'Tis the season for ghouls and gore at Another Hole in the Head film fest
With that said, The Garlock Incident does make an effort to tread new, albeit Blair Witch-y, ground. The set-up is that a group of Los Angeles actors — appealing 20-somethings all — are en route to Vegas for a movie shoot. Also in the van is ambitious director Lily (Ana Lily Amirpour), who obsessively films everything. After taking a spontaneous detour to visit a ghost town with a sinister back story, they discover a couple of maybe-abandoned shacks — and soon realize that getting off the main road was a bad idea. Oh, kids. It's always a bad idea, especially for city slickers who can't function without cell service.
Garlock's frustrating ending, which I wouldn't dare spoil even if I fully understood it (even after watching it several times), is a letdown. Until its last act, though, Garlock is actually a pretty interesting look at how quickly relationships can break down when circumstances slide from uncertain to dire. But once you start puzzling over the ending, other doubts surface — like, by what logic would the actors' audition footage be neatly edited into this roughly-shot, "found" chronicle of wilderness terror?
Speaking of wilderness terror and, alas, unsatisfying finales, retro-styled sci-fi adventure The 25th Reich screeches to a halt with a "to be continued" cliffhanger, just when shit is starting to get mind-blowingly insane. Argh! Fortunately, for the most part, the film — about a group of World War II soldiers who time-travel back and forth, squabbling among themselves as they pursue UFOs and Nazis — works just fine as a stand-alone, though its gleeful reliance on stereotypes (the Jew, the Italian, the Southern redneck, etc.) feels less like a nod to classic war films than a way to avoid actual character development.
The best gimmick centers on Captain O' Brien, an erstwhile matinee idol not above reciting cornball lines from his own films at crucial moments. That he's played by Jim Knobeloch — who also appeared in 2012's other Nazi sci-fi flick, Iron Sky — is a perfect bit of obscure-genre synergy.
It wouldn't be HoleHead without zombies. Comic The Living Corpse gets the (re-)animated treatment in The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse, which follows the titular beastie's existential crisis after he — oops! — rips apart almost his entire family. Spared is a young son who is sent to a creepy boarding school for orphans, though he's soon plucked from its halls to apprentice under a mad scientist. Meanwhile, the guilt-ridden corpse — real name: John Romero; memo to creative types: naming anyone "Romero" in your zombie-related whatnot is no longer a novel idea — roams the underworld and the land of the living, meting out occasional supernatural ass-kickings but mostly searching for his long-lost offspring.
The haunted-school scenes (complete with a kids vs. demons showdown) are clever, and the catchy soundtrack has punky flair, but the sheer number of plot threads nearly overwhelms the 82-minute film — maybe cool for fans of the comic, but viewers new to the material might wonder why, say, the "Spectral Protection Society" is elaborately introduced and then discarded. The overall effect is not nearly as fun (or "amazing") as it should be.