Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 10

It was a long, long day last Saturday. 7 shows, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

We started with the shorts program Adventures in Time and Space. Two of my favorite dimensions.
ALEKTO: Julia Forward from Earth finds out that the Alekto corporation is more than a multi-national insurance company, when she wakes up on a distant world and the locals tell her the truth.
ATTRACTIVE FORCE: An excellent Russian animation. A cosmonaut crash-lands on a planet, where local shadow creatures help him fix his ship. They're very friendly, as long as you don't try to take their beautiful sparkling jewels.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE PASSENGER: Every time our hero falls asleep, he wakes up in a slightly different universe. Something subtly changes, but those changes multiply over time to make his many lives very different--like choosing beer or pot, or maybe even bigger differences.
ENTROPIC: A scientist has come up with the perfect way to find the meaning of the universe--create a simulated universe, and analyze the meaning of that. It's not as easy as you'd think.
INFINITY: A cool time-travel mindbender, as an investor bullies a scientist to perfect her time travel device. Which leads to the question--with time travel, can you die an infinite number of times?
LONG TIME CALLER: A man can call himself in the past or in the future, to try to make sense of his life. But future self can't tell past self anything, or it will fuck everything up. Very funny.
THE QUESTION: A cool animation that ponders the great question of life out there in the universe. And more importantly, who's asking?
SPUTNIK: From Spain, so the American characters don't quite speak right, and I assume the same for the Russian characters. It imagines a different first man in space, Nikolay. He's just not the first person to return, since an accident makes landing impossible. As he's supposed to initiate the sequence to crash land (rather than become the first corpse in space and a great national embarrassment) he makes contact...with Sarah Sullivan of Los Angeles. A little girl confined to a wheelchair but dreaming of space. He pretends to be a Martian, and they become close friends in his final hours before his oxygen runs out. Despite what I said about the awkward accents, it's an amazing, beautiful, touching movie.
THEREFORE I AM: A man goes back in time to try to convince his younger self to take action and avoid a tragedy. He does this many, many, many times, with different branching results. But always leading to him having to go back in time and warn himself.

Next up was more shorts, Androids, AI's, and Other Good Neighbors.
APPLE: An android malfunctions, killing his owner. But only because his owner was malfunctioning and abusing his daughter. And the daughter was a friend--she gave the android an apple.
CAPACITY: A farmer invents a robot to carry on his work after he's gone.
ELF: From South Africa, an android learns about being human. Especially, she wants to feel the all the feels.
QUBITPUNK: A hacker girl delivers pizza--and vengeance against the punks who stole her cubes and killed her father.
ROCOCO NEURON: Rococo and Mori-maaa develop apps--virtual reality cosmetic surgery and such. Mori-maaa's latest is a bit strange. It creates an Arumata--an alter-ego. A vulgar man who does all the things that Rococo can't. And a battle of wits ensues over control. Very inventive.
THE SHAMAN: A scene from a future battle. A Shaman, using the power of music and...I don't know, astral projection? Goes into a netherworld trying to convert a battle colossus to his side. You know, it's a very well realized scene, that would be cool in a movie that expands on this universe more. I like story.
STREAM OF DOUBTS: Very inventive. A character in a streaming video makes a call to a crisis worker. You see, as a character in a streaming video, she's afraid that she doesn't actually exist. Nice little mind-bender.
GIFT OF LIFE: The human-android war has begun, and two androids are on the run seeking the sanctuary where they can ride it out until there's peace. But one escaped from the factory, and isn't quite all put together yet. Nevertheless, he appreciates his gift of life.

Next up, more shorts! Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales
BETA PERSEI: At the planetarium, the legend of Perseus and Medusa lives on. Or at least in the head of one guy.
THE BUNNY MAN: Don't go out at night, or the Bunny Man will get you, in this bit of rural horror. Pretty cool, but needs more bunny. Then again, that's just me. I think every movie needs more bunny (except one.)
A HOUSE OF ILL FAME: A legendary house, previously a brothel, where the owner froze to death. Now it's haunted, as an Okie during the Great Depression is about to find out.
LAMP: A woman rubs a tiny lamp, and immediately a genie is at her door. She gets three wishes, but instead they spend a little time bonding and becoming friends.
LEGEND OF DARK RIDER: The king's men, on the northern outposts, looking for the legendary Dark Rider. Nobody who sees him lives. But he's just a legend, so instead they'll spend their time bossing around the locals in the tavern. Cool scene, wish I could see the rest of the story. I like story.
MADRE DE DIOS: A gory little movie about a woman being turned into a flesh-and-blood icon.
QUENOTTES (PEARLIES): From Luxembourg, a cute little story about a mouse--not a tooth fairy--who steals teeth. Just don't lose them. That mouse can get vicious.
WOLF OF VENGEANCE: From Japan, some stylish sword-fighting as a man known as The Wolf kills everybody. Then more come. Cool scene, wish I could see the rest of the story. I like story.

