I've given up trying to figure out how many days this festival has run so far. Three movies, here we go:
First up, a documentary AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE. A history of grindhouse/exploitation/underground films from the time of Edison to the modern day. It features interviews with cult/grindhouse filmmakers (John Landis, Joe Dante, Herschell Gordon Lewis, etc) as well as film historians (including San Francisco's own Czar of Noir, Eddie Mueller). Like the other doc in the fest, NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE, it's a bit too much to absorb in 90 minutes. But I especially liked learning about the independent exploitation flicks of the Hays Code era, and the case that mainstream films have borrowed (and maybe surpassed) grindhouse films in terms of exploitation. But mostly, I liked seeing clips from all these films I know (and sometimes love) as well as finding out about films I've never heard of (who knew there was a Nazis vs Jesus flick, and who cares if it sucks, it's like $1.58 on Amazon.com)
Next up a bit of sci-fi fighting fun. But first the short ESCAPE FROM DEATH PLANET. Cheap, lousy CGI of a few survivors trying to escape from giant sand worms and catch a rescue ship. I didn't care if they survived (especially since the scientist was such a schmuck)
Luckily the feature, ALIEN VS. NINJA, delivered a surplus of awesome. Starting with the ninjas. These are the ninjas of legend who can leap across forests and fight hordes all at once. Plus there's a hot lady ninja...nice! And comic relief in the form of a fat, cowardly ninja who at least invents cool (but often ineffective) weapons. The master sends them to explore a mysterious fireball that streaked across the sky. Enter the Aliens (technically, the title should be ALIENS VS NINJAS, since there are many of each), running wild and destroying villages while their young crawl up noses. And do you really need to know more, it's ALIEN VS NINJA, and it's awesome!
And finally, the night (and the weekend) ended with REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE. The setup sounds simple and a bit derivative--a group of people are isolated and attacked by maniacs. The hook (so to speak), is that the setting is an Icelandic whale watching tour and the maniacs are whalers who've seen their livelihood destroyed by hippie whale-huggers like Greenpeace (or as they call them, Green Piss). But the real strength is the performances, breathing reality into each character, whether it's the hard partier, the recent widow, the bitter old local women, the Japanese family, the French drunkard, or the calm, ass-kicking black dude. You understand these characters, and care whether they live or die (of course, I was rooting for die). Oh, and the gore is great, the tension is built well, the maniacs are appropriately maniacal (modeled after THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and no accident that Leatherface himself, Reykjavik-born Gunnar Hansen appears as the whale watching boat captain) and it's just an all-around well made flick.
Total Running Time: 252 minutes
My Total Minutes: 190,946