So THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE ended on one screen in the Balboa Theater just in time for me to walk out and back in to the other screen and catch the first movie at Another Hole in the Head.
The first movie there was an ultra-low-budget oddity from South Africa, BLOOD TOKOLOSHE, which wasn't helped by the fact that they couldn't show it at the right aspect ratio and so everything was squeezed into 4:3 (yes, some Africans are very tall and very skinny, but not all of them are!) It's a story of a businessman who hires a witch doctor to make him rich and have lots of women. The witch doctor summons a Tokoloshe, a demon who will do the businessman's bidding but has to drink victim's blood to do it. This works for the businessman as long as he follows a few simple rules--like thank the demon every day, don't steal the Tokoloshe's blood, etc. Seems like an easy rule to follow, but greed gets the best of him, the demon is on the loose, and the witch doctor and the local priest have to set their differences aside and fight it. The acting is pretty damn bad, and if I hadn't been to South Africa before (for the World Cup in 2010) I would have been pretty bored by this. As it was, little things kept reminding me of my time there. Things like newspapers plastered everywhere with the front page displaying one giant headline. Or when one woman refuses to take a 200R bill--almost nobody takes 200R bills, they're too widely counterfeited. Other than that, the best I can say is I hope they learned some things making this and that BLOOD TOKOLOSHE 2: REVENGE OF THE TOKOLOSHE is better.
Then it was time for the highlight of the festival so far, AN AMERICAN TERROR. It's set in Colorado, deals with school shootings and other acts of senseless violence, and is unapologetically sympathetic to the shooters. Josh wakes up with voices in his head telling him to give up. He lives in a trailer park, his parents ignore him, the popular kids at school bully him, he only has two friends and they're equally unpopular as him. After a particularly mean and humiliating event (broadcast on Youtube, no less) they finally decide they've had enough and plan to attack homecoming with guns and pipe bombs. It's set up to be an interesting horror/drama about being bullied and what it takes to become a "deranged" killer (in fact, it's most interesting aspect is that the killing isn't deranged at all. By this point it has become a completely rational act.) And then in the search for weapons it becomes a very, very different film, more along the lines of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or SAW. And...I feel like I should have been disappointed because I was all psyched up to see the school shooting from the shooters point of view (that sentence sounds bad, but they really made the bullies awful people who deserved to die.) But the psycho redneck freak they run into is so impressive I didn't care, I'd rather watch him anyway. I don't want to give too much away, but the set pieces in the underground lair are...amazing. And--if you watch all the way through the credits--it's set up for a sequel that I would like to see.
Oh, and as for all the sympathy with the school shooters above. I'm not saying that school shootings are a good thing, or that any real kids deserve to die (kids in horror movies, on the other hand....) But I'm a nerd who's last name is a slang term for penis. I know something about being bullied. And when the Columbine shooting happened (which I learned about when I made an off-hand pipe bomb joke at work and my colleagues gave me an 'I cannot believe you just went there!' look) and everyone was asking 'How could they do that?' I was asking myself 'What kept me from doing that?' And this film offers me an answer--that I was strong enough that none of the teasing and bullying could hurt me.
Next up was THE COHASSET SNUFF FILM. You all remember the 2009 string of murders in Cohasset, MA, right? Where Colin Mason murdered three girls in his school and uploaded the footage to the Internet? If you don't, it's probably because there was a massive cover-up. Things like that just aren't supposed to happen to small, affluent New England towns. Anyway, director Edward Payson, with help from true-crime collectors, pieces the definitive story together. Colin is a pimply-faced teen playing with his camera and pretending to be way more bad-ass than he is (other than...when he's strangling his victims.) In fact, if he was more impressive as a killer I'd probably like this movie a lot more.... Oh, crap, I broke the premise that these are real events. Nope, it's just a movie. And as a movie...well, I stand by my statement that Colin was just not a charismatic killer. That's probably the point, that a harmless looking kid can be a killer in plain sight with no one noticing. In fact, rather than hiding from the cops he has more trouble making anyone notice he exists. That's the point...but it doesn't change the fact that he failed to hold my interest most of the time. The rest of the movie--the collectors, the macabre cult built up around him (the restaurant he used to frequent is now Mason Burgers and they serve serial-killer themed burgers,) the interviews, the full-frontal nudity of one of his victims--that all works. But without a charismatic killer, the movie is kinda flat.
And finally, we ended the night similar to how we started, with a foreign oddity. This time it's from the Philippines, and the movie is THE GRAVE BANDITS. Decades ago a meteorite with an alien virus landed near a small island in the Philippines. The virus turns people into flesh-eating demons. But the meteorite is also a very pretty and valuable jewel, so pirates and a scientist search for it with the unwilling help of a local girl. And they find it, and the virus gets out and they start destroying each other. Luckily it's confined to this small island. Unfortunately Romy and Peewee--homeless orphans who make a living by robbing graves of the jewelry of the recently departed--flee from an angry mob and make their way to the island. So all hell breaks loose, lots of zombie-demon flesh-eaters. Miraculously, the scientist and the girl are alive. The scientist because he hid in a tree. The girl because she grew up on the legends of the demons and knows things about them like how the smell of alcohol confuses them so they won't attack. So we get lots of fighting demons and lots of running from the demons. It's also pretty funny, and actually a pretty good time, if a little on the long side at 100 minutes.
And that was day 3 at Holehead. Not too bad, and much better than day 2--both in the quality of the films and in the technical issues (not that there weren't any, just that they were...tolerable.)
Total Running Time: 342 minutes
My Total Minutes: 343,884