And then up next, guess what? Even more shorts! The Bold, The Beautiful, and The Bizarre.
ABSENCE: 15 goddamn minutes of a lady in a bathtub. I think it's supposed to symbolize birth. And then after dumping her out, it catches on fire.
ANIMA RADIX: Dark, ghostly animation. Very evocative.
AYMARA: A strange little story, that creates an other-worldy look by shooting in infrared black-and-white.
BØLGE: A funny little animation about a brain-damaged box who is almost tricked by an old friend into helping out an anarchist collective.
DECISION: The anxiety of choice. Do you go with the black and white? Or the white and black?
DOGSTEIN:SUPER SCIENCE ADVENTURE: A dog is taught to play catch with a disk. He loves it. This skill will come in handy.
FIST BIRD FLIES THE GAUNTLET: The most literal interpretation of "hand-made animation" I've ever seen.
GINGER AND SNAPPER: In the zombie apocalypse, Ginger survived by going to high ground. But now she's lonely. Not even zombies have come by in days. So when one is trapped in her fence, she has a new friend. Turns out zombies get lonely ,too.
MY QUEEN: The memories of an old house, as layers are stripped away.
NEMESIS: A bounty hunter, on a mission, but always checks in with his wife. She's his reason to live.
THE PAST INSIDE THE PRESENT: A freaky little story of a couple reliving their old memories. Like literally their heads become video input panels and they plug into old VHS tapes of their life together. Hopefully that will rekindle a spark.
RIPTIDE RHAPSODY: A cool little paper puppet stop-motion animation of a band of furries swept up in a flood. Cool music, too (the project started out as a music video for the band, but took on a life of it's own, and several years later, here it is.)
SUBMERGENCE: A woman looks at her fish bowl, while remembering a time when water did something awful to her.
SUFFER NOT A WITCH: Hand-drawn animation of superstition and violence.
WORLD DOMINATION: A sketch animation of a mad scientist and his plan to conquer the world with an army of cloned mammoths. Not as easy as it sounds.
ROGER BALLEN'S THEATRE OF APPARITIONS: A beautifully freaky spectacle of dreams, violence, sex, and insanity. Might actually be my favorite of the whole program.

And then we got into the feature film part of the day, starting with LET HER OUT. 23 years ago, a woman was raped in the Gemini Hotel. When she became pregnant, she decided to end her life and her fetus's life, with a pair of scissors to the belly. She died, but her baby lived. Now that baby, Helen, is a bike courier in Toronto. One night she is struck by a car. She survives with just a broken arm. But then some strange things start happening. She has blackouts where she's been doing some strange things. Turns out, she has a growth in her head. Not a tumor, but her twin sister who was absorbed into her in the womb. And she's coming out, and planning to take over her life. And she's not a kind person. There's a lot to like about this very well made movie, but there were also a lot of little moments that just kind of insulted the audience's intelligence. Little clichés, like "we have to go back to where it all began" that just took me out of the movie. Don't get me wrong, it's like 90% great. Which means it's not consistently bad enough to enjoy as a bad movie. But it's also not consistently good enough for me to take seriously. But it's close enough for me to wan to see what director Cody Calahan does next.

And then to Korea for some animated re-animated in SEOUL STATION. I haven't seen TRAIN TO BUSAN (out in theaters now) but this is an animated companion piece to it. An old man, bleeding from the neck, wanders through the city and lies down in the train station. Lots of homeless there. Soon, a zombie outbreak. Meanwhile a teen runaway is living with her boyfriend, but is mad that he tried to sell her into prostitution. After all, she's done it before, she just doesn't want to do it again. As the zombie outbreak starts, she's trapped in the station, while her boyfriend is accosted by her father, who found her picture online. There's some sharp social commentary, which I'm sure if I were Korean I would get more out of. But even I can recognize the significance when the authorities can't tell the difference between zombies and homeless. It's an exciting, sometimes terrifying story. And that's the most important part. I might have mentioned before that I like story. This has a hell of a story, with action and great plot twists that kept me engaged the whole way through. It just never freakin' lets up.

