FILM FESTIVAL Sometimes the best thing a movie has going for it is its title, especially if that title happens to be Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood!. Far and away the most expressively named selection at this year's Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, Zombies imagines what would happen if a couple of rival gangbangers, a weary cop, and assorted other ragtag types emerged as the only humans unaffected by a mysterious solar flare. Zombie-movie conventions are followed (the obligatory lesson about shooting 'em in the head, etc.), self-referential jokes are cracked (Shaun of the Dead gets a shout-out). The most distinctive features here casting erstwhile soul man C. Thomas Howell as the cop, an eye-rollingly dated Snakes on a Plane joke, and a truly disturbing twist that renders the zombies brain eaters and sex freaks aren't quite enough to elevate Zombies to the realm of must-see undeadness. To be fair, though, even Troma would have a hard time fulfilling the promise of something called Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood!.
A better bargain for your gross-out buck is 2007's Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, a film I seized on after noting the top billing of Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund. With higher production values than Zombie and a clever script (cowritten by John Ainslie and director Jon Knautz), Monster follows the titular hero (Trevor Matthews), a slacker dude plumber who's been toting around some serious anger issues since childhood when he witnessed a monster gobble up his entire family. Jack's princess-bitch girlfriend (Rachel Skarsten) convinces him to enroll in a night-school class taught by the bumbling Professor Crowley, who ropes Jack into taking a look at the rusty pipes beneath his creepy old house. Cue: the unearthing of an ancient evil, and Crowley's transformation from science geek to chicken-wing-gobbling, Jabba the Huttlike menace.
Naturally this turn of events unleashes the inner warrior in Jack; the film is bookended by flash-forwards that suggest he becomes something of a Buffy for the monster population. But the main reason to see Monster is Englund, who's having something of a mini-comeback between this film and the recent Zombie Strippers. Always a limber, engaging performer, Englund further proves there's more to him than vivisecting Elm Street teens though that'd be enough for me, really.
But back to the zombies. One of HoleHead's programming edicts is apparently "never enough zombies," to the extent of capitalizing the Zed-word in their programming notes. Along with those mutant hood-rats, the fest also includes Wasting Away (2007), Trailer Park of Terror (question: when did zombies and white trash become so synonymous?), and Brain Dead (2007), the latter containing nearly as many gratuitous female nudes (full-frontal, in most cases) as it does alien-parasite-spawned undead beasties. Whatever, dude you want class, look elsewhere. These HoleHead selections embrace crass with pride.
Other notable picks in this year's festival include the locally made Home World, an uneven if ambitious sci-fi tale that owes a debt to Battlestar Galactica; a revival of Roger Vadim's 1968 Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy (free entry for Jane Fonda look-alikes and other costumed attendees); The Machine Girl, about a one-handed Japanese schoolgirl who exacts tasty, gory revenge on the baddies who offed her family; and, just 'cause it's Uwe Boll, 'Nam drama The Tunnel Rats, potentially the first film he'll direct that spawns a video game instead of vice versa.