Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 7

Two more last Thursday, starting with a film yours truly brought to the festival, LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS. When I saw this at Cinequest I knew it would be perfect for a Holehead audience. And judging by the comments I got afterwards, I was right. Here's what I said about it back in March:
And then the midnight movie, the horror-comedy LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS.  A couple of sisters travel to the remote vacation lodge Uncle Svetko’s All-American Family Lodge. The specialty there is Bigfoot tours, and the boyfriend of one of the girls works there as a Bigfoot. Anyway, toxic waste turns the bigfoot actors and lots of woodland critters into crazed mutants with a taste for human flesh. If only the on-site Abraham Lincoln impersonating doctor can synthesize an antidote before everyone suffers horrible, hilarious deaths. Yeah, this movie is pretty freakin’ awesome.
Wow, that's lazy fuckin' writing. Here's something lazier--I still agree with that. And it was fun introducing the film, introducing the director Matt Jackson, and running a brief Q&A after.

And then the 35 mm presentation of ALIENS. Perfect pairing, since LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS has my favorite chest-burster parody (pro-tip: chest bursting with naked lady chest = awesome!) What can I say about ALIENS? It's awesome. The print was a little scratched but the colors were beautiful (no fading to pink like the print of THE ASTROLOGER a couple of nights before.) We were warned about brittleness, but the film never broke. I was only worried about the running time, because I still had to catch a bus to BART to my car to home (and then work early the next morning.) Oh yeah, and this was all happening during the biggest storm the Bay Area has seen in 5 years. But I ran out right at the start of the credits and made it home just fine.

So...there you have it, instead of a review of the movie you get a description of my night. Whaddya want? ALIENS is a classic, LitToM I've reviewed before, and you're reading this for free. I can write whatever I damn well feel like.

Total Running Time: 234 minutes
My Total Minutes: 376,751

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 6

Two more last Wednesday.

First up was a good ol' slasher flick from Australia, CHARLIE'S FARM. Two young couples go on a camping trip, trying to find a legendary allegedly-haunted farm where a brutal slaughter took place years ago. Turns out the farmers were cannibals, the townspeople killed them, but their retarded son Charlie survived. And he's gonna hack the crap out of anyone who sets foot on his farm. Gloriously gruesome and lots of fun, and featuring a giant dick joke. My only complaint is that people died in the wrong order. Tara Reid (oh yeah, this stars Tara Reid) should've died first.

And then a classic, 35 mm presentation of POLTERGEIST. No review needed. It's a god-damned classic, and still enjoyable today. Awesome.

Total Running Time: 202 minutes
My Total Minutes: 376,518

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 5

Two more last Tuesday, including the first 35 mm presentation in the festival.

But first, SUBURBAN GOTHIC, the story of wise-cracking Raymond, who escaped his stupid town full of dumb jock bullies and got himself an MBA (at his parents' insistence.) Now he's back home because he can't find a job in upper management right out of school. My god, the way I just described that he seems like such an unlikable character, but the way Matthew Gray Gubler plays him he isn't. He's immensely likable, even admirable in a kind of wish-I-could-coast-through-life-because-sometimes-the-effort-I-put-into-my-job-seems-crazy way. Well, while he's dealing with his doting but overbearing mother, and asshole jock father, he starts having some supernatural visions that he hasn't experienced since he was a child. So his new friend, badass bartender Becca helps him kick some supernatural butt. And it's a lot of fun.

