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The 19th Another Hole In The Head Film Festival Is Here!

Updated: Dec 07, 2022 18:05
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Mundanes will wonder why the 19th Another Hole In The Head Film Festival (hereafter “AHITH”) is screening in December rather than, say, October.  The zombies, giant monsters, and serial killers populating AHITH’s offerings this year seem more appropriate around Halloween rather than its current scheduled dates of December 1-18, 2022.  Say the mundane types, viewers shouldn’t get so grossed out that they don’t spend money on more stuff.

Yet taking breaks from lemming-like shopping or forced merriment to catch AHITH events at the Roxie Theater, the 4-Star Theater, or Stage Werx Theatre can be oddly therapeutic.  After watching “Kick Me,” for example, instead of feeling jealous and inadequate next to people overflowing with compassion and generosity, you can give such people a well-deserved side-eye.  Or if contending with empty-eyed shoppers for the hot gift item on your list puts you on edge, why not work off some pent-up aggression seeing the zombie hordes get theirs at either “Night Of The Living Dead with a live Sleepbomb score” or “A Zombie Movie?”  And if you’re fearful of overindulging on food and drink this season, watching Robert “Willy” Pickton feed dismembered human body parts to his pigs in “PIg Killer” will do wonders for curbing your desire to mindlessly stuff yourself with holiday treats.

For viewers still understandably nervous about spending time in a crowded theater, many of AHITH’s films will also be streaming online for the duration of the festival.  However, there are some caveats regarding catching AHITH films solely virtually.  First, several of the films offered virtually will not be screened for the duration of the festival.  Instead they’ll have more limited screenings of three to five days.  Falling into this category are such films as “Alchemy Of The Spirit” and “Cryptid.”  Second, recordings of the live performance shows will not be screened virtually after the event.  If you’re interested in a live show but fail to try getting a ticket, it’s “you snooze, you lose” time.  Finally, some of the in-theater films will not be shown virtually.

Here are some of the genre treats awaiting you at this year’s AHITH:

Satanic Hispanics

The festival kicks off on December 1 with “Satanic Hispanics,” an anthology film using Hispanic talent on both sides of the camera.  (For example, Eduardo Sanchez directed “The Blair Witch Project.”)  A mysterious man known only as The Traveler is the sole survivor of some mysterious massacre at an El Paso house  When the police find The Traveler and start questioning him about what happened, he describes the mysteries of the surrounding lands.  From portals to other worlds to Latin American legends come to life, The Traveler’s tales will reveal some of the horrors he’s seen in his long life.

The Curse” happens to be the restored version of Brazilian horror icon Coffin Joe’s supposedly lost film.  It’s the story of a young man who lives to regret ignoring an old witch’s warning to not take her picture.  Thanks to her curse, his punishment starts with his suffering horrifying nightmares, and things slowly get worse from there.

Oscar Harding’s strange-but-true documentary “A Life On The Farm” begins with an inheritance from Harding’s grandfather.  It’s a videotape made by the grandfather’s neighbor Charles Carson.  AHITH’s catalog describes the film on Carson’s tape as “Monty Python Meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”  But that’s not the only movie Carson created.  Besides making bizarre films, Carson’s also an inventor, an outsider artist, and an advocate for death positivity.

Bryan Charles Shickley’s animated short depicts the claimed exploits of real-life person Fred Lee Crisman in “Fred Crisman: Cave Of The Space Nazis!”  Not only does Crisman claim to have defended American freedom, but he also asserts he’s fought space aliens, collected UFO parts, and was probably at the grassy knoll the day JFK got whacked.  How much the viewer will believe Crisman is a different story.    

A Life On The Farm

Mind-f**kery will be had aplenty in Evan Richards’ “Cognitive.”  It begins straightforwardly enough, with Alisha getting kidnapped by a young couple.  As the story’s told in reverse chronological order, it soon turns out that Alisha may not be who she thinks she is.  But what’s really going on won’t make sense until the final frames.

The source material for Dean M. Winkler and Donald S. Butler’s non-narrative short “Our America” was a series of 1943 teacher’s aid posters.  Whereas the original posters extolled the industrial ingenuity of mid-20th century America, Winkler and Butler’s short looks beyond the rosy promises made in those posters to show the unintended negative consequences of such commercial ingenuity.

1968 Vietnam is the setting for Alexander Thompson’s horror short “Black Dragon.”  The title is the nickname given by the Vietnamese locals to a fearsome American colonel.  When the colonel’s platoon presents him with a captured Vietcong girl with unusual powers, the American military officer will soon learn the depth of his capacity to commit monstrous acts.

For a truly mind-bending cinematic experience, why not try Steve Balderson’s aforementioned “Alchemy Of The Spirit?”  The sudden death of artist Oliver’s wife sends him on a journey into a dimension where everything he knows about reality is wrong.  But will everyday reality in the form of Oliver’s art dealer (Mink Stole) bring Oliver’s peaceful world crashing down around him?

Life in pandemic lockdown was undoubtedly filled with monotony and grief.  But for director Susanna Deeken, that existence became the inspiration for her surreal animated short “Heiopei.”  It’s a journey through a fairy tale landscape where spirit possession and metamorphosis are part of the terrain. 

Yuzo The Biggest Battle In Tokyo

For those wanting something more straightforward , how about a bit of tentacle hentai?  That’s what you’ll get with Kenichi Ugana’s “Extraneous Matter.”  It’s the story of a group of emotionally isolated people whose lives are changed physically and emotionally by their encounters with a bizarre tentacled creature.     

