The greatest thing about most film festivals with "underground" in their name is that they include films you're not likely to see anywhere else—stuff so far out on the fringes that they'll probably never show up on the mainstream circuit. With more than 20 features, shorts and documentaries, you'd be hard put to find a more strange collection of films than those presented at the Portland Underground Film Festival.
PUFF gets underway with Rodman Flender's documentary Let Them Eat Rock (7 pm Thursday). Shot over the course of five years, the documentary follows Upper Crust, a Boston-based rock band that dresses up as 18th-century British aristocrats while singing about their rich lifestyle. Anyone who has enjoyed the short films involving the Portland Underground Bike Community will not want to miss Bike Mayhem (9:15 pm Thursday), a sort of "greatest hits" showcase featuring the Zoobombers, Urban Adventure League and Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Friday night at PUFF brings two of the better films. Stomp! Shout! Scream! (7 pm Friday), from director Jay Wade Edwards, is billed as "a beach party rock 'n' roll monster movie." In this campy sendup of 1950s horror films—taking inspiration from movies like Horror of Party Beach—Florida's legendary skunk ape (think Sasquatch, only smellier) wreaks havoc on a tiny seaside community, where an all-girl rock band has become stranded when their car breaks down. Jason Gilbert's The Coat Room (9:15 pm Friday) was shot on location at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where a directionless college dropout is working his first day at the coat-check room. Claire Bromwell steals the show as a cynical co-worker who spends her time going through the pockets of museum patrons' coats, while telling lies about her fellow employees.
For those who missed it at the last PUFF, there is an encore screening of Jerkbeast (1 pm Saturday), the freaky tale of an untalented Seattle band's rise to fame. Directors Brady Hall and Calvin Lee Reeder have put together one of the most profane films of all time, starring a guy in a bizarre mask. One of the more strange, not to mention compelling, films at PUFF is Gregory Hatanaka's Mad Cowgirl (9:15 pm Saturday). The mesmerizing Sarah Lassez stars as Therese, a health inspector obsessed with the kung fu television series The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick, who may or may not have contracted mad cow disease. Walter Koenig (Star Trek's Pavel Chekhov) co-stars in a creepy supporting role as Therese's televangelist lover.
The Portland Underground Film Festival ends Sunday with a schedule that includes A Tribute to James Westby (5 pm), the local filmmaker best known for his most recent work, Film Geek. Although what will be showing in this special tribute hasn't been announced, the smart money is on Westby's brilliant 1996 film, Bloody Mary, starring Melik Malkasian as an inept killer trying to finish a murder he didn't get right the first time.
For a complete schedule of films and showtimes, go to www.clintonsttheater.com.
Clinton Street Theatre, 2522 SE Clinton St.,
238-8899. Thursday-Sunday, June 8-11. $6-$25.