Guillen's Top Five from Another Hole in the Head

Michael Guillen May 25, 2007

How do you like your horror? Do you prefer hideous aliens attempting to take over our planet? Japanese ghosts in the wallboards? With or without comic relief? The SF Independent Film Festival’s 4th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival (“Holehead”) runs June 1-14 at the Roxie Film Center and is offering up a 10-day program catering to just about every preference. Along with the gore, ghouls, ghosts, and gags San Franciscan audiences have grown accustomed to, this year’s added attraction is an animation showcase, SF Indiefest: (sic) Gets Animated! Owning up to my own idiosyncratic tastes, here are five I would recommend from this year’s line-up.

1. Blood Car
For anyone who has ever chanted “No Blood For Oil” at an anti-war rally, Alex Orr’s “Blood Car” will confirm the equation once and for all. Though San Franciscans won’t have the actual Blood Car out in front of the theater promoting the screening (as they did in Atlanta), we’ll still have a clever send-up of gasoline prices, along with car sex and vegans placed in compromising situations. Mike Brune nails his nerdy but endearing characterization of Archie Andrews, a would-be inventor in a near future where gas prices have soared to $40 a gallon. Archie — as you’ve no doubt already guessed — accidentally stumbles upon a new fuel: human blood! Filling up the tank acquires new murderous connotations in this camp horror piece that gives gore a classical music score.

2. “El Muerto”
Javier Hernandez was impaled by a radioactive pencil belonging to a comic book artist when he was a young boy and comic zinedom has never been the same since. His character “El Muerto” debuted in the Bay Area in 1998 and has been adapted by Brian Cox into a film that creatively tweaks muertos iconography. Death has never been more deceived than by Diego, who — on his way to a Day of the Dead party — crashes into a tree, dies, but nonetheless sticks around. Wilmer Valderrama (known by many as Fez from “That ’70s Show,” but who recently did a fine turn in Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation”) plays Diego/El Muerto who traverses the death horizon to help the living.

3. “Simon Says”
Crispin Glover gleefully goes over the top in his dual role as maniacal brothers Simon and Stanley who enjoy playing deadly games out in the booby-trapped back country with unsuspecting sexy college kids. William Dear’s film fondles the genre with loving wryness. Ever since “Deliverance,” hillbilly horror has been a staple for urbanites who fear running out of gas in some remote neck of the woods and who then have to save their own necks from dastardly sharp-edged contraptions. What Glover does with a yappy little poodle in this yarn must be seen to be believed.

4. “The Living and The Dead”
Simon Rumley‘s truly disturbing descent into madness eschews any kind of comic or ironic accents to thrust you into events so grueling and intense you will frequently have to look away. As one of my Twitch teammates has written, “The Living and the Dead’s” achievement is its “volatile treatise on the emotional and physical burdens we place on loved ones throughout life.” Part horror, part psychological decay, part tragedy, this genre hybrid unflinchingly examines the darkness in the human heart. Leo Bill’s performance as the troubled James Brocklebank is indelibly horrific.

5. “Murder Party”
Winner of the Audience Award at Slamdance 2007, “Murder Party” arrives at Holehead bolstered by critical fanfare. Director Jeremy Saulnier describes his Halloween party gone awry as “‘The Breakfast Club’ — with chainsaws and hard drugs.” A cautionary tale about accepting party invitations from hosts you don’t know, “Murder Party’s” deaths are creative and hilarious.

And, the bonus pick:
6. SF Indiefest: Gets Animated!
And from the animation line-up: “Bad Bugs Bunny:“ If you missed film archivist Dennis Nyback’s recent Oddball Film presentations, here’s your chance to catch up. Nyback developed the “Bad Bugs Bunny” program in 1993 for Seattle’s Pike Street Cinema where it promptly sold out. He then traveled with the program to more than 20 cities in Europe. These Warner Bros. cartoons aren’t currently being shown — perhaps because they clearly evidence the presiding racist, sexist and violent sentiments of America’s not-too-distant past.