HOW’S EVERYONE doing out there? I don’t know about y’all, but I feel a little numb. A little dead inside. A little lost. And when I get that feeling, I like to turn to the revitalizing powers of horror to guide me back to the light—even if that light involves eviscerated teenager guts and fleeing from a chainsaw-waving psychopath. At least with horror, it’s a only a make-believe maniac, one who has absolutely no control over Supreme Court nominations.
So it’s perfect timing for the second annual PDXtreme Film Fest to return to the Academy Theater, with more than 25 hours of murderous mayhem and merry massacres. Fest director Jeremy Jantz got this nascent fest on its feet last December with three days devoted to visiting filmmakers and their films—some of which were truly horrific, some of which were delightful and quirky, and some dark and clever. All of them were genre. PDXtreme filled a film fest niche that Portland didn’t even know it had.
“This year was about staying the course and keeping up the quality,” Jantz says. “There was a really good response from attendees last year. We’ve already sold fest passes to people who attended last year. I always knew that, as an event, it would need some time to grow organically. But [the] first year exceeded my expectations.”
This year’s fest is shaping up to be just as bodaciously bloody. The standout feature, Peelers, is a surprising ode to strippers that stars wondrous badass Wren Walker as Blue Jean, a strip club owner closing down her bar, Titty Balls, only to have it be inundated with oil-oozing monsters. She’s the baseball-loving matriarch to a group of strippers who seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and know how to kick some serious zombie ass. It’s like From Dusk Till Dawn meets Showgirls, but with strong, likeable women who make their vaginas bark like dogs onstage! Yay!
Feel-good female camaraderie is harder to find in PDXtreme’s Sunday night closing feature, Frankenstein Created Bikers. It’s a spot-on throwback to exploitation pics of the past, hitting all the genre’s pleasure points with its panache for Russ Meyer. But it’s too soon. I mean, I love exploitation movies, but they really resonate as artifacts from the past—in our pussy-grabbing present, over-the-top modern-day sleaze just feels kinda gross.
But blood and guts? Let’s do it! Red Christmas looks like a gory good time—I tend to trust Australians when it comes to horror movies, especially when they feature Dee Wallace and an aborted fetus. And 1980s genre star Jewel Sheperd will be on hand for the Saturday night screening of Slasher.com. And even though its seemingly brain-dead characters need to listen to the podcast My Favorite Murder (“stay sexy, don’t get murdered”), Sheperd shines as a twisted, antique spoon-wielding looney. Things happen with that spoon. Shiver.
But as was the case with last year’s PDXtreme Film Fest, the most bang for your buck (it’s $30 for a weekend pass, with limited at-the-door tickets to individual screenings) can be found in the shorts programs. With more than 30 shorts, these little horror nuggets are economical and stellar—like the stylish, atmospheric, and aptly titled They Will All Die in Space, or the elaborate reality-show setup of The Cleansing Hour, or the French short Pearlies, about a very uncuddly Tooth Fairy.
All in all, it’s a nice batch of genre, perfect for hiding away from the horror show that is reality. The PDXtreme Film Fest says it best: “Certain scares in uncertain times.” Go appreciate life by looking death in the face—it’s effective therapy for your existential dread.