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Arts + CultureMoviesRuffled muppet slaughterhouse? Another Hole in the Head still...

Ruffled muppet slaughterhouse? Another Hole in the Head still stocks the campiest of gore

Film festival's 20th edition features 1920 classic 'Dr. Caligari,' ice mummies—and even Freddy Krueger as waterbed.

Fifty years ago this week saw the first release (in West Germany—it didn’t open in the United States until the following spring) of Flesh for Frankenstein, aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, a comparatively mainstream film venture from the folks who’d previously given you TrashHeatChelsea Girls, and Blow Job. There was little pretense that Warhol himself was acting as filmmaker rather than “presenter” here, his lieutenant Paul Morrissey being the real writer-director. This and its companion piece Blood for Dracula were professional-looking, even quite handsome productions shot with Italian crews, multinational casts, and impressive 19th-century period trappings largely in Rome’s fabled Cinecitta studios.

But despite the surface appearance of conventional horror content, the sensibility was nonetheless 100 percent Warholian camp. This Dr. Frankenstein (Udo Kier) conducts ghoulish experiments in his laboratory while saying things like “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life… in the gall bladder!,” and he’s not speaking figuratively. Sexed-up and extra-gory, Morrissey’s aggressively tasteless spin on Mary Shelley’s tale further thrust its transgressions in your face via 3D—a real anomaly in 1973, as that format’s original craze had sparked and quickly died out two decades earlier.

The film’s poker-faced-yet-absurd excesses, as well as its variably earnest, arch, and amateurish performances (from the likes of rough-trade icon Joe Dallesandro and Belgian bombshell Monique Van Vooren), won little more than baffled distaste from reviewers at first. But it was ideally suited to the then-nascent midnight movie culture, joining such predecessors as El Topo and Pink Flamingos as rep-house staples, soon to be joined by Rocky Horror and Eraserhead.

Flesh for Frankenstein isn’t playing anywhere hereabouts—you can find it to stream easily enough, including through SF Public Library—but its anniversary seems well-timed to coincide with the latest edition of Another Hole in the Head. Itself celebrating a 20-year milestone, the Bay Area’s preeminent annual genre fest can likewise be relied upon to deliver an unruly mix of camp, gore, thrills, the lurid, and the fantastical. This year its programming constitutes a mini-tour of the city’s remaining repertory cinemas, running Fri/1-Sun/3 at the Balboa Theatre, Mon/4-Thu/7 at the Roxie, and Fri/8-Sun/10 at the 4 Star, in addition to online options available as late as December 25.

It begins this Friday with the great-grandaddy of all bizarre cult films: Robert Wiene’s 1920 silent German classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which revolutionized the medium with its Expressionistic techniques externalizing the nightmarish delusions of a mental patient. It will be accompanied live by local doom/drone quartet Sleepbomb (also turning 20 years old this year), whose score has been released separately to home formats.

Another live performance event on the schedule is the eight-show run (Decemeber 6-16) at Eclectic Box on Valencia Street of A Nightmare On Elm Street Holiday Special Parody, a theatrical endeavor that promises to be so, er, vivid, attendees are encouraged to wear “old or cheap clothes you don’t mind ruining” amidst the splatter of stage blood. On December 10 there’s also The Dark Side of the Rainbow 2.0 LIVE, which takes a step beyond the by-now familiar pairing of MGM and Pink Floyd to let SF musician/DJ Tasho Nicolopulos aka Its Own Infinite Flower construct his own pastiche soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. Also of notable musical interest is the documentary Brothers Broken, in which filmmaker Geoff Levin chronicles a successful composing, producing and performing career nonetheless damaged by his long-term, now-severed involvement with Scientology. He’ll be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A on December 11.

For plain old movie entertainment, Hole Head offers everything from the local (Chris Steven Edgette’s SF-shot sci-fi I’s, Hassan Zee’s drama San Francisco Cowboy) to the starry (Heather Graham in Wild West thriller Place of Bones, TV Hercules turned evangelical scold Kevin Sorbo getting his Transylvanian accent on in The Vampire Project) to the self-explanatory (horror titles like Evil SubletMovie Theater MassacreScalper and Invoking Yell). There are tales of peril from the U.K. (Raging GraceHow to Kill Monsters), Canada (Walking Supply) and Japan (see Bakemono and Love Will Tear Us Apart below).

Numerous shorts programs run a diverse thematic gamut, throwing spotlights on Bay Area talent, LGBT+ content, animation, comedy, experimental, and much more. The Batman Revision 2024 (on Thurs/7) is a fan film that finds Jose Torres Torres using audio from the 2022 Matt Reeves of that title, but pairing it with a visual mashup drawn from the whole history of Caped Crusader cartoons. A different kind of remix is Antonio R. Cabal’s End of Trip—Sahara (Sat/9), which utilizes discarded footage to make a new variation on his little-seen 1983 road-trip adventure Lost in the Sahara, in which scantily dressed Spanish and French youth frolic in the desert.