And then a wonderful oddity, the 35 mm presentation of THE ASTROLOGER. A recently unearthed oddity from 1975, the making and discovery of this film could be a crazy documentary in and of itself (short version, it was found in the vault of an old drive-in theater.) The only film ever made by Craig Denney (there's at least one conspiracy theory that he faked his own death,) he introduces his character as a small boy pickpocketing a woman at a carnival. Soon, all grown up, he's the fortune-telling sideshow of the carnival. And then he's a jewel thief, a movie and TV star, a government consultant, and a giant asshole. It's an understatement to say you never know what will happen next in the movie. At one moment all the women in a restaurant will remove their tops. At another a woman will yell a racial slur and kill someone. And it assumes you have a working knowledge of Astrology and not only know the difference between sidereal and tropical astrology, but have a strong opinion of which one is right (sidereal, of course!) This is not a movie you watch, process, and understand, this is a movie you witness in a mix of horror and confusion, experience, and marvel at (sometimes the marvel being "what they heck were they doing making this movie?") But what can you expect from a movie that considers Long Beach a mesmerizing location?

Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 376,316

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 4

Into the 2-movies-a-night weeklong grind part of the festival. Here's last Monday.

First up was BLOOD RIDERS: THE DEVIL RIDES WITH US. A bunch of kids steal a car. Which is already not very smart, but when they find a dead body in the trunk, the night is going to go to hell quickly. This is a low-budget flick out of Canada, self-financed with a budget of about $14,000 (Canadian, so what, $5 American?) And for the first part it looks every bit like a low-budget (i.e., low-talent) horror flick. Then they get to the part where they have to steal Hitler's mustache from the world's most polite neo-Nazi, and I was hooked. The comedy was great, and I loved how I really never knew what was going to happen next. Director Finnish-Canadian director Lari Teräs has some pretty crazy ideas, and has been hanging around for the rest of the festival. He said in the Q&A that he wants his next budget to be bigger and so he wants someone else to finance. Please, someone else do it (I can't.) I want to see what this crazy fucker does next.

And then there was ANOTHER. A horror flick trying desperately to be high art, about a family tradition of Satanic possession. It had the style and story of a good 25 minute short. Unfortunately it was 74 minutes long. And not just through padding scenes, but from playing the whole damn thing in slow-motion. If the idea was to create an effect that would lull people to sleep, congratulations, it worked!

Total Running Time: 145 minutes
My Total Minutes: 376,148

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 3

Well, it's been a long week at work, so I've fallen a week behind on my blog. Here's from last Sunday.

Shorts Block 4:
THE CONFESSIONAL: A priest is tormented by a series of the most horrific confessions ever.
HUSH: A little girl, a babysitter, and an evil haunting. Hopefully (according to the credits) soon to be expanded into a feature film. The short scene was pretty awesome, so I'd love to see that worked into a feature.
ENCEINTE: A trapped woman, being forced to bear a child for what a creepy cult leader calls the Son of God. A great movie about a woman's struggle to control her own body. And it ends, for some reason, in the Niles district of Fremont. to see a place where I hang out frequently featured in a movie.
A GIRL, A CAT, A BOMB: That bomb would be a mushroom cloud. So the girl stays in for days with her cat, running out of food and going a little crazy. Audience speculation afterwards was that there's no way she could've survived the nuclear blast, so that's all in her head and it's really a story of agoraphobia. Either way, it's pretty cool.
THE WRONG PRIEST: Discipline, Catholic school style. When a smart-aleck student makes jokes about how the priest just wants to molest him, he soon finds out he's dealing with the wrong priest.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING THAT FOR?: POV short of a a guy wandering around, filming random people doing strange things. The question could equally be asked of the guy behind the camera.

Shorts Block 5:
ROTA: Entertainment in a world of ultimate inequality. Die for my amusement, peasants!
SLUT: A plain, awkward girl is jealous of the beautiful, popular slut. But things might turn around when she meets a mysterious stranger who likes her innocence. Or things might get really dangerous. As long as grandma still gets to watch TV, it'll all be fine.
FAT RABBIT: Tease, there's no rabbit in here at all! But it's still a cool story of people trying to ascend to heaven by growing weird balloon animals to take them away.
SKIN: Okay, to be honest, I know some of the films in this block didn't arrive. I can't remember if this was one of them. But I just watched it on Vimeo, and it's pretty great.
ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: So the replacement film was this, a great film that the festival programmers really wanted to play, but couldn't fit in because of its 40 minute running time. A group of jaded horror fans go to the cheesiest, fakest haunted house in Atlanta. But when a plague from the CDC unleashes a zombie horde, the haunted house becomes real. I love the comedy they got out of the 'Oh yeah! It's a real zombie apocalypse' incredulity of the characters, and the excellent high-energy feel. This always should've been in the festival to begin with.

