Zombies, witches and serial killers: Another Hole in the Head Film Festival returns

A genre showcase with a bonkers name and an enthusiastically programmed schedule, the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival launches its 2022 edition Thursday, unleashing zombies, witches, vampires, serial killers, and other staple ingredients onto the screen, while also presenting some unusual and satisfying indie cinema.
 
Thirty feature films and more than 200 short films, most of them of the horror, science-fiction or fantasy genre, screen at the 18-day celebration. Venues are the Roxie Theater, 4 Star Theatre and Stage Werx, all in San Francisco. Programs also take place online. Presented under the auspices of SF IndieFest, the event also includes Q&A sessions with filmmakers, both in-person and virtual, and special events.
 
Promoting independent genre film is the mission of Another Hole in the Head, says producer Romany Adams, who programs the festival with fellow producer Eric Ringer and director George Kaskanlian Jr. Adams also puts together the festival’s short-film programs. 
 
“If we enjoy a film, we want to give our audience an opportunity to enjoy it as well, and give filmmakers who don’t have the luxury of being backed by a big studio the chance to be seen, and possibly interact with their viewers,” she says.    
 
Having existed since the beginning of cinema, science-fiction, fantasy and horror films offer something beyond supernatural silliness and cheap scares. 
“Sci-fi/fantasy could be described as escapism, but I think they’re more than that,” says Adams. “I think many of us hunger for greater possibilities — in the case of fantasy, for a world with more wonder in it than we experience in the day-to-day; with science fiction, it’s the dream of realizing our potential for creativity and exploration.” 
 
Adams believes horror serves a different purpose. “While horror can certainly have elements of both things … it serves a different and very visceral purpose. Horror is catharsis, a way of getting the audience emotionally involved so that their anxieties can coalesce and be discharged.”
 
This year’s films were selected from about 1,000 submissions, says Adams. First up is “Satanic Hispanics,” the opening-night feature. The skillfully crafted drama contains five short Latin-legend-rooted horror tales directed by Mike Mendez (“The Convent”), Demian Rugna (“Terrified”), Eduardo Sanchez (“The Blair Witch Project”), Gigi Saul Guerrero (“Bingo Hell”) and Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) — some of whom the festival has featured previously, Adams says.
 
Adams also highlights the U.S. premiere of “The Curse,” on Friday, Dec. 9. A couple suffer terrifyingly after they photograph and insult a witch in this hourlong chiller from Brazilian genre notable Jose Mojica Marins. Filmed for Brazilian TV in 1967, the film was restored in recent years after mishaps derailed it. The short documentary “Mojica’s Last Curse” completes the evening.
 
“Pig Killer,” making its North American premiere, screens on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Director Chad Ferrin graphically dramatizes the crimes of real-life Canadian serial killer Robert “Willy” Pickton, who murdered 49 women on his hog farm. Actors Jake Busey and Bai Ling are expected to attend. 
 
Additional selections include “Alchemy of the Spirit,” a surreal drama about an artist who creates a loving but horrifying artwork honoring his recently deceased wife; “Bundy Manor,” about an extreme haunted house; “Cryptid,” a Maine-set monster flick; and titles that, in genre fashion, speak for themselves: “A Zombie Movie,” “The Creeping,” “SAWrannosaurus Rex” and “Living With Chucky,” a documentary that takes viewers into the realm of modern mythology with its profile of the killer doll from “Child’s Play.” 
 
Short films, an underappreciated cinematic form, receive deserved spotlight in several programs curated by Adams. She elaborates: “We have new installments of ‘Dark Rainbow,’ a series of genre LGBT+ shorts I’ve been screening since 2016; ‘Strangers With Eye Candy,’ a long-running series of eclectic animation; plus four installments of ‘Strictly Local,’ a broad sampling of works from around the Bay Area.”
 
Adams adds that programmer Benji Carver has put together his own collection, “Benji’s Warped Cosmic Shorts,” and that the festival’s virtual portion offers several online-only programs of shorts.
 
Special events include the return of a stage-theater component, “Live on Stage! A Special Edition of The Twilight Zone Parody Show.” Presented by Dreams on the Rocks, performances take place Wednesday and Thursday, December 14-15.
 
“The Iago Complex,” featuring an “Othello” component, is described by Adams as “Christopher Coppola’s ‘living cinema’ performance in memory of the late, lamented San Francisco Art Institute.” It’s set for Wednesday, Dec. 7.
 
Another highlight is a screening, on Friday, Dec. 2, of George Romero’s zombie classic “Night of the Living Dead,” accompanied by a world-premiere score performed live by Sleepbomb.  
 
The Another Hole in the Head Film Festival began in 2004, when SF IndieFest decided to add a genre festival to its slate. The inaugural edition occurred at the Kabuki 8, in a cinema next to the auditorium showing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” recalls Adams, then a volunteer.  
 
She adds that “after a couple of days of standing in the hallway, listening to the Gibson film’s very disturbing soundtrack,” she and another volunteer went from asking,  “Are you here for the horror festival or ‘Passion of the Christ’?” to saying, “Passion of the Fest, or Horror of the Christ?” to “anyone we were pretty sure was one of our own.” 
 
The festival has evolved over its nearly 20-year history and, more recently, while still devoted foremost to horror, sci-fi and fantasy, has been broadening its scope. That means that other types of genre films, like rom-coms, westerns or action-adventures, may make the cut, if programmers deem a movie extraordinary.
 
As for how its expressive moniker came about, Adams credits Bruce Fletcher, SF IndieFest’s head of programming at the time: “He said it should be called Another Hole in the Head because ‘San Francisco needs another film festival like it needs Another Hole in the Head!’”
 
Regardless, audiences keep coming, and Bay Area filmgoers are a distinctive lot, Adams says. 
 
“While there are always broad-minded individuals in any community, I think Bay Area audiences have a special kind of openness to new things and a tolerance for ‘the other’ — diverse cultures, etc.,” she says.   
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