It’s December, which can mean only one thing: It’s time again for SF Indiefest’s Another Hole in the Head, the Bay Area’s annual celebration of films obscure, outré and out there. This year’s festival runs in person and online from Thursday, Dec. 1, through Sunday, Dec. 18.
Co-produced by the folks at the Found Footage Festival, A Life on the Farm examines the life and artistry of Charles Carson, a farmer in the delightfully named Somerset village of Huish Champflower. Drawing much of its footage from Carson’s voluminous video archives, A Life of the Farm begins as an amusing depiction of English eccentricity but slowly transforms into something a little weightier.
Carson taped everything he did, no matter how mundane. We see him feeding his cats and playfully frolicking with mock skeletons and a homemade power mower — and we also see him in more serious moments as he assists in the birth of a calf and celebrates the passing of his elderly parents, both of whom he recorded after death and prior to burial.
As director Oliver Harding makes clear, this was a man at ease with both the beginnings and endings of life. Carson’s neighbors — the recipients of his annual bespoke Christmas cards, videotapes and occasional nagging visits — remember him with fond if sometimes quizzical affection. One thing is clear: Despite all his quirks, Carson seemed to have found the recipe for genuine happiness.
Withal, A Life on the Farm depicts Carson (who died in 2008) as a dedicated family man and quintessential English eccentric. It’s full of charm and surprises, but comes with one warning: “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma,” the insipid and cloying tune that topped the British charts late in 1980, is heard several times. Proceed accordingly.
I’ll always remember seeing 1998’s Bride of Chucky at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater: The big auditorium was filled with parents, older children, toddlers and babies all screaming their lungs out. Apparently, the “Child’s Play” horror franchise was (is?) considered family friendly — and the new documentary Living With Chucky seems to concur!
Released in 1984, the first Child’s Play came out when horror films were largely populated by faceless slashers such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Writer-director Don Mancini decided to go in the opposite direction: His villain, played and voiced by Brad Dourif, was blessed with an overabundance of obnoxious personality and sassy wisecracks.
Seven sequels and a television series later, Mancini has kept control of his baby, relying over the last 40 years on a stock company of actors and technicians to keep the franchise a family affair. Living With Chucky director Kyra Elise Gardner, for example, is the daughter of longtime Chucky animator Tony Gardner; in addition to dad, her film includes interviews with franchise regulars Mancini, Dourif, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, Christine Elise, and John Waters — all of whom attest to the deep personal ties the cast and crew have developed. If you’re a fan of the series, this is essential viewing — and it’s fun for the whole family!
Finally, admirers of late Brazilian filmmaker Jose Mojica Marins — better known as Zé do Caixão, or Coffin Joe — will be thrilled at the prospect of seeing the master’s final completed project, The Curse. Only 50 minutes long and incredibly crude (much of the film was shot in the early 1980s on low quality film stock), The Curse isn’t on par with earlier Coffin Joe features such as At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, but it allows fans one last opportunity to see Marins in his full regalia of top hat, black cape, and lengthy (but carefully manicured) fingernails. It’s accompanied by a brief “making of” featurette, Mojica’s Last Curse.