Film is at its most radical when it’s fucking weird. By breaking away from what we think we know, weird cinema can offer us new ways of seeing the world. We may giggle at onscreen absurdity, but if we remain detached through irony then we can miss the transformative and perverse pleasures that are on offer.
Weird cinema is not just for the jaded cinephile looking for their next fix, but is a communal means of escape from the bland, and the pedestrian.
The Glasgow-based Matchbox Cineclub have been doing the Lord’s work by organising an irresistible platter of weird-ass film screenings this weekend at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Many of these films have never been screened in Scotland before, and are generally hard to find.
What’s even better is that Matchbox are not gating these treasures off for wealthy dickheads. These films weren’t made for them! Everyone, regardless of their financial situation, can enjoy these gems thanks to a sliding scale price system for tickets. Furthermore, every screening will be fully captioned.
Of course, time, as well as money, is a precious resource these days, and with so much obscurity on offer, it can be daunting to decide which films to see. That’s why I offer this humble list of five films screening at Weird Weekend and why you should see them.
Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel
This is the first Estonian film I have ever seen, and if Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel is any indication, I have been missing out. It’s an unconventional Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, with massive creepy old house vibes, replete with bizarro imagery. Also, it has the coolest fucking soundtrack to ever come from a theremin.
When detective Peter Glebsky is trapped in an isolated hotel thanks to a timely avalanche, murder is suddenly afoot among the guests. What I like about this film is that this kind of story is usually about the rational overcoming chaos. The detective usually deduces the culprit through logic and order is restored. However, in Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel, the stiff-lipped detective is gradually overwhelmed by his own lack of comprehension. The corridors of the hotel, draped in opaque shadows, morph into a psychological labyrinth which Glebsky, and by extension the audience, must paw their way through. The implicit heroism we may unconsciously apply to Glebsky as the protagonist becomes complicated, and his authority is ultimately undermined
The film is an adaptation of a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Tarkovsky fans will recognise them as the minds behind Stalker. If that particular brand of Soviet cinema is your thing then Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel is a most rare and delicious vintage.
I was a Teenage Serial Killer
Underground feminist film-maker Sarah Jacobson is getting a double-bill this weird weekend, including her sole feature Mary Jane’s Not a Virign Anymore. However I wanted to take the time to appreciate the accompanying short I Was a Teenage Serial Killer.
The title is pretty self-explanatory, featuring a young drifter who dispatches different flavours of scumbag men. Even when she thinks she finds a kindred spirit with another, male serial killer, the reality of misogyny continues to disappoint.
The act of murder acts a feminist inversion of the serial killer image, whose real-life practitioners are more often than not driven by misogyny. The procession of murder is reminiscent of Divine’s climactic breakdown in Multiple Manaics (John Waters is a noted influence on Jacobson), however Jacobson goes further by providing a reflective epilogue to Mary’s journey that adds political weight to the violence.
The Neon Slime Mixtape
Remember the Interdimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty? Well, The Neon Slime Mixtape is like that, but real. An amalgamation of ’80s video oddities, Neon Slime Mixtape takes us on a tour of the darkest cultural corners in the Reagan nightmare zone. This is a far cry from the watered-down, market-friendly ’80s nostalgia of Stranger Things. We’re talking about Vampire Jack the Ripper nightmare sequences playing to the tune of a fitness video, sprinkled with ostentatious screen-wipes. Viscera flies when a yuppie brunch is invaded by horror icons, and a failed singer turned stripper will pour his heart out for you the only way he knows how. Peppy pop lyrics become wails of despair over the soundtrack. Less a nostalgia trip and more a full-on trip, The Neon Slime Mixtape was made for weird weekends like these.
Věra Chytilová took the basic premise of The Thing and made it infinitely more terrifying by throwing puberty into the mix. Although Chytilová’s work is becoming more well-known amongst British cinephiles, thanks in no small part to the work of Second Run DVD, most of us have only caught a glimpse of the Czech director’s versatility through works like Daisies. Wolf’s Hole is therefore a rare chance to witness Chytilová’s sublime character work.
Eleven young teenagers, each one from a different school, converge on a secluded mountain retreat. There, the creepy camp counsellors inform the group that they were only expecting ten: someone does not belong here. What unfolds is a quietly tense test of the children’s ideals of solidarity, which brush against against their unique personalities. Few films come this close to depicting the low level shittiness of teenagers. These characters could have been pigeon-holed into stock archetypes, but every one is given a shade of complexity. The internal contradictions of each character imbues them with humanity, and further complicates the interpersonal drama that unfolds as the mystery of why they’re there reveals itself.
Out of all the films screening at Weird Weekends this year, Wolf’s Hole is the one I most want to rewatch.
Re-imagining Virginia Woolf’s classic gender swapping tale for a post-war Europe, Ulrike Ottinger treats us to a riotous vision, that reminds me of Derek Jarman’s interpretation of The Tempest.
The entire production blends together contemporary iconography with the medieval and earl-modern, implicitly rejecting the conception of history as an inevitable march towards progress. The self-flagellating zealots of yesterday transform into more recognisable goose-steppers, while pre-Reformation Christendom is more akin to a cyberpunk Black Friday Sale.
The Ugly person contest in the finale is an all-too relevant pisstake of mass media, highlighting the hypocrisy and exploitation of our culture. The disabled contestants are judged by old, able-bodied white men. In a ludicrous final flourish, the eventual winner of the contest is a salesman who accidentally wandered onstage while looking for the toilet.
Freak Orlando is an uncompromising vision, using costume, and set design to deliver lashing critiques upon societal values that still remain in place more thirty years later.
You can find a full listing of the films showing at Weird Weekend here
All images courtesy of: TMDB.org