This year’s edition of the PollyGrind film festival sprawls across 10 days, and it’s hard to experience all of it. I spent nearly 12 hours at Theatre 7 taking in the weird and the awful this past Sunday, in addition to most of Saturday, and I still went home with screeners of two of festival organizer Chad Clinton Freeman’s favorite movies that I had missed. The festival continues through October 17, but I saw a full range of intriguing, entertaining and downright terrible movies over the course of just a couple of days.
One thing that Freeman does really well is challenge his audience, programming not only campy horror B-movies (although there are plenty of those), but also extreme, underground and avant-garde films. The two that he insisted I watch, Adam Rehmeier’s The Bunny Game and Sean Garrity’s Zooey & Adam, both fall into that category. Zooey & Adam doesn’t even really qualify as horror or exploitation, despite one horrific act that occurs toward the beginning of the movie. Mostly it’s a character study about the dissolution of a marriage over the course of several years, with that one horrific act having poisoned a previously happy relationship. The improvisational acting is a little awkward at times, and the ending is frustratingly obtuse, but overall Zooey & Adam is an engrossing, unpredictable story that would be at home at any mainstream film festival.
You can’t say the same for The Bunny Game, a nasty, plotless and nearly dialogue-free wallow in sadism, featuring a demented trucker abducting a hooker and brutally torturing her for nearly the entire movie. It’s supposedly inspired by writer/star Rodleen Getsic’s real-life experiences, and while it’s hard to criticize her need for closure and catharsis, that doesn’t make it a worthwhile movie. Bunny is hard to watch, sure, but the only value in getting through it is being able to say that you did.
I had more fun with some of the lighthearted homages to trash cinema. Brian Weaver and Evan Makrogiannis do a great job of balancing retro pastiche and real storytelling in The Super, a gritty and surprisingly layered slow-burn horror movie about a New York City building manager slowly losing his mind. The rest were amusing if insubstantial kitsch: The Australian sea-monster romp El Monstro del Mar has a cool rockabilly style and some impressive low-fi special effects. Darin Wood’s Planet of the Vampire Women is pure goofy cheesecake, although it gets a little repetitive and played-out by the end. And Billy Chase Goforth’s 25K is a decent knockoff of Quentin Tarantino’s knockoffs of 1970s exploitation cinema, even if it has a tough time deciding whether to take itself seriously or not.
Goforth managed to get an impressive turnout for his screening, and attendance was up and down throughout the weekend. Only one other person endured the pointless gore-fest The Summer of Massacre with me (a fellow movie masochist, no doubt), and the hardcore fans were the only ones to stick around for the close-to-1 a.m. start of The Uh-Oh Show on Sunday night. The latest film from octogenarian grindhouse legend Herschell Gordon Lewis, Uh-Oh is absurd and moronic but undeniably exuberant. I can’t recommend watching it, but I’m glad it exists. I hope to see more of that unique madness as the festival continues.