And finally, we ended the night with TOKYO GRAND GUIGNOL, an anthology of weird, gory stuff going on in Tokyo. From a man who can travel back in time via murder, to a woman haunted by her mirror self, to shadows that hide, to an extremely loyal BDSM werewolf (featuring, I believe, the first werewolf transition scene that includes the dick.) Crazy, violent fun in the night in Tokyo. Gotta love it.

And that was the end of the night. And the end of a very long day. Thank goodness for the Daylight Savings Time transition. I really needed that extra hour.

Total Running Time: 679 minutes
My Total Minutes: 436,589

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 9

Three films last Friday night.

First up was ANOTHER EVIL, an excellently done, clever combination of horror and comedy, in which neither one is sacrificed for the sake of the other. Dan and his family are in their vacation home, when some strange things happen. They bring in a paranormal expert, who concludes there are 2 ghosts in their house, but they're basically harmless. So that's cool. Except the father wants a second opinion. And this second, industrial grade exorcist, concludes that they are actually evil, and determined. So the (the exorcist and Dam) spend a week up there bonding, catching ghosts, getting drunk (puts him in more childlike state to sense ghosts) and basically having a good ol' guys' time up there. But Dan didn't tell his wife and son that he got a second exorcist and if he doesn't finish by the time they come visit for the weekend, things are gonna get awkward. Especially when the exorcist concludes it's not the house that's haunted, it's the family. Just a superb mix of dry comedy and genuinely frightening moments.

And then the found-footage anthology, THE DARK TAPES. A clever mix of styles exploring scientific demon hunting (with a Caltech physics shout-out!) the hunters becoming hunted, cam girls and horny guys, revenge, demons, and crazy time dilations. Of course, I'm partial to the one with the Caltech physicist (which is also the one that sort of frames everything,) but they're all excellently done, effective, scary, and funny. Even if the found-footage sub-genre is kind of played out, THE DARK TAPES shows there's still some life in it.

And finally, a few brave souls stuck around for the late-late screening of ATMO HORRORX. Even fewer made it to the ending. Just weirdness for the sake of weirdness, featuring a guy with a half-dozen long balloons sprouting out of his crotch and who makes people disappear by clapping them on the side of the head with shoes. One of my new fears is that some day director Pat Tremblay will actually make a worthwhile movie. Because then people will look back at this early work and decide it's genius. It's like watching David Cronenberg's early student films (even down to the Canadian-ness.) They're unwatchable messes, but because he later became David Cronenberg, people watch them and decide they're genius. I hope to hell the same doesn't happen here. But I want to end this on a kind note, so I'll just's not STRUGGLED REAGANS.

Total Running Time: 296 minutes
My Total Minutes: 435,891

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 8

Two shows on Thursday, starting with the shorts Neo-noir is the New Black (get it? It's a French/English pun.)
BAD HABITS: A librarian discovers a knife, and a book about killing bad habits. It gets a little too literal.
HEART ROCK AND DOLLARS: Love, betrayal, gangsters, and poison in gloomy Lebanon.
HOLE: A woman moves into a new apartment, and finds a hole in the wall where she can spy on her neighbor. That might not be a great idea.
THE SHADOW HOURS: Twin private eyes, with an odd condition. Only one of them can be awake at a time. So one takes the day shift, one takes the night shift. But when one falls in love and she wants a relationship that can last 24 hours a day, things get pretty tense.
SWING SHIFT: A film that would've been equally at home in the Lovecraft shorts program. A noir-ish dame is the night guardian against creatures from beyond. Very funny mix of genres.
THE WHISKEY TALKING: The highlight of the program. A recovering alcoholic is poisoned, and there's no antidote. But he can counteract the poison by being drunk. So a wasted man and his nearly-as-drunk sidekick go on an adventure to find his murderer. What kind of man is he? 100 proof.
THE WRITER: From Italy, a beautiful, stylish thriller of cursed writer.

