina T. Son talks about the creation of ‘Making Noise in Silence,’ screening the United Nations Association Film Festival this week.
Sex-filled fictions dominate Toronto International Film Festival; eclectic docs inspire action.
Deborah Peagler's case in 'Crime After Crime' gets its time in court and on screen, with moving results.
Two Bay Area location-based features that speak to the moment are poised to stand the test of time.
Film Society’s leader for more than five years resigns due to health issues.
A film festival and conference offered audiences and makers opportunities to move forward.
The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival delivers internationally as well as locally made films of every identity and genre stripe.
The adventure of Another Hole in the Head Film Festival requires you risk seeing the occasional dud to seek out the gems.