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San Francisco International Film Festival preview: Joshua Grannell's All About Evil is a bloody cinema valentine

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cheryl@sfbg.com

SFIFF If you know San Francisco's cult movie culture, you know Midnight Mass, the Bridge Theatre's long-running celebration of late-night movies. And if you know Midnight Mass, then you most certainly know Peaches Christ, the event's fabulously dressed and tressed hostess.

Many local film fans are already hip to the reason Peaches — and her civilian alter ego, Joshua Grannell — declared that 2009 would be the last year for Midnight Mass' popular summer-weekend series. Grannell just completed his first feature film, All About Evil, about a mousy librarian named Deb (a killer Natasha Lyonne) who blossoms, rather terrifyingly, into a horror filmmaker named "De-bor-ah" after she inherits the Victoria Theatre. Deborah's frighteningly, er, realistic short films begin drawing crowds to the struggling, single-screen movie house, with teenage horror geek Steven (Thomas Dekker of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) looking on first in admiration, then suspicion. Also along for the ride are some familiar faces from Midnight Mass, including John Waters superstar Mink Stole and Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson.

A perfect fit for San Francisco International Film Festival's Late Show series, All About Evil makes its world premiere at the fest, though it'll be screening at the Castro Theatre rather than the Victoria, its central filming location.

"The Castro is just like, how can you not want to be at the Castro?" Grannell said. We were sitting outside of Farley's on Potrero Hill — not one of Grannell's usual haunts, but multiple friends of his still happened by. Peaches Christ is well-loved in this town, people. "I definitely didn't want [the premiere] to be at the Kabuki, mostly because of what the movie is about. I think they've done a nice job with the Kabuki, but I was writing the movie while living and breathing at the [single-screen] Bridge."

And lest ye forget, the Castro has a glorious stage. The SFIFF screening will be "like Midnight Mass," Grannell explained. "But because it's gonna be the world premiere and I have access to some of the cast, we're actually incorporating them into the show. Natasha will be there and will do the Q&A. Mink is doing a number with me, and Thomas is doing his own rock number with all the young cast. Which is kind of unique — when do you get to go to a movie, and the cast is doing a show before the screening?"

Of course, Peaches Christ, who has a pretty delightful cameo in the film, will also host. "It's kind of a marrying of Midnight Mass with All About Evil," Grannell said. "And it's kind of a surreal moment for me. We've spent 13 years creating live entertainment to celebrate all my favorite movies and now we get to do it for our own movie."

Fortunately, the celebration isn't going to be limited to one night. After SFIFF, Peaches and company plan to hit the road, taking the film and a scaled-down version of their live show to different venues (Austin, Texas' Alamo Drafthouse is tops on the list). Grannell said that All About Evil will also have a limited theatrical release (playing midnight circuits, of course). For faithful locals, he's giving the Victoria its due later this year.

"I thought, what are we gonna do in San Francisco? The world premiere doesn't seem like enough. So we're going to do a run with a full stage show in October," he said. "We're calling it 'environmental theater,' where we transform the Victoria back to the character it plays in the movie. I kind of think of it as a haunted house, where the characters will be interacting with you as you walk through the doors."

Grannell is a huge cult movie fan, and his movie clearly references that. But he'd rather you didn't call his movie a cult film just yet.

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