Pakistani Chainsaw' screens at this year's Another Hole in the Head film festival. Image courtesy Another Hole in the Head
Screen Grabs: You need a bizarre film moment like Another Hole in the Head
This year, the offbeat film fest sports 30+ features and 200+ shorts. Here's our critic's top picks.
By DENNIS HARVEY NOVEMBER 29, 2021
Billed as “The Last Film Festival of 2021!,” Another Hole in the Head provides an apt such finale for another bizarre year, offering as it does a range of genre films in which fiction can still be stranger than truth—something that seems reassuring these days. Running Wed/1 through December 15, its 30+ features and 200+ shorts will feature a mix of in-person screenings at New People Cinema in Japantown, live Zoom shows, and on-demand streaming via Eventive. (Masks and proof of vaccination are required for the New People programs.)
Heavy as usual on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, Hole Head’s 18th annum sidesteps some of the more obvious genre tropes in several films that enter the realm of full-on trippy phantasmagoria. That includes the official in-person opening nighter on Fri/3 of Samuel Tressler IV’s debut feature Leda, a wordless midpoint between Maya Deren, Eraserhead, and Ambrose Bierce that reimagines the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan as a vaguely 19th century fever dream. Its poetical, sometimes grotesque B&W imagery looked great on a regular “flat” screener, so it will no doubt be even more compelling projected at New People in 3D.
Other eccentric visions on tap include Bashira, the first directorial feature by Nickson Fong, a VFX veteran whose credits go back to the original Matrix films and Starship Troopers. This surreal whatsit involves a US electronic musician and his troubled long-distance collaborator in Japan getting drawn into a hallucinatory morass of supernatural interference that culminates in an explosion of CGI fantasy spectacle. It doesn’t make much sense, but you certainly can’t indict Fong for formulaic storytelling.
Likewise unclassifiable, if also more in control of their circuitous narrative paths, are two impressive smaller features: David Buchanan’s Laguna Ave, a B&W tale of fringe-y LA life that starts out like a faintly absurdist neo-noir, then gradually turns something more fantastical; and Kevin Kopacka’s German Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, an homage to golden age Euro-horror that eventually transcends genre in favor of an Escher-like puzzle structure. Needless to say, there will also be plenty of playful strangeness in Hole Head’s New People closing event on Sun/12, Christopher Coppola Presents A Crazy Evening Of Clownhead Cowboys, Demon Fireplaces, Living Headless Chickens, and Lunar Sexpots, featuring shorts by Coppola, his late mentor George Kuchar, and Parker Chehak.
This edition of AHITH features plenty of Bay Area talent, including no less than four “Strictly Local” shorts programs, the clever Zoom-format, linked-anthology horror feature The Cloud from SF’s Awesome Theatre Company, and Sean Nicholas Lynch’s Christmas-themed vampire comedy Red Snow. There are also documentaries about indie genre filmmaking (The Brilliant Terror), the intersection between architecture and cults (A Machine to Live In), and the self-explanatory History of Metal and Horror. Plus movies from Chile (occult thriller APPS), Italy (videogame adaptation Lost in the Woods), Australia (black-comedy slasher My Cherry Pie), Canada (Blair Witch-y mindgame Woodland Grey), and beyond. Many programs, both in-person and Zoom, will have filmmakers and other guests on hand.
For full schedule, program and ticket info, go to www.ahith.com.
"Screen Grabs: You need a bizarre film moment like Another Hole in the Head," Dennis Harvey