Shorts Block 6:
EARLY TO RISE: An alarm clock with sweet, soothing, female voice doesn't like being ignored. Just like a real woman.
SAY WHAT!?: Just put down the damn phone, look up from your small, self-involved life, and fight the zombies already
CAROLINA PARAKEET; A kind old man, who has seen a lot in his days, helps a young couple in a zombie apocalypse. Well done, with great acting.
OPEN HOUSE: A single father and his two kids move into an old house. When the kids are drawn to the old toys (and tarot cards) in the attic, the place is obviously haunted. Control is lost pretty quickly, and havoc ensues.
THE WORKING DEAD: Workplace harassment is bad enough. But when the harasser turns into a zombie...well, then you actually have good reason to kill him.

Then on to the features, starting with R-100, which has been my favorite of the festival. From Hitoshi Matsumoto (BIG MAN JAPAN) it's a story of a man who joins a unique club. It's an S&M club, but the twist is that the dominatrices don't just work on-site. They will appear to him at any moment throughout the day, for the course of a one-year subscription, and humiliate and beat him whenever. Not knowing when it will happen is key to the enjoyment. And for the first half of the movie, everything seems to be going fine, and he's having a great time. And then we actually get the title, and things get weird(er.) There are interludes where studio executives talk about how confusing it is. The 100-year old director insists on his vision and that no one can understand it until they're 100 (the title is the fictitious rating of the film, Restricted for anyone under 100.) The film story turns dark, as the man's job and family are threatened. And when he fights back he unleashes the wrath of an army of ninja dominatrices and the giant boss lady who will freakin' destroy him. It's all about pleasure, at any cost.

And speaking about pleasure at any cost, the final film of the night, LIMO RIDE was supposed to be that. A documentary recreation of a legendary drunk day and night. Starting with a polar bear swim on New Year's day in Mobile, Alabama. Since they're gonna be drunk as hell, they try to do the responsible-ish thing and rent a limo. They still get drunk, get naked, get into fights, get a phone stolen, piss off the limo driver, and get abandoned on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It's all narrated by the people who actually lived it. And...if you like listening to drunks tell their drunken adventure stories, I think it could be fun. As it is, I prefer to be the drunk telling the story (ask me about the infamous Burning Man asshole poet sometime.) But I can appreciate a good drunk story, if it has a good payoff. The trouble is, this didn't. It's just everyone survives and is pissed off in the end. There's even an opportunity for a good ending, but I won't spoil it.

Ah hell, you can't spoil shit. So one of the guys loses his cell phone at a bar, during a fight with a giant asshole. Well, while they're lost on the dirt road, this asshole has been calling everyone in the cell phone address book and talking shit to them, calling them names, telling them their friend is dead, whatever. So when this guy finally gets home people are telling him about it, and he's pissed. So he calls his cell phone and yells at the guy. Now it would've been great if, as tired, hungover, and pissed off they all were, they had gotten together, headed back to the bar, and kicked the shit out of that asshole. But instead he calls the phone company and cancels his phone. And a couple of hours later the harassing phone calls stop and he goes to sleep. The end. What a payoff, right?!

I know, it's what really happened, that doesn't mean I can't wish it had a better payoff.

Total Running Time: 415 minutes
My Total Minutes: 376,003

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 2

Holehead continued on Saturday, so let's jump right in to the big 5 program day. And this year, Holehead is packed with shorts.

