In England and other countries, winter has been the season for telling ghost stories and other tales of the supernatural. Over here in the SF Bay Area, our nod to that tradition is the return of the Another Hole In The Head Film Festival (hereafter AHITH).
The 18th edition of the festival, brought to viewers by the wonderfully twisted geniuses of the S.F. Independent Film Festival, will present over 25 feature films and over 200 short films from December 1-15, 2021 to sick and twisted audiences both live and online. Selected live in-person screenings will be held at SF Japantown’s famed New People Cinema (1746 Post, SF) starting December 3, 2021. Admission to these shows is $15 apiece, and viewers must wear masks and have legitimate proof of vaccination ready. As no food or drink will be allowed in the theater, viewers who might have trouble keeping their mask on for the whole of the screening should probably stick to watching AHITH offerings via video on demand.
Online choices are either on-demand via Eventive or via live Zoom chats beginning December 1, 2021. The latter option allows viewers to interact in real time with audience members and even filmmakers. Individual on-demand tickets are $10 apiece, while the Zoom chats are $7 apiece.
For those who want to see multiple AHITH offerings, passes will be the most economical way to go. Options range from the Zoom Pass or the 5-Show Pass (for any on-demand screening) for $40 all the way up to the All Access Pass ($160). Just as it says on the tin, the All Access Pass lets you see all the New People Cinema screenings, all the online on-demand screenings, and all the Zoom screenings.
The New People Cinema screenings kick off with the 3D silent film “Leda.” It’s a re-interpretation of the Greek myth of “Leda and the Swan.” This black and white film involves divine visions, memories of sexual trauma, and an unexpected pregnancy. For people choosing to stream the film at home, AHITH offers both 2-D and 3-D streams. However, those watching from home will need to provide their own 3-D glasses if necessary.
Music video “Straight Into The Ocean” draws from singer-songwriter Allen Ling’s real-life heartbroken musings on what would happen if he walked into the ocean and never came back.
A different sort of thought experiment yields far more horrifying results in the science fiction/horror feature film “Occupants.” An award-winning filmmaker starts capturing footage for her personal documentary about living clean for 30 days. But what happens when the footage reveals a parallel version of the filmmaker and her husband, a version which ultimately threatens their existence?
The Korean science fiction short “Noses On The Run” is set in a near future where telecare medical service is the norm. But did a patient with chronic sinus infection sign up for a decidedly unusual treatment?
Ready for a Pakistani homage to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?” Then you need to see “Pakistani Chainsaw: A Love Story.” Rony is an American child labor activist in Pakistan. Her efforts to free exploited children take her and her handsome guide to Pakistan’s version of Death Valley and the slave child labor camp located there. However, the dreaded Chainsaw Girl and her psycho sidekick Cockroach look dimly on outside meddlers trying to interfere with their slavery operations.
Missed seeing the warped horror comedy “Your Houseplants Are Screaming” at previous festivals? Don’t sleep again on this twisted tale of human houseplants held captive as shelf ornaments by a giant plant creature. If those houseplants aren’t freaked out enough by their situation, noticing the creature’s house is made out of flesh, meat, muscle, and bone might do the trick.
The short film “Standing Woman” adapts a story written by Yasutaka Tsutsui (“Paprika,” “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”). It’s set in a near future where a government’s answer to handling criminals and deporting undocumented immigrants is to turn them into trees. Government propaganda filmmaker Tom has to deal with his guilt over his wife Mari’s meeting this fate. He travels to say a final goodbye to her, and meets others who’ve had loved ones “planted” by the regime.
What pushes people to become grassroots micro budget horror filmmakers? The documentary “The Brilliant Terror” answers that question by following several such DIY filmmakers as they labor to put their greatest fears up on screen. Principal subject is writer/director/cameraman Mike Lombardo. By day, he works at a small-town pizza shop. Off the day job timeclock, he struggles to bring his opus “The Stall” to life with DIY effects and endless re-shooting.
Gordon P. Lipshitz claims that he played the first robot to appear in motion pictures. In an animated comic interview, a very frustrated Lipshitz attempts to finally gain public recognition for his character “Moorriiss the Robot.”
The Brazilian city of Brasilia was once considered that country’s nod to the space age. But as the science fiction documentary hybrid “A Machine To Live In” shows, mixed into the city’s architecture are the influences of UFO cults, state power, and even a few myths.
The twisted comedy short “Geneva Jacuzzi’s Casket” is set in 2066 A.D. Los Angeles. Kate Shaw faces the prospect of execution by the World Wellness Watch for failing to deliver several promised shipments of experimental Emote Cartridges. Adding to her woes, her assistant Pleasure-U BioDrone needs to be re-programmed to cure its mysterious mental disease. But did Kate sign up for the BioDrone’s telepathically transmitting strange visions to her?
