First up was PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE, which I saw at Cinequest and in fact I programmed it for Holehead. So it would be a little self-serving for me to just write about how much I like (I like it a lot, and I'm happy to say it gets better with multiple viewings.) Instead I'll just copy and paste what I wrote at Cinequest when it was a revelation for me:
And finally, I [...] ended the night with the midnight screening of PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE. This is truly a unique and effective film, shot in the street where director Bing Bailey grew up in Dublin. It's the story of a zombie, and the documentary film crew telling the story. Billy Murphy got infected with zombism while working at a meat processing plant (since shut down.) There was a bit of an outbreak, but his family now has him under control. They keep a muzzle on him, feed him what they can, and basically try to get on with life. Hell, he doesn't stop being your son just because he's sick, now does he? Well, his neighbors (who I like to think of as the collective Neighbors Against Zombie Invasions or NAZIs for short) don't take to kindly. Throw in a pregnant girlfriend and an unscrupulous American film director and you've got the makings of a catastrophe. A hilarious, hilarious catastrophe. Horror comedies are pretty common (at least, they make up a good staple of the films I watch.) Horror comedies that are this effective both as comedies and as horror are pretty rare.And then for Holehead I got to introduce the film and Bing Bailey and sort of run the Q&A with him and star Todd Fletcher (although there were enough questions that I didn't have to do much other than point at people and let them ask.) It was a lot of fun and the film was certainly well received. I assume Bing got a lot of positive feedback from it. I know quite a few of the regulars thanked me for programming it. Maybe it's time I step up and take on a larger role in programming this festival.
And then the late show was a continuation of Holehead's last-minute program change drama. You might recall that there were last minute, unannounced changes to the Shorts programs both Saturday and Sunday. Well, Monday a feature--CELL COUNT--didn't arrive. Apparently UPS lost it somewhere, and festival head George was in Vallejo all day trying to track it down. So it's UPS's fault (I officially won't voice an opinion over whether the filmmaker should have sent the movie earlier--with a backup mailed separately--or whether the festival should have demanded such. I'll just echo that apparent proximate root cause is UPS lost it.) Anyway, the festival will continue trying to track down CELL COUNT and hopefully add a screening of it. I don't promise anything but the hope last night was to add a screening either Saturday or Sunday afternoon (since the scheduled films those days don't start until pretty late.) I will keep you all posted as soon as I know something definite.
Anyway, the replacement show started with the longish (30 minutes) short, SURVIVOR TYPE, which was one of the short films that didn't play due to technical difficulties last weekend (Big thanks to festival regular and impromptu AV geek Ira for getting it working last night!) What a cool short! Based on a Stephen King story about a surgeon who has been smuggling heroin from his hospital (in a nod to the short-lived Stephen King-produced American adaptation of Lars Von Trier's cult TV series, he works at the Kingdom Hospital.) He ends up shipwrecked on a rocky island with just a few basic supplies, 2 kilos of heroin, and his wits to survive. So he puts his surgical skills to the test in an ultimate (and ultimately unsettling) bid for survival.
And then there was the feature, CROSS BEARER. This film is proof positive that you can fill a movie with tits, gore, and depravity and it can still be boring as hell. Lesbian strippers, cocaine, an abusive boss, and one big score get sidetracked by a psychopath who spouts religion and carries a carpenter's hammer (get it? Jesus was a carpenter!) In a few brief early scenes we see that the psychopath also has long, Jesus-like hair, because maybe quoting the Bible and calling the girls "harlots" was too subtle? I just couldn't care about this at all. Actually, it's not just that I didn't care, it's that I actively hated watching this movie. I'd rather be crucified than watch it again. I guess the only saving grace is that I was planning on seeing it 11 pm Saturday at the Vortex, but now I know I can call it an early night instead.
Total Running Time: 189 minutes
My Total Minutes: 306,370