And then for a bit of sci-fi with VIRTUAL REVOLUTION. It's 2047, and in this dystopian future most of the people spend almost all their time online. Can you imagine that? There's a small population of unconnected, and also a handful of hybrids--people who can actually log off once in a while and interact in the real world for just a bit before heading back into the virtual world. One of those hybrids is the hero, a private bounty hunter working for the virtual gaming corporations. Seems there's some terrorists--necromancers who are killing connected via a virus that fries their brain through the headset. The fake excitement of the virtual world is beautifully contrasted with the brutal punishment of the real world, and it's provocative how the movie delves into the blurring of the worlds. In an unsurprising twist, the terrorists are really (maybe?) a team of freedom fighters--but giving people freedom by forcing them out of what they've already chosen they want. What I found most intriguing is how it isn't black and white about virtual reality being bad and real reality being the right way to go. I don't know how old director Guy-Roger Duvert is, but I'm going to guess he would count as a "millennial." And I would consider this the first millennial sci-fi dystopian film about virtual reality, and how in choosing between real and virtual, virtual is a completely legitimate choice. After all, if experience is all just chemical reactions in our brains, who cares what triggers them?

Total Running Time: 179 minutes
My Total Minutes: 435,596

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 7

Two more movies last Wednesday night, starting with Sophia Takal's ALWAYS SHINE. As a fan of Sophia Takal's work--mostly familiar with her acting work--I'm...let's say "keenly aware" of how often she is naked on screen. So the significance isn't lost on me when she opens the movie with an actress (Beth, played by Caitlin FitzGerald) auditioning for a part that requires extensive nudity, and they want to see that in the audition. But rather than showing it, Takal focuses on her face and her discomfort in the moment. Imagine that--a nude scene that shows female emotions instead of tits. This immediately lets the audience know this will be a movie told from a female perspective, not the male gaze. So I'll admit straight out that as a man some things will go right over my head. Anyway, Beth is an up-and-coming star of shitty, exploitative horror films she doesn't even want to be in. In the second scene, we see her best friend Anna (Mackenzie Davis) in what appears to be an audition for the role of "woman who is being cheated by her mechanic and is pissed about it." Until there's a wide shot and we realize she's actually at the mechanic. Anna is the more aggressive of the friends, but that hasn't helped her acting career. To reconnect, they take a trip to Big Sur for some best-friends girl time. But jealousies take hold, it seems Beth is so meek she hasn't even taken a chance at the steps she promised Anna she'd take to help her career (e.g., show her acting reel to a producer.) So there's an altercation, and then...things get strange. I don't want to spoil it more. But I will say there was much discussion amongst the festival regulars about what exactly happened there. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Then the late show was on glorious 35 mm film, and started with the projectionist's stash of secret bonus shorts. This included a timely trailer for THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. And the highlight was a film called THE CREDITORS which a short online search reveals...nothing. It looked like it was from the 50s or 60s and was just a long, opening credit sequence. That's the whole joke. Stock footage and increasingly ludicrous credits. Like a previous generation's TOO MANY COOKS.

Anyway, that was the lead-in to the classic, PAN'S LABYRINTH. Still a fantastic movie. I remember seeing it back in 2007, and after all the trailers showing the amazing monsters, I was surprised how much of it was about fascist Spain, and how the fantasy elements were about escaping from that. But rewatching it now, I'm impressed at how well the two were integrated and the seamless transitions. Still a truly amazing movie.

Total Running Time: 203 minutes
My Total Minutes: 435,416

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 6

I skipped day 5. The movies--KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE and HALLOWEEN 3: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH--I had seen several times before.

First up was an excellent, slow-burn drama THE UNSEEN. Bob is struggling. Struggling to keep his hours at the lumber mill. Struggling in his barely-existent relationship with his ex-wife and daughter. Struggling to keep it all together--literally. See, Bob is slowly turning invisible, piece by piece. It's a story of the difficulty of being there for people when you're not entirely there yourself. And when his ex-wife calls him about trouble with their daughter, he has to go. But he's also got to run some errand for a shady character who has got him in a bind. The story develops at its own deliberate pace, and is definitely more character driven than gimmick-driven. Especially when it turns out his condition might be hereditary. And excellent surprise of the festival.