Shorts Program 1:
GHOST LIGHT: A mystery dinner off route 66 in the middle of nowhere is the setting for odd alien events with a gruff father and a troubled son.
HOUSE CALL: A man interrupts a lonely dentist's night, insisting he pull his cuspids before a horrible transformation is complete.
MEET YOUR MAKER: What if the Higgs boson was discovered in the 50s? Or at least in a cheesy 50s sci-fi film? Pretty cool. And for the record, in regards to the theological question, the reason the Higgs is called the "God particle" is because the publisher wouldn't let them call it the "Goddamn particle."
LOVING MYSELF: This caused some controversy, as people thought a humorous music video about masturbation wasn't really right for Holehead--a sci-fi/fantasy/horror festival. Personally, I don't care about that, and I practically am the hairy soul man who stars in this.
EVIL TWIN: Technology to jump through time and space propels this cool sci-fi fight flick everywhere (and when.)

Shorts Program 2:
BASH: A crime-and-revenge story, a student film (that shows the rough edges of the learning process.) Bash, along with his friend cutthroat, seeks revenge on the crime boss who just ruined his life--killed his parents, kidnapped his sister, and almost killed him.
KILLER KART: A hilarious film (and another student film) about the difficulty of being a night-shift manager of a supermarket when the shopping carts finally rise up and attack people.
MR. DENTONN: A super-stylish Spanish film about the dangerous and ghostly Mr. Dentonn. Very cool.
REUNION: Revenge in the Australian crime world. Cool.

Shorts Program 3:
DOG CATCHERS: Well, animal control. But in the post-zombie-apocalypse world, their skills have been put to better use. A funny little flick about the tedium of a job you don't really like.
KIBBLES N' HITS: A newlywed couple moves into an apartment to find their German neighbor has a very strange, deadly business. A morality tale about not getting involved where you don't belong. Ha! Just kidding, it's a sick little flick about artisan beef jerky.
CASSANDRA: A medieval adventure with thieves vs. priests fighting over a valuable artifact.
INVITATION: Due to a programming glitch (a couple of shorts didn't arrive on time) this was a last second replacement. And it was pretty darn good. A woman's boyfriend has just passed away (after a big fight, so she has some guilt issues.) Her neighbor invites her in to talk, but she refuses. She starts having migraines, hears a dripping faucet all the time, and is kind of going mad. Until she finally accepts the invitation, and there's the big reveal, which was a good and gruesome surprise.
SENSITIVE 70'S TURTLENECK TOUGH GUYS: A cool, funny flick about...well, exactly as the title says, sensitive 70's tough guys in turtlenecks. They sit in a bar, talking about their feelings, while flashbacks show the awesome fights they got into earlier in the week. Pretty awesome, and may become a feature film or web series or something soon.

And then the night time on the weekends is feature film time, starting with CALL GIRL OF CTHULU. Now that sounds like the movie was made entirely for that pun. But it's's made for tons of Lovecraftian puns. Like a condom brand called "The Deep Ones" made by Love Crafts. Or a Chinese Restaurant called "Dagon Wok." Oh, and the movie is also a blatant excuse to show lots of titties, so I liked that. And, actually, the story was pretty cool. A Cthulu cult is opening a door so that Cthulu can impregnate his chosen vessel (a call girl with a Cthulu shaped birthmark on her butt) and bring about the end of the world. A lonely graphic artist gets caught up in all of this, and eventually has to save the world, in between ridiculously overused editing jokes. Pretty damn funny.

And finally, we ended the night with CHRYSALIS, a deliberately paced zombie-apocalypse film. Josh and Penelope have been together since they were kids. Their world is a barren wasteland, this is a second-generation zombie apocalypse story. They go days or weeks without seeing anyone, just surviving. Their solitude is broken when they meet Abira, a woman who tells them of a meeting place of survivors. They make their way there slowly, while the zombie attacks seem to be increasing. Until the final act, the film is pretty light on action, but does well in building characters, playing with the balance of trust and suspicion, and creating an eerie, desolate, destroyed world.

