YBCA offers up a bloody cinematic antidote to holiday smarm
The mayhem she contrives (no doubt most "gore" was thriftily broiled for stew after each day's shoot) looks even more laughable alongside the too convincing graphic ugh-liness of Thai cinematographer Tiwa Moeithaisong's directorial debut Meat Grinder (2009). Its protagonist is a Bangkok noodle shop proprietor whose extremely abused history triggers a Texas Chainsaw style attitude toward fresh victuals, and whose threadbare grip on reality provides our brain-scrambling POV. Starting out like just another exercise in "Asian Extreme" excess, this grows both more outre and controlled as it goes along, balancing jet-black comedy with a certain grotesque pathos.
Charting a reverse trajectory is Red White & Blue, the first U.S. feature by Brit writer-director Simon Rumley, whose 2006 The Living and the Dead is one of the most original films (horror or otherwise) in recent memory. For 80 minutes, it's a chillingly fine portrait of some well-marginalized characters in Austin, Texas, culminating in possibly the most alarming home invasion since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). But the rest degenerates into rote revenge-fantasy torture porn, further weakened by deliberate story mystifications more enervating than enigmatic.
There are excuses for horror fans who've missed Living and Dead — it was barely released in the U.S. — but none for those as yet unbathed in the blood of Wolf Creek. Allegedly based on actual events (a fib), Greg Mclean's 2005 first feature takes exactly half its length to let nothing happen. Nothing, that is, save our getting to know three young people just ordinary and interesting enough to grow concerned about as they drive across Australia at summer holiday's end, halted in the middle of nowhere by what at first seems routine bad luck. Several long dread-accruing minutes later, it turns out what's happening to them is something far, far worse, unrelated to either luck or anything routine. Brilliantly atmospheric and visceral, Creek justifies YBCA's hyperbolic claim as "possibly the best horror film of the decade."
Also on "Hell"'s menu are two films I could say more about, but won't. Regarding Mladen Djordjevic's Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009), that's because this all-outrages-inclusive tragicomedic mock-doc road flick was only available for preview in its original Serbian language. Still, it's recommendable. Whereas Marc D. Levitz's U.S. documentary Feast of the Assumption: BTK and The Otero Family Murders (2008), about a serial killer's capture and impact on victims' families 30 years later, would merit further discussion if it didn't wobble between tabloid TV and home movie — all the while raising serious questions it doesn't address, or perhaps even notice.
"GO TO HELL FOR THE HOLIDAYS"
Dec. 2–18, $6–$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF