Presented by the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, the line-up for the 6th annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival ("Holehead 2009")—running June 5-18, 2009 at the Roxie Film Center—has been officially announced. Among its 18 films from seven countries are four U.S. premieres (Coming Soon, The Dead Outside and Detective Story, and Someone's Knocking At the Door). Let's tackle that quartet first.
Someone's Knocking At the Door—When Noah Segan was recently in SF filming All About Evil, we chatted on the set and he talked up the work of Chad Ferrin, particularly Ferrin's Someone's Knocking At the Door, which boasts its U.S. premiere at Holehead (not it's world premiere, as listed in the program). Noah generously forwarded me a screener and I have to admit I've rarely been so delighted by a movie so depraved. This movie will fuck you to death and have you squealing first in pleasure, then in paniced protest. An admirable addition to the subgenre of drug horror that include's Simon Rumley's The Living and the Dead, Sean Abley's Socket, and Adam Wingard's Pop Skull, Someone's Knocking At the Door constructs a hallucinatory scenario from the drug experimentation of a group of medical students led by Segan. Do taking drugs make you feel sexy? Think again. Someone's Knocking At the Door is one of the must-see highlights of this year's Holehead. Plans are to interview both Segan and Ferrin when they accompany the film to San Francisco, so I'll reserve further commentary until then.
Coming Soon—The U.S. premiere of Sodon Sukdapisit's Thai ghost story has the added distinction of being the only entry in Holehead's hardscrabble slate that will be projected on 35mm. Along with documentaries, it's becoming de rigueur for independent horror genre films to be projected digitally at Holehead and this year marks the trend's near apex. That being the case, it's unfortunate that the only celluloid entry in this year's line-up is a less-than-ideal cautionary tale about the hazards of film piracy. Anyone who has recently attended a word-of-mouth screening of a studio film will by now be well familiar with security's introductory warning that night vision technology will be in use to capture anyone attempting to pirate the film on their cellular phones. If caught, said culprits will be escorted out of the theatre and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That procedural protocol is skirted altogether in Coming Soon where spectral retribution proves much more efficient. As its tagline attests: "The horror movie that you just saw is about to happen to you in real life." Alternately: "The most frightening movies are the ones that follow you home." Pirates, beware.
Despite his co-writing pedigree on two popular horror films out of Thailand (Alone and Shutter), Sodon Sukdapisit's directorial debut lacks punch for being overtly formulaic. As Stefan Shih states it, Sukdapisit digs into "the usual bag of frightening bits." Dialogue editor Boom Suvaghonda's efforts amount to female protagonist Som (Vorakam Rojjanavatchra) continually groping into dark rooms and annoyingly calling out, "Shane, Shane…." until you want to off her with equal ferocity as Chaba, the film's vengeful spirit. Shane (Chantavit Dhanasevi) is admittedly easy on the eyes, even as he maintains the same facial expression throughout the film. Advance graphics for Coming Soon have been quite attractive; but—truth is—the film itself suffers by comparison. The hype is better than the product.
The Dead Outside—The U.S. premiere of Kerry Anne Mullaney's portrait of rural Scotland after a neurological pandemic has infected most of the population, turning them into—what else?—enraged monsters, talks a whole lot about what it scarcely shows. And that's the problem. Daniel (Alton Milne) and April (Sandra Louise Douglas) argue a lot, even though at first they appear to be the last two uninfected people left in Scotland and you'd think they'd want to get along. Things get a little more interesting when a third survivor Kate (Sharon Osdin) appears on the scene to triangulate the already problematic erotics, but not much. The Dead Outside left this reviewer cold and dead inside. For more appreciative reviews, check out Mathew Riley's for Quiet Earth and Johnny Butane's for Dread Central. And, of course, Holehead's Mike Skurko sells the bill.
Detective Story (Tantei monogatari)—There are two Takashi Miike films in this year's Holehead line-up, which speaks to Miike's signature prolificacy. Opening night is the justly-lauded Crows: Episode Zero but Holehead's program also includes the U.S. premiere of Miike's 2007 Detective Story. If I had to choose between the two, I'd say Crows; but, why should I have to choose? Even though it's not quite as entertaining and accomplished as Crows, Detective Story's ensemble of eccentric and mentally unhinged personalities provides periodic amusement (amazement?) here and there even if it feels like one big sprawling assemble edit with resolution issues. Both films envision alternate universes of violence. Crows renders violence as tasty as an afterschool milk shake and Detective Story renders violence as regenerative finger food: the Miike double-whopper at Holehead.
Cross-published on Twitch.