Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Another Hole in the Head

The 8th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival ran from June 2 to 17. The festival is sponsored by SF Indiefest. June 2 and 17 were the opening and closing night parties respectively. No film screened those days. All films screened at the Roxie (on the big Roxie screen).

I bought a festival pass for $100. I saw 11½ programs. The festival screened films on 14 days but I missed 7 days due to travel, other social engagements and apathy. I could easily have seen another half dozen films but trips to the gym and an early bedtime prevailed on a few days.

Feature Films
The Oregonian; (2010) - Official Website
Karate-Robo Zaborgar; directed by Noboru Iguchi; Japanese with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue; (2010) - Official Website
The Craving; (2011) - Official Website
Rat Scratch Fever; (2011)
Absentia; (2011) - Official Website
Apocrypha: (2011)
Red Ice; (2011) - Official Website
I Am Nancy starring Heather Langenkamp; documentary; (2010) - Official Website
Breath of Hate with Jason Mewes; (2011) - Official Website
The Bleeding House; (2011) - Official Website

Short Films
The Unicorn Girl; (2010)
King of England; (2011)
Off The Beaten Track; (2010)
The Monkey and the Quiet Corpse; (2010)
By a Hair; (2010) - Official Website
Roid Rage; (2011) - Official Website
An Evening with My Comatose Mother; (2011) - Official Website

The half program I saw was a An Evening with My Comatose Mother which played with Zombie Undead. The hour was getting late and I was afraid BART would run the last train through 16th St. Mission Station so I skipped it. Actually, there was a little more forethought. I get particularly bored with zombie films so I never had any intention on seeing Zombie Undead.

An Evening with My Comatose Mother was a 33 minute film so I thought it deserved ½ program status on my list.

I saw two of the Hole in the Head films at this year's Cinequest - Bad Behaviour and Midnight Son at Cinequest. I rather enjoyed Midnight Son; Bad Behaviour not so much. Neither of them enticed me enough for a second viewing at Hole in the Head.

Perhaps, I'm getting old but increasingly, it's hard for me to get too interested in films about zombies, vampires, Japanese superheroes, raccoon on crack or giant rats from outer space. I know I haven't completely gone to the dark side because last year I greatly enjoyed Ticked Off Trannies With Knives. Looking at the post from last year, I think last year's festival program was much stronger than this year.

I preferred Cinequest's Midnight Son to anything I saw at this year's Hole in the Head.


Nothing really stood out this year. There were a trio of local films that I saw. The Craving is about a chef whose serial murder victims are the sources of protein for her critically praised meals. Apocrypha is about two vampires with amnesia who reunite in San Francisco. Red Ice is about a guy who one demon as a result of machination by another demon. As I mentioned, Red Ice co-stars Yasmin Lee, a transsexual porn star, as one of the demons. They allude to her unique qualities ("She's not what you think she is.") but never reveal her secret despite her being in the film's only sex scene.

Red Ice director Ralph Hyver held a Q&A after the film and urged the audience to write a review (good or bad) on IMDB. I'll write a capsule here.

Red Ice is a muddled and confusing horror film about a plot by one demon to kill another demon. To add to the mystery, Mr. Wu, the demon's right-hand man, plots to trick a mortal into doing the murder. The film is plagued with too many twists and turns and some wooden acting. I will note that they had a nice scene where the human confronts a rock & roll band in a bar with his flute. His awesome flute playing seduces his target, a female looking demon. Later, his flute is used as the murder instrument. As Joe Bob would say, Flute Fu. The pivotal role in the film was played by Haining, an Asian actor who seemed to play his evil henchman role as if he was channeling a Shaw Brothers film - part obsequious, part sinister, full of facial gestures that would put a opera singer to shame and constantly distracting. Mr. Wu isn't all that is wrong with Red Ice but he is the most visible problem. Director Ralph Hyver showed some skill in Red Ice. It'll be interesting to see what his next directorial project is.

Of the three films, The Craving was best in show. Star Anna Curtis was sufficiently libidinous and murderous as Chef Ronnie Sextos; especially when compared to her co-stars who seemed lost on screen in their respective roles.


Absentia was my favorite feature film. The plot concerns Tricia, a woman whose husband disappeared years ago. She is still trying to come to grips with his absence when Callie, her younger sister comes to live with her. Still legally married to her missing husband, Tricia is pregnant and the father of Tricia's unborn child is a secret. There are a lot of secrets between the sister. Callie is a recovering drug addict with emphasis on the "recovering" part; she has a stash box. The father of Tricia's child is the detective who investigated her husband's disappearance; talk about conflict of interest. Callie can't move on with her life but is encouraged to have her husband declared legally deceased. The two sisters are pretending to get along until a) Callie has some weird
encounters in a pedestrian tunnel while jogging and b) Tricia's ex-husband shows up (just as she is about to go on a date with the cop).

