When local filmmaker Jeremy Jantz's short film Heels was deemed too excessive to screen at his alma mater, the Art Institute of Portland, because of its rampant sex and violence, he decided to create an entire showcase for extreme horror.
With The Walking Dead consistently setting ratings records, repertory screenings regularly dripping blood in Portland's indie theaters and ghouls haunting the multiplex, it's hard to remember that horror fans are still on the fringes of fandom.
That goes double for fans of extreme horror, those ultraviolent movies that folks watch, almost out of a dare. The kind of films so drenched in depravity, viscera, deviant sexuality and psychosis that you feel like taking a shower afterward. Steeped in the grindhouse tradition, they can make mainstream torture porn like the Saw series seem like Goosebumps.
If you're a fan, even the most ardent zombie disciple might look at you as if you were about to take a bite out of him.
That's the very genre of hard-hitting fringe movies that Jantz is putting on full display this weekend in hopes that fans will find a new event to rally around.
"Portland hasn't had the chance yet to mobilize [around extreme horror]," says Jantz. "We need to change that." So he's doing something about it, turning the Academy Theater into a showcase of the nastiest of nasties for the PDXtreme Fest.
The three-day festival features a slaughterhouse of features and shorts that often cross over from horror to crime and comedy. Among them are the slasher deconstruction Last Girl Standing, vigilante priest throwback Holy Hell, abduction freakout Rows and a post-apocalyptic Western from Amanda Milius, daughter of legendarily subversive director John Milius.
Many of the directors will be in attendance for the barrage of blood, guts, sexual violence, ghosts and all manner of disturbed souls, marking yet another instance of frustrated horror aficionados transforming Portland's cinematic landscape into one where horror doesn't simply live in designated blocks at film fests or in late-night revivals. It'll live in full view of those who fear it most, daring them to come join those who fully embrace it.
Niche horror fests, of course, have existed in Portland for a long time, with events like the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival filling a void for fans of often-overlooked weirdness. PDXtreme adds yet another neglected group—the ones who seemingly have no gag reflex—to the roster, bolstering a horror scene that just last month welcomed our first-ever Living Dead Con, another event organized by frustrated fans tired of other cities topping Portland in terms of macabre spectacle.
Does that mean Portland is slowly becoming a horror town?
"There is room for indie horror in Portland, and it'll keep coming back whether you like it or not. It's like a bad rash," Jantz says. "I'll be back next year. It doesn't matter. You might as well give into it."
SEE IT: The PDXtreme Fest is at the Academy Theater, pdxtremefest.com. Dec. 4-6. $30.
In the craptacular Spanish exploitation flick Vengeance of the Zombies, genre legend Paul Naschy commands a horde of super-sexy, recently resurrected zombie women… and that's the most logical thing that happens for the entire runtime. Joy Cinema. 9:15 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2.
Tired of superhero movies going too dark? Go revisit Batman Begins. Watch Danny DeVito attempt to drown a bunch of kids in a gigantic rubber ducky and attempt to bite a dude's face off while Michelle Pfeiffer wears the world's tightest rubber suit while panting like a cat in heat. It makes the Nolan Batman movies seem like the Schumacher ones. Mission Theater. 5:30 & 9:30 pm Thursday, Dec. 3.
For a long time, the classic musical Singin' in the Rain was a source of pure joy. Then came A Clockwork Orange. Now, for the Kubrick disciples, it can have an effect similar to the Ludovico technique, bringing forth images of ultraviolence. We live in a scary world. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 & 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 3 pm Sunday, Dec. 4-6.
Andy lo, as it had every year when the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers was consumed, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation made its first appearance of the season in Portland theaters. And it was good. But not as good as you remember. Laurelhurst Theater. Friday-Thursday, Dec. 4-10.
The perfect counterprogramming to the PDXtreme Fest, Edward Scissorhands takes what looks like a slasher villain—complete with Fred Kruger hands and a leather body suit that would suffocate Pinhead—and makes him one of the most gentle and sympathetic outcasts in modern cinema. Academy Theater. Laurelhurst Theater. Friday-Thursday, Dec. 4-10.
OMSI's Music + Film series continues to kick all the ass, this week focusing on concert films like Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense and the Jack White/The Edge/Jimmy Page lovedown It Might Get Loud, documentaries like the spliendid 20 Feet from Stardom and more. See OMSI.edu for full listings.
Twenty-five years after the events of Home Alone, it's hard to not wish for a sequel in which a 33-year-old Kevin McAllister seeks to adjust to life on the outside after spending two and a half years in a psych ward dealing with abandonment issues and the guilt of having probably murdered Harry and Marv. The Saturday screening of the family classic (the original, not my theoretical sequel) includes special considerations for special-needs children. Mission Theater. 11:30 am Saturday, 2, 5:30 & 8:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 5-6 .
If you've managed to go your whole life without beholding the majesty of Casablanca, here's your first chance of the season. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Sunday, Dec. 6.
Laurel and Hardy go all Babes in Toyland in 1934's March of the Wooden Soldiers, showing on one of the crispest prints in circulation. Hollywood Theatre. 2 pm Sunday, Dec. 6.
Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a rare film that surpasses its source material, which leads me to believe that maybe Philip Kaufman should have handled the upcoming Point Break remake. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 6.
In the US, Sammo Hung is best known as the dude from the horrible '90s cop show Martial Law. In Hong Kong, though, he's a fucking kung fu legend, never better than in the 1981 opus Prodigal Son, in which he plays double duty as fight coordinator and "kung fu hermit." Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, Dec. 8.