Total Running Time: 426 minutes
My Total Minutes: 375,588

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jason goes to Holehead--Opening Night

Well, this is kind of a surprise. I'm always scared on the opening night of Another Hole in the Head, but not for the right reasons. I'm scared that there will be technical glitches or worse--the films will suck. Well everything went off without a hitch and all three films were above average (I know, I know, I mean they're above the average quality of films in the past several Holeheads. Usually the only ones I can count on are the one or two that I've chosen. But here's hoping the rest of the festival is as good as opening night.)

BLOODY KNUCKLES kicked off the fest with some good old hilarious offensiveness. Our hero is Travis, writer of pulp comic Vulgarian Invasion, who takes offensive aim at anything and everything in our culture. Sort of an underground anti-censorship crusader, and this movie totally embraces that ethos. Unfortunately, he pisses of the wrong crime lord and gets his drawing hand cut off. He wallows in depression, thinking his life is over, until just the right combination of rat poison and vomit brings his hand back to life. And his hand wants revenge, and wants his help. It's a bit slow in the middle when the hand is tormenting him into action. We all want to see the bloody revenge, not a guy fighting with his own hand. But heck, story and pacing aren't this film's strong suits. It's the go-anywhere, fuck censorship (especially self-censorship) attitude that makes this so awesome. Also "Guliani" being used as a safeword, and a docking joke. Oh, and Homo Dynamous needs his own spin-off movie.

Next up was AFTERIMAGES, from the team that made HAUNTED CHANGI (Holehead 2011.) A group of film students are studying in Singapore. They spend a break from their studies (during which they're supposed to complete their film projects) in a lavish home where they celebrate "ghost month." This is when they practice the Chinese/Singaporean (I don't know how far through Asia this custom spreads) of giving offerings to their ancestors by burning paper representations of items which they will receive in the after-world. Ghost money is a favorite, but people also burn paper cars, houses, clothes, etc. When one of them burns a camera, the next morning five slightly singed photographs are in the ashes of the fire. This piques their interest, so they burn a film camera--and are rewarded with a roll of 16 mm film. This is the framing device for a pretty clever horror anthology, all variations on a ghost theme, and all playing with different movie formats--16 mm, 35 mm, flash card, VHS, etc. That was my favorite part, actually, the playing with different formats (although it bugged me that the film students thought VHS hadn't been big since the 70s. Screw you guys, it was bigger in the 80s and continued well into the 90s!) And the shorts were all very well done, very effective, and the framing device had a satisfying payoff. Very well done.

And finally, I ended the night with BLOOD PUNCH, which was one of two films I brought to Holehead (the other being LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS, playing next Thursday.) Here's what I wrote about it back when I saw it at Cinequest:
Milton wakes up with a hangover in a cabin. He throws up, finds a video screen with a message imploring him to watch, and sees a video of himself cutting two of his fingers off. This is especially odd because his fingers are completely intact this morning. Flashback to one day previous (give or take) and we learn that he’s a meth cook. And we meet the wild woman who breaks him out of rehab for one epic cook that will leave him set for life. They just have to beware of the third in their trio, her psychotic boyfriend. A little drinking, a little peyote-laced meth, a wild night…and that’s where Milton wakes up. Kinda. I’m dancing around the huge spoiler here, and everyone ends up describing the film as ‘XXXXXXXXX XXX crossed with…something violent and insane.’ Needless to say, the classic noir triangle of bad girl, worse ex, and good guy gets spun super-hard here, with a near-exhaustive list of kills (you know the old adage that if a gun is seen in act 1 it must be used by act 3? Well, what if a cabin full of weapons is seen in act 1?) despite a surprisingly small cast list. This was just one beautiful, bloody mind-fuck.
Ha! I love how I danced around the spoiler there. I also told the audience while introducing film that this has what I believe is the highest ratio of body-count to cast members. Nobody challenged that assertion afterwards (and more importantly, lots of people thanked me for bringing such an awesome movie to the festival. So that was a great way to finish the night.)

