News Column

Indie horror fest gets away with redrum

November 28, 2013


Nov. 28--The folks at IndieFest are pulling out all of the stops for the 10th Another Hole in the Head Film Festival: live cheerleaders, strippers, parties and free all-you-can-eat breakfast cereal.

Oh yeah, they're also showing films -- 56 features and 30 shorts -- and have expanded to an unprecedented three weeks. They're even showing a film backward.

The indie horror, science fiction and fantasy festival became a staple of the city's summer festival calendar, but last year moved the festival to the holiday season. The result: A near doubling of ticket sales. Turns out San Franciscans don't find the holidays scary enough -- they need horror films.

"Maybe because it's cold, the weather can be bad and it's dark outside," said festival founder and director George Kaskanlian Jr. "It works!"

The festival opens -- appropriately, on Black Friday -- at the Balboa Theatre with the Canadian 1980s-style supernatural slasher thriller "All Cheerleaders Die," a hit when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, with actresses in person.

The festival closes Dec. 19 at New People Cinema with Josh Feldman's "Senn," a science-fiction film about alien intelligence in the corporate-owned future that is the first locally made film to close the festival.

That's followed by a closing night party in an upstairs rooms at the Penthouse Club -- the brainchild of the makers of "The G-String Horror Demon Cut," shot partly at the Market Street Cinema strip club.

In between there are some rather bizarre happenings -- such as a free program of Saturday morning cartoons from the 1980s and '90s, complete with all-you-can-eat breakfast cereal.

Or how about -- apparently just for the hell of it -- a live stage spoof of "Top Gun" called "Top Guys," that has seven performances associated with the festival at Stage Werx in the Mission District.

And of course, there are actual horror films -- the bloody bread-and-butter of Another Hole in the Head. Highlights include Bobcat Goldthwait's "Willow Creek" (Sort of a "Blair Witch Project"-meets-Bigfoot), "Patrick," talented Australian director Mark Hartley's remake of a 1978 Aussie classic, the usual J-horror films ("Sengoku: Bloody Agent" and "Nuiglumar Z"), several films with "Zombie" in the title (most creative: "Bath Salt Zombies") and other films with titles such as "Discopath," "Cannibal Diner," "The Grave Bandits" and -- just for the holidays -- "The Town That Christmas Forgot."

What kind of a guy programs a horror festival -- which means spending six months each year watching hundreds of horror films submitted? Kaskanlian, 39, is a native San Franciscan who works in real estate.

Sounds normal enough, until he talks about watching films backward. That's the plan Dec. 12, when the festival will show Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" on a 35mm print -- then at the end, run it backward through the projector.

"Everything matches up, it's really psychedelic," Kaskanlian laughs. "It's almost as if Kubrick meant it to be seen this way. I've watched it three times that way -- it's insane! It's really cool."

Another Hole in the Head: Friday-next Thursday at Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa St., S.F. (415) 221-8184; Dec. 6-19 at New People Cinema, 1746 Post St., S.F. Festival passes: All festival, $149; Balboa only, $99; New People only, $119. Opening night film (at Balboa): "All Cheerleaders Die"; Closing night (at New People): "Senn," followed by party at the Penthouse Club.

G. Allen Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @BRfilmsAllen


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