Yoshikazu Ishii’s demented “Yuzo The Biggest Battle In Tokyo” concerns one Yuzo Ooki, who finds the coworkers at his new job display several different shades of crazy.  They include a fitness instructor unconcerned by an absence of members, a person who steals garbage in the name of waste recycling, and a man who dresses as a dog.  Just when the coworkers’ bullying tempts Yuzo to quit, an alien’s appearance changes everything.  The alien’s melding with the coworkers’ craziness results in the release of energy that plunges Tokyo into chaos.  Only Yuzo can save the day (somehow).

For those who want a heavy dose of offbeat nightmare comedy/drama, Gary Huggins’ “Kick Me” may be what you need.  It’s the story of a dream school counselor, someone who’s compassionate, generous, and dedicated.  But as his blood-spattered visage on the film’s poster suggests, those same qualities wind up destroying the lives of everyone around him.

See the making of practical effects go spectacularly haywire in Matt Servitto’s horror comedy “Good Head.”  All Hollywood mega-star Cooper Bradley wanted to do at an Atlanta special effects lab was get his head molded.  What he didn’t expect was for the VFX master who cast his head to steal both his original head and his soul.

Filmmaker Kyra Elise Gardner literally grew up alongside Chucky, the killer doll star of the “Child’s Play” movies.  In her documentary “Living With Chucky,” she presents other families’ experiences working with Chucky and their reflections on being part of an unusual extended family. 

Good Head

Shakespeare’s “Othello” may have been performed plenty of times over the centuries.  But director Christopher Coppola finds a new angle on the classic tragedy with “The Iago Complex.”  The screening of this film will be done in the surreal, Artaud-esque living cinema manner.  The presentation is also an homage to Coppola’s beloved alma mater, the San Francisco Art Institute. 

The sole stage show being done at AHITH is “Live On Stage! The Twilight Zone (Special Edition).”  Watch the live parody re-imagining of classic “Twilight Zone” episodes “Eye Of The Beholder” and “Nightmare As A Child,” along with mock TV commercials.  Dream On The Rocks Productions created this show, a carryover of the tradition started by the Dark Room theater producer Jim Fourniadis.

By contrast, “The Warped Dimension VHS Show! LIVE!” can only partially be called a live performance event.  MC Benji hosts this mix of live interactive experience and movie screening.  Visit the Warped Dimension Video Store and get transported back to the days of Hollywood Video or even Mom and Pop video stores!  Remember, don’t touch the stuff oozing out of the Midnight Returns box.  Then sit back and enjoy a screening of a VHS copy of the Caribbean “Jaws” movie “Jaws: The Revenge.”  In this film, Ellen Brody thought she could avoid having to deal with more shark attacks by moving to the Caribbean.  But boy, is she spectacularly wrong!

The last live event happening at this year’s AHITH sees the return of Sleepbomb.  Three years ago, the band’s recontextualized soundtrack for “Conan The Barbarian” wowed AHITH audiences.  This time around, see the world premiere of the band’s new score for a certain George Romero horror classic in the aforementioned “Night Of The Living Dead With Live Score Performed By Sleepbomb.”

But performing new soundtracks is not the only way to have fun with genre classics.  In Cristobal Ross’ “A Zombie Movie,” deepfake technology and a redubbed soundtrack turns Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” into a comedy where the zombie apocalypse matters less than the effects of smoking some bad pot or encountering an undead person who looks like a famous Chilean comedian.

The Blood Of The Dinosaurs

In Joseph Badon’s comic short “The Blood Of The Dinosaurs ” watch kids’ minds get warped by friendly Uncle Bobbo as he explains where exactly oil comes from. 

For more dark humor, viewers can also turn to SF Bay Area filmmaker Greg Roensch’s animated music video “Don’t Forget To Pack Your Hand Grenade.”  An airline security graphic urging passengers to not carry hand grenades in their luggage gets twisted to ends definitely unapproved by the TSA.

More attempted government control gone wrong can be found in another SF Bay Area-made music video, “Skinaffect – Monkeytruck.”  Dalan McNabola’s short shows what happens after you submit the Jolly Chimp toy to “A Clockwork Orange”’s Ludovico’s Technique.

Illusions about Canada being a country of friendly laid back people get a savage beating in Chad Ferrin’s “Pig Killer.”  It’s based on the true story of the nearly two-decade long murder spree of Robert “Willy” Pickton.  To the unsuspecting, Pickton appeared to be an ordinary Canadian pig farmer.  But to the terrified residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, this serial killer and his cohorts raped, tortured, killed and dismembered almost fifty women before they were finally brought down by law enforcement.

Also based on a true story is Thomas Horl’s silent experimental short “F.W.M. Symphony.”  In 2015, the embalmed skull of seminal silent film director F.W. Murnau was stolen from its grave.  Horl uses that theft as a starting point for considering how Murnau’s horror classic “Nosferatu” established many of the visual tropes associated with the vampire.  Also, how much distance existed between the personality of Murnau and the cinematic villain he brought into being?

Pig Killer

Those who want a bit of feature-length LGBT+ horror should turn to Carter Smith’s “Swallowed.”  For two childhood friends, a drug run gone bad was one thing.  But can they survive a long backwoods night of drugs, bugs, and obscene intimacy?

Just as this year’s AHITH opened with an anthology film, it closes with another anthology film, “The Profane Exhibit.”  Eleven directors from around the world including Uwe Boll and Nacho Vigalondo spin tales of extreme horror that are definitely not for the faint of heart.  In Paris, there is a secret gathering place for the world’s richest and most evil people.  Elegant hostess Madame Sabatier invites each attendee to tell a true tale of depravity.  This collection of very disturbing stories is the result.

Portland, Oregon may urge its residents to keep the city weird.  In that spirit, AHITH’s films remind viewers to keep their holiday celebrating weird.

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.