Total Running Time: 281 minutes
My Total Minutes: 375,163

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum and enters THE LOST WORLD

First, of course, a couple of shorts.

DOUGH AND DYNAMITE (1914): Charlie Chaplin in one of his Keystone shorts. Not so much of a story as an excuse to through dough, flour, etc. at everyone in a bakery. So, of course, it was very funny.

THE SPORTSMAN (1921): Larry Semon stars, leading to a rather interesting label on the film reel. And it's a pretty funny film where he plays a hunter (a sportsman, duh!) who gets into all sorts of wacky hijinx crossing the local lord.

Then intermission, and on to one of my favorite films.

THE LOST WORLD (1925): Starring Wallace Beery, but especially starring Willis O'brien stop-motion effects (the first time stop-motion animation was used in a feature length film.)

When people ask me why I care about silent films, this is a big reason. Because this film's influence can still be seen today. Have you seen the trailer for the new JURASSIC WORLD? Doesn't it look awesome!? Remember how the second JURASSIC PARK movie was called THE LOST WORLD? You better believe Spielberg was inspired by this silent film to create his own dinosaurs.

Oh, but that's not all. Willis O'brien followed this up with a little film called KING KONG. You better believe that inspired a lot of filmmakers, most notably Peter Jackson. Maybe you loved the LORD OF THE RINGS movies like I did (maybe you also think the HOBBIT films are getting to be a bit much, but that's a different question.) And I guarantee you his movies have inspired kids who will become the master filmmakers who blow your mind 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now.

Oh, and Willis O'brien mentored Ray Harryhausen, who became the master of stop-motion animation. And it can all trace back to THE LOST WORLD.

Oh, do you like Pixar films? Perhaps you recognize the influence on UP (which kind of makes me wish UP had actually been an unofficial sequel to THE LOST WORLD and they found dinosaurs instead of weird looking birds there.) This is not a coincidence, Pixar luminaries have spoken about how they studied silent film to learn how to tell the story of WALL-E, where large stretches have no dialogue.

So this is why silent films are so great, and so important. They're the start of a century-long conversation on film, with influence that stretches beyond generations and will continue as long as film does (and maybe even carry over into whatever medium is next.)

Oh, and do you want to know what the film is actually about? I think I've written about it before.

Total Running Time: 101 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,882

Jason watches ST. VINCENT

Catching up on a couple of films from last weekend, so I can start my Holehead coverage.

ST. VINCENT struck me as a pretty good movie with great acting, especially from Bill Murray as the titular old curmudgeon and newcomer child actor Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver, the kid he ends up babysitting. Also a fine turn by Melissa McCarthy as Oliver's overstressed mother, but a somewhat embarrassing turn from Naomi Watts as the pregnant Russian prostitute who Vincent fancies.

Then this movie grew on me as I thought about it more. At fist it seems like an old-curmudgeon-meets-sweet-kid-and-becomes-a-nice-guy film. And it follows a lot of those cliches. He helps out the kid (in questionable ways, like at the racetrack and in a bar,) teaches him to stand up to bullies, and they're all a big family in the end. But the key is that Vincent never becomes a nice guy. In many ways he was a nice guy--a saint, even--before they met. He was a war hero. He still takes care of his ailing wife, spending money he doesn't have to keep her in the nicest nursing home and does her laundry every week, even though she doesn't recognize him anymore. He's not a curmudgeon from choice, he's a curmudgeon who has had the life nearly beaten out of him, but still persists. The grand transition in the movie isn't in the title character, it's in how everyone sees him--and therefore it's in the audience. And that's a pretty awesome transition.

Of course, it was easy for me because I already like old curmudgeons and am looking forward to being one some day.

Running Time: 102 minutes
My Total Minutes: 374,781