Then the shorts program At the Movies of Madness. Lovecraftian overload!
Note: due to a technical glitch, only half of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS played. Which was a shame, it was looking pretty good.
BEYOND THE REACH OF STARS: A man summons some mysterious beings. With funny results.
THE CALL OF CHARLIE: Don't you hate it when you set up a date between your two friends (one of whom is a tentacle-faced monster) and some other friends stop by unannounced and ruin everything? Very funny.
AN ELDRITCH PLACE: From Belgium. The horrors of being a night watchman.
HARBINGER: A POV nightmare through an old farmhouse that contains a portal to a dangerous world.
THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK: A clay-mation adaptation of Lovecraft's story of an explorer who discovers a "Trapezohedron" which summons a being from across time and space.
HPL INSURANCE: An insurance policy against indescribable terrors from other dimensions.
HYPNOS: A man, the planet he loves, and space monster who will destroy them. Visually amazing.
THE MUSIC OF ERICH ZANN: An animated story. As a young man, our narrator befriended a strange, reclusive violinist named Erich Zann. As an older man, he can't find Erich Zann, or the street they used to live on, or anyone who has ever heard of him.
THE OTHER GODS: Partially animated. A wizard finds a way to witness the dancing of the gods on top of their mountain. But beware, they don't dance for themselves, they dance for the other gods.
THE PACKAGE: A man receives a package containing the diary of his adventuring father. A mystery awaits, if he chooses to pursue it. Or he could just keep drinking by the fire.
POETRY AND THE GODS: The right poems will open the right portals and you can meet the gods.
STRANGE AEONS: Based on "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." I confess, it was late at night, I was tired, and it was kind of a long-ish short (30 minutes) so I kind of dozed off. But the parts where I was awake were good.
ZERCH: A gay love story of devotion, sacrifice, and metamorphosis.

Total Running Time: 246
My Total Minutes: 435,213

Friday, November 4, 2016

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 4

Last Sunday was a pretty short day, at least by weekend film fest standards. Only four shows.

First up was the shorts program Crime and Punishment
CYCLE: A desperate man gets a new chance with a mysterious bag in the airport which contains an important and morally questionable guide to his new life.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WILLIE BINGHAM: A short Australian masterpiece of creepiness and body horror. In the near future, criminal punishment is dealt out in a series of grisly amputations--as much as the victim's family can endure--and a series of "scared straight" school visits.
KONG'S: A bit of late night criminality in a low-class Santa Cruz convenient store.
NOMAD: Criminals, a runaway, and a lot of driving.
SNOW CONE: A father tries to teach his son how to live like him, just before he goes away to prison. It's not a very good lesson.
SUCH APPETITE: From Bulgaria, a man, a bicycle, a road, and a scam.
VALLE DE LAS CABRAS: From Mexico, a long and brutal story of immigration, smuggling, and ripping off the wrong guys.

Then another shorts program, It Came From the Grindhouse. Which for my money was the best shorts program so far.
THE BARBER'S CUT: A psycho barber and the collection of living body parts he keeps in his basement.
THE BIRTHDAY: A young couple, expecting a baby. But there's a violent surprise in store for one of them.
BLOODY HENRY: A bible salesman with a bloody side project.
DEMONOID (1971) (ENGLISH DUB): Some friends on an adventure in the Mexican jungle. But they awaken an ancient curse, and things go bad. Don't forget your 3-D glasses!
FAIR CHASE: White supremacists chase a victim around some farmland. Seems like fun? Actually, a pretty cool setup for what could be a much longer film.
MATALOS: Some sadists (and rapists) holding a woman captive. But she's got some strength and ingenuity to fight her way out.
NO TOUCHING: Speaking of chicks who know how to fight back, Zoe Bell and Heidi Moneymaker kick the ass of every monster in a haunted house. Even the real ones who aren't actors in makeup. Awesome.
PREPARE TO DIE!: A faux trailer for an excellent looking grindhouse slasher flick.

Next up was the feature PANOPTICON. Alex is allergic to the sun, which sucks since he lives in a sunny beachside town. The few times he goes out in the day he's completely covered. And when he goes out at night, he likes dressing like a girl. But most of the time he stays home on his computer, spying on people's webcams with a program called Panopticon. He becomes infatuated with a local art gallery owner. He also meets a 14 year old victim of human trafficking. And this draws him out of his isolation as he tries to get to know the former and help the latter. Alas, in both cases, human connections are not his strong suit. It's shot in beautiful black and white, with a lot of fascinating ideas about isolation and violation, and most importantly it features an outstanding performance by the lead actor, Guilherme Scarabelot.

And then the late night show, a bit of local fun with THE CURFEW GANG. A young woman is walking home at night, when she's suddenly attacked, bitten, and wakes up kind of freaking out with new powers. She's not a vampire (they're weak-ass bitches) she's a nightmare. And she's the newest member of an all-girl gang of nightmares. They rule the night, they drink coffee and booze (because water will kill them.) They make fun of vampires (who sparkle and smell like rotten eggs.) But there are some vampire hunters in town, so everyone's in danger. Or maybe not, maybe they're too powerful to be killed. It's some silly, low-budget fun where it's not so much about the story or the danger, but about some kick-ass women hanging out and making fun of the new girl.

Total Running Time: 350 minutes
My Total Minutes: 434,967