The Gore Gore Girls

Underground filmmakers find horror in everyday San Francisco

The Gore Gore Girls Modern horror movies imagine psychopaths in hockey masks, zombies in the mall, and other malevolent monsters of the suburban subconscious. In Charm, a scream-packed and deadpan funny 8mm debut feature, underground filmmakers Sarah Reed and Sadie Shaw show they know (as Hitchcock did) that the scariest, grossest stuff is found in the everyday: numbingly banal conversations with vapid friends, pork-chop-and-Bud dinners with Mom and her lecherous hubby, mechanical sex with witless partners.

Charm's alienated "heroine" finds satisfaction in the pointy end of a big knife, but the filmmakers weren't interested in constructing a feminist screed so much as in grounding the surreal blood feasts of John Carpenter and his ilk. "While we really love classic horror films like Halloween, we don't want to remake them -- even though we'd be really proud if we did," Reed remarks. "Charm is an extreme version of when Sadie or I start to feel isolated and unable to express our feelings in a real way. We could relate to that part of the experience more than we could relate to being a murderer."

Longtime bandmates (the Lies, Bonnot Gang), Shaw and Reed drew on numerous musicians -- including locals Tim Green, the Aislers Set, Deerhoof, and the Face Family Players -- to compose interludes for Charm's muted, melancholy soundtrack. Refreshingly, the DIY moviemakers downplayed the S.F. locale on screen. "We didn't want it to be a specific time or place," Reed explains, "so people couldn't say, "Oh, this is about being a punk girl in San Francisco.' We wanted to make a movie that didn't rely on anything other than the elements we were concerned with -- the film quality, the music, the characters." Charm has its world premiere this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26, at 9:30 p.m. at the Werepad, 2430 Third St. (at 22nd Street), 824-7334.

Heaven and EarthLocal activist Lee Thorn's father worked for 20th Century Fox's theater division and the company's offspring in S.F., but I doubt it was nepotism that landed Thorn the projectionist's job on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. The ship's library of heroic 16mm movies, Thorn recalls, was divided equally between dubbed Italian gladiator epics and '40s cowboy flicks. "If there was blood, it was always the Indians'," he notes wryly. "Then I discovered A Thousand Clowns and showed it for 60 straight days. For 50 of those days I was the only one watching it. It was my relief" -- not from the westerns, but from the films of bombing runs Thorn was required to screen for the pilots, reel after reel of fire, smoke, and destruction.

As a kid, Thorn always figured he'd be in a movie someday, and in 1972 he had a cameo in F.T.A. (Free [or Fuck] the Army), the little-known documentary record of Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland's anti-war revue. His presence carries a lot more weight in the new documentary Bombies, which describes the painstaking work of various groups to clear Laos of thousands of unexploded and still-lethal American cluster bombs.

After years of battling post-traumatic stress, Thorn hooked up with Veterans for Peace and then co-founded a group that provides medical supplies to Laotian hospitals. The Jhai Foundation's recent program of installing self-funding Internet learning centers in high schools -- their use as after-hours e-mail centers generates revenue -- won the Stockholm Challenge Award for breakthrough work on the digital divide. "We don't do development; we do reconciliation," Thorn explains. "And I get the opportunity to heal." Bombies airs Thursday, Jan. 24, at 11 p.m. on KQED, Channel 9.

 
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