The big first weekend started last Friday. And I already failed in my quest to see everything in the festival because I got there 45 minutes late for the first film. But that's okay, I was late because I had a job interview, and I can't be unemployed forever.
Anyway, I did catch the last half of THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH. So don't consider this a full review but here's what I could glean from the last half (apparently I came in right when the supernatural stuff was happening, as Leon picks up a book on communicating with the dead.) First, I could tell it was definitely well made technically. The lighting, framing, set design, editing, etc. was all top notch (something that's not always true of festival films, particularly a festival that celebrates "outsider" films as much as Holehead does.) Second, the acting was great, Aaron Poole (Leon) had to pretty much carry the movie as he's alone in the house for the majority of what I saw, and he always held my attention. Third, the creepy scares were well done, in particular the black demon/animal/man who haunts the shadows. Fourth, it appears that at its heart it was more of a family drama (Leon returning to the house of his dead, estranged mother) and a religious story (the estrangement has to do with his mother's faith and his lack of faith) rather than straight-on horror. The same story with no horror elements could still be a good drama, but the horror elements are like icing on the cake. Anyway, since I missed the first half I might actually be wrong about all of that, but I can say what I saw lived up to its reputation and really makes me want to see the whole movie.
The next show started with the short ODOKURO, a cool stop-motion story of discarded objects, their lives, and how they imbue others with life. Very cool.
That was the lead-in for I DIDN'T COME HERE TO DIE, a cool and clever kids-dying-in-the-woods comedy. From the opening credits, it's firmly in the 70s grindhouse mode, with the fake scratches, inconsistent lighting, varying quality of "reels" (although of course it was digital.) A group of kids working for VAGG (Volunteers of America Generating Goodwill, but...hee hee, "vag"...hee hee) are out in the woods building a campsite. But the land was donated by a family whose little girl was killed there...so maybe her spirit haunts the woods. Or maybe they just have incredibly bad luck and through a series of wacky accidents and mounting paranoia everyone gets killed in hilarious ways. Love it!
And then the late show, DAY JOB. Director Dave O'Shea introduced it by admitting it's amateurish and nobody really knew how to make a movie. But he certainly made up for it with heart...a sick, twisted, demented heart. Dave, who is a cable installer/technician in his actual day job, plays a cable installer/technician in the movie. And for the first half hour or so it's kind of slow, showing the sort of work he does and annoying customers he meets on the job. And then it gets into his twisted revenge plots and just out-and-out perversions. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say I was amused at how condoms aren't always a sign of safe sex. For example, when there's a wall with hundreds of bloody condoms nailed to it, it's more a sign of a very unsafe sex dungeon. And that's not even close to the extremes of the sick and twisted...ummm...twisted sickness.
It's tempting to think that festivals like Holehead exist to give weird, extreme films like this a chance to be seen. But I prefer to think these films exist to give festivals like Holehead a reason to exist. It's certainly an unpolished movie. The lighting and filming is inconsistent at best, acting is amateurish, pacing and editing is all over the map. But if you find this film, give it a chance. Don't turn it off if you're bored or confused in the first 15 minutes. Because if sick and twisted is your thing, this will pay off in the end.
Total Running Time: 199 minutes, not counting any time for ROSALIND LEIGH. I'll give myself time if I see all but a few minutes of a movie--if I get there just a minute or two late, or if I run out right when the end credits start--but not if I miss this much of the film.
My Total Minutes: 305,338