“He got sucked up in the sky and popped.”
Really, now. How could you resist a schlocky line of dialogue like that? I certainly can’t, and that’s why I look forward every year to Another Hole in the Head, a wild ride of an indie film festival of low-budget gems with a whole lot of chutzpah and utterly lacking in studio interference or test marketing.
The annual San Francisco cinematic treat reaches a milestone, too, turning 20 this year. Once again, it’s featuring a slew of Bay Area shorts along with upstart features you probably never have heard of — some scary, some funny, and some outright sexy.
Another Hole in the Head offers fans an in-person experience (Balboa, Roxie, 4 Star, and Eclectic Box SF are the theaters) that could tempt you off the couch. However, there’s also a well-stocked virtual program.
The eerie 1920 German silent classic “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” kicks off the fest at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Balboa. It features a much-praised live soundtrack courtesy of the popular San Francisco-based band Sleepbomb.
There are also live stage productions of a holiday-themed parody of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the 1984 horror classic from Wes Craven featuring a young Johnny Depp. Organizers warn attendees that there will be blood, buckets of the fake stuff, so be prepared to get a soaking. Performances take place Dec. 6-9 and Dec. 13-16 at 8 p.m. at Eclectic Box, 446 Valencia St., S.F. Tickets cost $35.
We caught four films that are recommended:
At the top of the list is director Antonio R. Cabal’s sensual update of his 1985 feature “End of Trip–Sahara,” a soak-up-the-atmosphere drama that never got to the DVD or streaming market. Why this stunningly photographed, sexy travelog cataloging the exploits of a trio of 1970s carefree, careless adventurers trekking via a Land Rover through the Sahara Desert went unreleased remains somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps Cabal and producer Maria R. Palao can clear that up during the Q&A after the 4 p.m. Dec. 9 screening at the 4 Star Theater.
Regardless, “End of Trip–Sahara” remains a mesmerizing, sensual odyssey that perfectly captures an era and a youthful spirit and desire to travel the planet. It’s inspired by the real-life experiences of three vibrant, intrepid and idealistic young adults: the impish flirt Rafa (Enrique Simón), the more serious/ introspective photographer Javier (Antonio Junco) — both from Madrid — and the disruptive independent French woman Florence (Maru Valdivielso). They carouse through the desert (the film was shot in the Algerian Sahara Desert and the visuals are striking) and fight, do ridiculous things, and walk around in extremely short shorts; the fit two guys often strut around sans shirts. Everything goes down smoothly (even at a slightly bloated two hour-plus run time), and the film doesn’t judge the characters. But it does channel their energy and quest to take full advantage of the wonders of the world without a clear plan.
For a funny and gory horror comedy, look no further than director Richard Elfman’s over-the-top (in a good way) “Bloody Bridget.” The Bridget (Anastasia Elfman) in question is a waitress/horror-themed burlesque performer in Van Nuys who is growing weary of the bump-and-grind working for a seedy bar owner. She gets an undead lease on life when she becomes the unwitting bride to a cigar-loving Haitian deity, then turns to ripping out hearts of others and chomping on their necks. The budget is obviously low here, and spirits remain very high as “Bloody Bridget” culminates with an audacious gathering in hell with an appearance from the devil himself (director Elfman). It’s a delightfully bizarre sequence boasting a hellishly good song; Richard Elfman’s brother Danny Elfman and Ego Plum created the score. “Bloody Bridget” made me smile and laugh; it’s obvious that every thin dime thrown into its piggy bank was put to great use. A pre-show event features live music and a burlesque routine provided by Richard and Anastasia Elfman. The fun begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at the 4 Star.
A dysfunctional family deals with the fallout of an Arctic mummy hurtling the wealthy patriarch, a whiskey magnate, up to the sky and leaving behind a bloody severed limb in Jesse T. Cook’s imaginative, quite kooky “The Hyperborean.” Channeling a bit of “Succession,” this engrossing B-movie gathers a brood around a table to talk to crisis managers and lawyers investigating pop’s death so they can figure out the best way to spin it. Screenwriter Tony Burgess realizes how cheesy it sounds yet gives the family and those who cater to them clever, comedic backstories. He also creates a decent mythology tied to 170-year-old Scotch and a shipwreck. Cook and the cast are in on the jokes and keep things rolling along in entertaining and engrossing fashion. “The Hyperborean” streams as well as screens at 9 p.m. Dec. 11 at the 4 Star.
If one of your go-to genres happens to be weird, character-driven indies that induce fits of nervous laughter, check out Mark H. Rapaport’s quirky B&W disturber “Hippo.” Narrated with absolute perfect inflection by Eric Roberts, “Hippo” focuses on the bizarre everyday lives of a 1990s Midwest family: the videogame-playing Hippo (Kimball Farley), who’s fascinated with guns and prone to outbursts; his not-all-there mom (Eliza Roberts); and his no-relation “sister” Buttercup (Lilla Kizlinger), who’s originally from Hungary and wants a baby. What makes “Hippo” wince-making is that Buttercup and Hippo have a thing for each other, one of many moments in the film where the characters exist in their warped versions of reality. Not for all tastes, “Hippo” marks the arrival of a filmmaker who draws inspiration from Yorgos Lanthimos and even David Lynch, yet paints a unique, surreal, off-kilter landscape of his own. It streams and screens at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the 4 Star.
For tickets (screenings listed here are $15-$35) and a complete lineup, visit https://holehead2023.eventive.org/welcome.
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