THERE'S SOME STUFF in Portland's first PDXtreme Fest that's going to dredge up repressed memories. Like when your babysitter let you watch all those slasher flicks while she made out with her boyfriend? Maybe you were scarred for life seeing all those knife-wielding psychopaths stalk their teenage prey. And yet? You kept coming back for more—and now look at you, an unrepentant gorehound. Well then. Good news.
PDXtreme features 45 feature-length and short films from countries as far-flung as France, Taiwan, and the ethereal unknown of Canada. With more than 25 hours of horror and other genres, that's a lot of blood, guts, and butts. Based on the films I screened, the benefit of getting a $30 festival pass (tickets to individual screenings aren't being sold) is well worth any discomfort that comes from watching a man erotically writhe around in a pit of body parts. (Heads up: This happens in Headless.)
The fest describes itself as "a celebration of genre film. We want to show horror, crime, dark comedy, and even applicable documentaries.... When it comes to blood or nudity and you're worried other fests can't handle it, you're in the right place." That's where fest organizer Jeremy Jantz's experiences came into play. "After my own short film was deemed too excessive for film school, it went on to play horror and underground film festivals around the world," he wrote in a press release. "Meanwhile, it became apparent that Portland didn't really have that sort of film festival." Jantz began taking submissions in February, and they poured in.
Of those is the great headliner, Last Girl Standing, which boasts a fantastic premise: How do good-girl survivors from brutal slasher flicks go on to make it in the real world? After surviving a slasher massacre, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) holes up in a self-imposed exile working at a laundromat—but, naturally, she's pretty psychologically damaged. Last Girl Standing ends up being a sympathetic, touching film that actually treats a horror character like a sentient being who must deal with the aftermath of bloody violence. (Don't worry. There's scary stuff, too.)
There's also the aforementioned Headless, a real fucked-in-the-head flick. Done in the style of a lost 1978 grindhouse movie, it follows the twisted exploits of a skull-faced killer who loves nothing more than to neck-fuck girls with maniacal abandon... like, after he chops off their heads. (Don't blame me, I didn't make it up.) This portrait of a serial killer is messed up to the nth degree, but it was undoubtedly effective at squicking me out. You're going to need a shower after this.
There are other notable features, like Mania's lesbian love story gone off the rails, but the shorts are where it's at. Portlander Lori Bowen and Shannon Lark's stylish I Am Monster is about a kinky woman (played by Lark) let loose in a morgue, and there's also the funny, self-explanatory Crow Hand!!!—but my favorite was The Smiling Man, about a child who gathers mysterious balloons from a long-fingered stranger. It's a slow burn until its nightmarish ending, and creepy as all get-out.
And that's just a taste of all the carnage the fest has to offer. It looks like PDXtreme is going to be a force of nature—so bring your splatter poncho, and remember to peek out from behind your hands every now and then.