I won't give up the ending which was a little disappointing to me. The disappearance could be linked to drug use, drug induced hallucination or a evil spider or spirit that lives in the tunnel. Resolving the mystery is secondary in the film as achieving the right tone and atmosphere are given higher priority. In that regard, Absentia fully achieves its goals. Let's face it, these horror films are mostly silly. If a director can achieve some scary moments or creepy atmosphere, s/he has done better than most. Better than most - that's an accurate if not a left-handed compliment for Absentia.


A number of films just didn't appeal to me for various reasons.

The Oregonian - this was the most anticipated film on the schedule for me. It was advertised that it had played at the 2011 Sundance. It felt more like a Slamdance film. Regardless of its festival pedigree, I found it tedious. It was one of those films where someone dies and her spirit or soul doesn't know what is happening. The audience is treated to a bunch surreal scenes which left me disengaged. Sometimes (increasing often) I doze off during films that bore me. With The Oregonian, I wanted to take a nap during the film. It screened at 9:20 PM and I was planning on catching An Evening with My Comatose Mother at 11:30 so a little catnap would be helpful. Unfortunately, the sound effects were piercing and loud so I couldn't sleep. Perhaps that was the horror aspect of the film - like A Clockwork Orange, I was forced to watch the film, my eyes pried open by cringe-inducing sounds rather than an ocular speculum.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar - I grew up watching Japanese, cyborg, live-action, television series in Hawaii. I spent many hours watching Kikaida and Kamen Rider as a preadolescent. Karate-Robo Zaborgar captures the look and feel of those classics from my childhood but the film dragged on and on. In other words, director Noboru Iguchi seemed to have epic ambitions or a slavish devotion to the source manga. The film would have been infinitely more enjoyable if 20 minutes had been edited out. Iguchi seems to have become a Hole in the Head fixture as this is his third or fourth film over past few years. In my opinion, Machine Girl was far and away his best. Iguchi is also a pinku eiga alumni; in other words he used to make soft core porn before graduating hard-gore horror and J-pop.

Breath of Hate - Jason Mewes, who is best known as Jay opposite Kevin Smith's Silent Bob, is the third lead. The plot involves an hooker who is trying to get out of the life so she can have a serious relationship with Jason Mewes. Her last "date" hooks her up with some mental institution escapees. The rest of the film blurs reality and her torture induced hallucinations. For a hooker who is under the thumb of her pimp, Love (that's her name) is awfully intelligent and strong willed. As a heavy handed scene shows, Love was sexually molested and drug addicted so she didn't live up to her full potential. A hooker film with no nudity that I recall just isn't going to cut it. It's neither fish nor fowl - it's not exploitation and it isn't as substantial as it is pretentious.

The Bleeding House - another pretentious film which allows the suspense to build slowly. It builds so slowly that I lost interest. There is a stranger with a Southern drawl (the bad guy from
Breath of Hate also had a Southern drawl) and a teenage girl who pins dead insect on her bedroom wall as well as breaks the necks of birds. By the time the film climaxes, I had lost interest - mediocre direction (it was Philip Gelatt directorial debut), lackluster acting and a script that might have worked if the direction and acting was better.

I Am Nancy - Who is Nancy? Who is Heather Langenkamp? The film answers those previously unasked questions? Heather Langenkamp played Nancy in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I didn't remember this but Johnny Depp played Nancy's boyfriend in that film. Whereas Robert Englund has received fame (and riches if he gets any portion of the Freddie merchandise revenue), Langenkamp has been cast in obscurity. Despite Nancy's pivotal role as the ass kicking teenager, Langenkamp is dismayed that Freddie exists in the public consciousness without a worthy adversary...namely Nancy. Langenkamps sees Freddie and Nancy as the yin and yang of horror movie dynamics and all the attention paid to Freddie means the tao of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is seriously out of balance. The film follows Langenkamp as she travels to fan fests throughout the world meeting her modest fan base and opining about the fate of Nancy. She interviews Robert Englund, Wes Craven and others in her quest to resurrect the power of Nancy. Did this subject need a feature documentary? I don't think so.

The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue - speaking of Robert Englund, he has a supporting role in this horror-comedy film as the randy senior citizen who lives in a slum tenement where pets and ultimately humans are disappearing at an alarming rate. The title says it all. The film has a few funny moments. The most memorable feature was the soundtrack which reminded me alot of Elvis Costello from the 1980s.


My favorite film (short or feature) was Roid Rage about a man with a killer case of hemorrhoids. You've heard of vagina dentata? This the male equivalent. The short film is partly faux movie trailer so it captures the grindhouse look with a generous serving of humor.

Off the Beaten Track is basically Cannibal Holocaust in Australia. The actual attack was a little hard to follow and could have been edited a few minutes but the filmmakers paid sufficient homage to Deodato's classic.

At over 30 minutes, An Evening with My Comatose Mother took its sweet time but a adequately ominous looking court jester doll and an invalid grandma wreak all kinds of havoc on a sexy "babysitter."

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