It's actually all over--not just Holehead, but the 2012 film festival schedule (for me)--except for the writing. I've got seven shows from the weekend to write up, so let's just jump right in with the three I saw last Friday.
First up was DEADBALL, a sort of follow-up to BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL (a hit from the first Another Hole in the Head in 2004.) Director Yudai Yamaguchi teams up again with Tak Sakaguchi and his character Jûbei Yakyû, the baseball prodigy with a tragic past--accidentally killing his own father with his super-powered fastball. Since his time in school in BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL, he's become a juvenile delinquent (I suppose being a 36 year old juvenile delinquent isn't much less believable than being a 28 year old high school student. Besides, he's got the boyish looks to pull it off.) Well, his baseball-related spree of destruction has led him to a prison run by a psychotic Nazi warden. Literally, swastika-wearing, goose-stepping, Japanese Nazis. And for the second time in the festival there's Nazi butt-rape. In prison, they're forced to play a psychotic game of baseball against a psychotic team of Japanese schoolgirls. But the point of the game isn't to score runs, it's to score style points with how creatively you kill your opponent. So Jûbei again has to rally his team and use his baseball superpowers to save the day. And [SPOILER ALERT!] destroy the whole country...as an agent of North Korea. [END SPOILER.] If I hadn't seen BATTLEFIELD BASEBALL, I would've said this was an insane, one-of-a-kind piece of Japanese insanity. But as it is, it's too obviously treading ground that they've tread before (even with a new Four Eyes character) and tread much better the first time.
Then I bid farewell to the Roxie (just for the rest of the festival, I will be back!) and rushed over to the Vortex Room for the next show. And that was the animated short and feature starting with the Canadian short AMAQQUT NUNAAT. A wolf hunt turns into a journey of survival in the spirit realm, with wolves in human form.
And then the feature THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE LIVING CORPSE, by Justin Paul Ritter (KATIEBIRD: CERTIFIABLE CRAZY PERSON--Holehead 2005, and A GOTHIC TALE--Dead Channels 2008.) In the most prevalent theme of the festival, this is the third feature with zombie family members (narrowly edging out Nazi butt-rape as the theme of the festival.) The dead come back to life, and of course start feasting on the brains of the living. But one is just aware enough to avoid eating his son. In fact, aware enough (and agile enough) to fight off the other zombies and save his son. So he becomes a warrior for the underworld, keeping corpses in their place (and his son safe,) while his son goes off to a boarding school for orphans where he has to contend with bullies, the undead/paranormal, and a mad scientist. Then the second half of the movie takes place 15 years later, when he has become the scientist's most valuable assistant.
There are some very good ideas in here, but ultimately I was disappointed. Not by the story so much, although the jump to 15 years in the future was awkward and felt like two different issues of a serial comic book (which it was based on, so that's understandable.) I'm afraid it was the look that didn't really work. It was made in 3-D, and unfortunately the Vortex Room just isn't set up to project 3-D, and it just doesn't look good in 2-D (and I'm a little surprised to say that, as I'm not much of a fan of 3-D.) It's just that the CG animation looks...unsophisticated...plastic, fake, etc. Skin and hair have no texture and so it looks like a mid-90's video game intro movie. It bugged me when the kid's hand-drawn sketches of his zombie father look more realistic than the rest of the movie. And I feel it wasn't a matter of insufficient resources to make it look more realistic, it felt like a stylistic choice. And I have a feeling like that style just works better in 3-D and looks bad in 2-D. So I'm hoping for a chance to see it again in 3-D and give it a second chance.
And then the late show started with the short SHACK (instead of short in the program, SHELTER. A simple screw-up of grabbing the wrong disc. Screw-ups like this have become way to common at Holehead. Of the 12 days of the festival (including opening and closing nights, with just one show each, unexpected schedule changes happened at least half of the days. Sometimes it's not their fault, but this time it was. Holehead is lucky they have a core group of fans who don't really mind this, but I'm starting to feel a bit like a battered wife here.)
Anway, SHACK. It was a cool little story of a couple on a date who take a romantic walk on the beach and end up at a lifeguard shack where he starts freaking out and acting really weird. Turns out it's for a good reason, though.
And that ended up being the lead-in to GUT, which was a good idea with uninteresting results. A horror movie about the watching of horror movies. Tom and Dan are old friends and horror movie fans. But years of the 9-to-5 grind in cubicle-land have made their lives boring. Tom at least is married, but even that's gotten kind of boring. Dan tries to snap him out of it with late night horror marathons, but Tom has to watch the latest Pixar flick with his family. Finally Dan has something that gets Tom's attention--a mysterious DVD that shows a woman bound and slit open from the belly. We're supposed to believe this is disturbingly realistic (I'm sorry, the SFX were good, but I've seen enough horror to not think it's anything other than SFX.) But Tom and Dan believe it might be a real snuff film, and...well that excited Dan, disturbs Tom, and ultimately leads them both down a dark road of paranoia. And it leads to a lot of thoughtful, frightened staring into the distance.
And that's really the problem--it's a question of pacing. Too many times I thought to myself, 'Okay, I get it. In this scene he's afraid for [himself/his wife/his friend]' and then waited for the scene to move on. Those scenes became interminable, and ruined it. I bet if I took a stopwatch and counted all the seconds that staring-into-middle-distance scenes took too long, it would take up about half the movie. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I'm also sure that if you trimmed those scenes down considerably, you'd have a much better movie. It might be a 40 minute short, but I don't mind. I like short (even long-ish short) films.
Total Running Time: 298
My Total Minutes: 307,159