The midnight movie spirit is also alive and well in several titles here, including Bloody Bridget from Richard Elfman, working in the same energetically absurdist mode (and again with brother Danny of Oingo Boingo and myriad major-league Hollywood soundtracks) as his zany 1980 Forbidden Zone. David Gordon Green is producer on Mark H. Rapaport’s B&W Hippo, which is like a shotgun marriage between Grey Gardens and Spider Baby. Jesse Thomas Cook’s The Hyperborean is also a dysfunctional family blowout, albeit one eventually hijacked by the arrival of a “laser-blasting ice mummy from outer space.” And Bertrand Mandico’s She Is Conann provides another fetishistic all-female-cast fantasia in the realm of Cocteau, Fassbinder and Genet from the director of After Blue. It is based—very, very loosely—on the origin story of Robert E. Howard’s famous fictive barbarian.

There’s plenty more in Hole Head, but rather than cover it all, here’s a handful of recommended titles among those that were available for preview. Dates given are for in-person shows; most of these titles are also available for streaming:

Bakemono (December 9)

American director Doug Roos shot—and wrote, directed, produced, edited & scored—this enterprising indie horror opus in Tokyo. The plot is minimal: Multinational guests at a somewhat decrepit Airbnb-type establishment in a downscale neighborhood have a hard time surviving the night, between a murderous caretaker (Takashi Irie), the grotesque demon-creature he’s summoned via black magic, and the irrational violence its presence provokes among them. None of this makes much sense. But there is an impressively grim purity to the relentless mayhem, heightened by gory practical FX (by, of course, Roos). The filmmaker will attend this world premiere screening.

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Tues/5)

Also from Japan is Ken’ichi Ugana’s increasingly outre black comedy romance, which starts out as a simple tale of sad children in abusive circumstances. While dealing with her own unhappy home life, grade schooler Wakaba feels sorry for relentlessly picked-on classmate Koki, who takes her gestures of solidarity to heart—maybe a little too much so. Upon reaching adulthood, Wakaba finds she’s acquired an over-zealous mystery protector who slaughters anyone who gets too close to her. No prizes for guessing who that masked man might be. There’s a sentimental late twist that’s hard to swallow, but until then, this is a well-crafted mix of the earnest and outrageously over-the-top. Don’t expect any Joy Division, though.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (December 7)

The most visually imaginative entry in a series that enjoyed quite a bit of surreal creative leeway from the start, this 1988 sequel boosted Finn Renny Harlin onto Hollywood’s directorial A-list (his next project was big-budget Die Hard 2)—though he didn’t stay there long, and is now making Hollywood blockbuster knockoffs for the mainland Chinese film industry. This is the one in which slicing, dicing Freddy Kreuger doles out terror in such singular forms as a fatal waterbed, a human-scaled roach motel, and a pizza topped with screaming lost souls. Warped Dimension will present this delirious slasher on projected VHS, amidst a program generally redolent of yesteryear’s video store heyday.

Red Night (Wed/6)

Many Hole Head entries this year aim for cult-movie cache, some straining pretty hard for that quirkiness. Probably the most singular and successful among them is this 71-minute whatsit from writer-director-actors Beck & Collin Stafford. It’s basically a home invasion thriller, in which unlucky residents are stalked and attacked by a mysterious intruder. That may sound routine… but none of these characters are human, nor do they ever speak an intelligible word. Described in the program blurb as a “queer chosen family of five monsters,” the victims are furries without faces, or fur even—actors in variously ruffled and fuzzy fabrics, looking more like creatures you’d find at the bottom of the sea than anything mammalian. A bit Eraserhead, a bit Vegas in Space, a lot WTF, this vividly colored, dialogue-free oddity featuring works from numerous visual artists is a true original.

tOuch Kink (Sat/2)

Opening text claims 33 percent of the population “are kinky or curious,” and this documentary by Todd “Max” Carey is designed for the latter, providing an explanatory introduction to BDSM and fetishism. It probes those realms’ appeal for doms and subs, professionals and amateurs, mentors and disciples, interviewing folks whose preferred names include Mistress Evilyne, Princess Almighty, Slave Robin, Dutchess the Clown, Anniebear, Mr. Precious, and so forth. We get a short history of how such pursuits have been previously viewed by the psychiatric establishment, which no longer classifies them as “sexual deviation”—and how prejudice against their enthusiasts nonetheless persists in the larger world. Stereotypes are debunked, a dominatrix convention attended, and “Other World Kingdoms” (essentially communes or resorts for such role-players) visited in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. All this may seem very 101 to some, but then, this movie is not for them—it’s for the neophytes.

20TH ANNUAL ANOTHER HOLE IN THE HEAD FILM FESTIVAL runs Fri/1-December 11, with streaming access to some programs continuing through Decemeber 25. Online and at various San Francisco locations. For tickets and more information go here.

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