Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Asian Films at Another Hole In the Head

Another Hole In the Head. Of all of Frisco Bay's film festivals SF Indie Fest's genre outpost certainly has the most eye-catching name. Taking over the Roxie for two weeks in June, it offers an assortment of selections tailored for horror, science fiction, fantasy and superhero buffs. Few of the films announced for this year's program have been 'done to death' on the festival circuit, and nearly all of them have never screened in Frisco before. It seems unlikely that many will screen again here anytime soon, so if this sounds like your thing, mark your calendars for June 5-21.

I'm not familiar with the line-up's English-language titles, most of which are US or UK productions (though Tunnel Rats, an Uwe Boll film co-produced in Canada and Germany, is programmed as "closing night" film June 19th). It's the Asian titles that are catching the lion's share of my interest. Always on the lookout for Thai films in Frisco cinemas, I'm hoping to catch Alone, made by the directing pair behind the original version of Shutter, Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom. Peter Nellhaus notes the film's many connections to horror films familiar in the West, but recommends it as a quality production that rises above the usual lazy pastiche.

Though Another Hole In the Head has and deserves a reputation as a "horror film festival", the three Japanese selections in this year's line-up exhibit more diversity than that label implies. One film, Exte: Hair Extensions looks to be a straight J-horror film with the requisite ghostly long-black-hair imagery, in this case starring Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale and Kill Bill, vol. 1. Thanks to my friend Seiko for pointing out Chiaki's involvement in this creepy-looking film!

Yaji & Kija: the Midnight Pilgrims, on the other hand, looks about as far-removed from J-horror as possible; it's apparently a fantastical twist on the samurai film genre that comes recommended by none other than Filmbrain. It's also notable as one of only two films explicitly mentioned in the Another Hole In the Head program guide as being shown in 35mm prints (the other being the 40th anniversary screenings of Barbarella just before midnight on the first two Saturdays of the festival).

The Another Hole In the Head programmers know that many of the most outré genre film offerings come from the rough and tumble world of digital filmmaking and distribution. The third Japanese festival offering the Machine Girl, which I viewed after the festival's press conference, typifies this. The film industry is unlikely to take a chance on using the expensive film medium to make and distribute something as bizarre, bloody, cheesily-acted and un-scary as the Machine Girl. Less a horror film than a blood-and-gore-saturated revenge comedy, the film has assets in its unflagging energy and its surfeit of money shots for gorehounds (including one shot that made the film a must-program for a festival called Another Hole in the Head.) But its greatest asset is surely its refusal to take itself seriously at all, a quality I suspect is a function of the cheap video technology being used.

Michael Guillén captures the Machine Girl's tone perfectly in his overview of Twitch's coverage of the film. I'd like to add my admiration for the brazenly illogical plot structure, in which an action-packed opening-credits sequence that I didn't think could possibly be lived up to (how wrong I would be) flashes back to Machine Girl's origin before she's sent on a "kill the foozle" revenge quest. I wasn't the only one in the audience to realize that writer-director Noboru Iguchi had made a film with two climaxes: one to grab your attention at the beginning, and a different one to send you out satisfied. Does it matter if the two sequences fail to reconcile in the film's narrative timeline? I'm not sure it does.


  1. Always appreciate the tip of the hat, Brian, thank you.

  2. I heard your laughter from many rows behind me at yesterday's screening, and I knew you'd have a great reaction up. I'm happy I've been able to piggyback onto it.

  3. Hey,
    Actually we have five films screening on 35mm:
    Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer
    Yaji and Kita
    Tunnel Rats
    -Jeff Ross, SF IndieFest

  4. Thanks, Jeff, for the clarification! I'll post an update right away.

  5. Though I'm certainly relieved to hear there will be more 35mm projections that initially expected, I nonetheless feel you have been very fair in your assessment of the role of digital in allowing a genre festival such as Holehead to even exist.