Ready to liven your filmgoing experience with ASMR? The experimental noir-ish tale “Cats of the Bayou (ASMR)” is set on a very hot July 4 in New Orleans. A member of the Cat Society is found dead in his apartment with scratches all over his face and body. A young woman returns to the Big Easy after being taken away from the city as a child. Remember to watch the film with headphones on while keeping the soundtrack on low.
“The Cloud” adapts the popular San Francisco live horror series to film. It centers on a sinister mobile app known as ReKompoZe, which attacks the lives of several unsuspecting users. This is a found footage horror tale, with the victims’ personal video feeds providing the source material.
The German horror/mystery feature film “Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes” uses the familiar genre starting point of a night spent at a run-down castle. But for the dispirited woman and her ill-tempered husband stuck in that ruin, their sense of time and even reality are about to get seriously messed with.
In the Canadian short film “Five Pounds Of Pressure,” a despondent young man about to shoot himself to death finds his plans unexpectedly interrupted. A young female hitchhiker threatens to stab him to death if he doesn’t drive her out of town. Will he still follow through on his suicide plans?
The experimental poetry and music video “The Life We Live Is Not Life Itself” hails from Greece. Its title is inspired by the line “The life we live is a series of illusions.” Watch the video to see the explanation for this quote “(y)et, we will meet again…and you will know who I am.”
Another poetry-inspired short, “Perspective Dante,” offers a northern Italian middle-school class’ tribute to poet Dante Aligheri on the 700th year since the poet’s death.
What do you do if you’re a mad scientist facing a midlife crisis? For Dr. Jason Frankenstein, the titular “The Last Frankenstein,” it’s figuratively pounding your head against the wall at failing to complete the family’s long experiment in using corpses’ body parts to create a living being. But the dramatic re-entrance of a creature from the doctor’s past kickstarts him to finally complete the family project. With the help of a couple of drug-dealing paramedics and a nurse with a shady past, this time the good doctor just might succeed…
Those with a yen for more creature features-style entertainment will want to check out the horror film “Crabs!” No, it’s not about monstrous pubic hair lice. These crabs are mutated horseshoe crabs which have invaded a coastal town on Prom Night. Can a wheelchair-bound boy and a ragtag group of locals save both the town and the world? Don’t think too hard about the answer.
Need more gleeful killing of hostile crabs? Try “Don’t Fail Me,” a music video from avant-doom masters Dead Register. In this live-action puppet extravaganza, a cowboy avenger slays lots of Crab People in retaliation for his damsel-in-distress’ fate.
Also having to deal with hostile life forms is the titular “Crusoe.” This astronaut is stranded on an alien planet teeming with unfriendly life. However, given that this short is an action-comedy, don’t expect celebrations of macho behavior.
Another twisted comedy will be familiar to regular attendees of the Roxie Theater. Before a film program starts, the theater sometimes screens an old animated short which encourages theater patrons to buy something at the snack counter. The comic short “Let’s All Go To The Lobby!” imagines what would happen if such a film reel were cursed. The answer for unfortunate theater worker Alex Miner and her childhood best friend is that the theater snack counter comes alive and starts attacking them for not appreciating the theater more.
One old repertory theater staple has been the franchise film marathon, where a program consists of three or even four films in a series screened for just one day. But “Revision Of The Planet Of The Apes” and “Rocky Revision” take two well-known film franchises and mangle their appeal. With the Apes movies, it puts them into edited chronological order. With the Sylvester Stallone vehicle, it follows Stallone’s character from rags to riches to rags with some brutal repetitive storytelling.
In the animated music video “Be Mine,” a band drives through the desert while trying to avoid getting bombed out of existence by airship pirate foxes.
The experimental animated documentary “Paralelo” focuses on the director’s mother, who was traumatized by the murder of her older son. It’s a tribute to a woman who endured everything from cancer to America’s worsening political situation. The director’s fondness as a kid for dressing up as Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman reflects the attention and respect he had for his mother.
Locally-made experimental animated PSA “L’Hesitance” mixes together vaccine hesitancy, social media algorithmic rabbit holes, and Colony Collapse Disorder.
Another locally made short, “Lemonade Party,” concerns a scientist who makes an interdimensional hop to a parallel universe. That world may look like an idyllic 1950s lemonade party, but there’s a sinister surprise lurking beneath the surface.
In the Brazilian art short “The View From The Window,” a solitary character spends years obsessed with an Alexander Calder mobile. That character isn’t exactly all there, living in a world of memories and delirium. So what happens to the character when the mobile disappears?
If you’re Intrigued by this taste of the 18th AHITH offerings, then check out the rest of the schedule. Odds are you might find something uniquely offbeat instead of mass produced pablum.
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.