Movies: Twisted cinema

COLIN COVERT | Updated 8/23/2012

Underground Film Fest brings mayhem and misanthropy.

"The Comedy" dissects the cruelty beneath much of modern movie humor.
Provided by Tribeca Film

It's back, in your face, and halfway down your throat. It's the ever-transgressive Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. Now celebrating its fifth anniversary, the program is a sinister salad bar of harsh, sometimes comic and always weird moviemaking. Running Friday through Sunday, it boasts a baker's dozen features and 30-odd shorts. Very odd.

"The Comedy" (7:30 p.m. Sun.) is anything but. The film stars Tim Heidecker (of Adult Swim's "Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!"), who practices a challenging Andy Kaufmanesque brand of anti-humor. He plays Swanson, a spoiled, sarcastic man-child who spends his days mocking and playing cruel pranks on squares. That's the essence of myriad "Hangover"-influenced comedies, but here the behavior is observed dispassionately, exposing the misanthropy at its core. Swanson observes the chaos he creates -- stealing a taxi or idly watching a woman suffer a seizure -- with indifference or at best a sort of vacant amusement. By dissecting the cruelty beneath so much of modern film comedy, director Rick Alverson generates considerable emotional tension. The result is outrageous, painful to watch and tough to shrug off.

Other highlights:

For more than 15 years, Austrian experimental filmmaker Michal Kosakowski interviewed people from all walks of life about their fantasies of murder and mayhem. He offered to stage the fantasies as videos, provided they play the perpetrator or victim. His feature "Zero Killed" is a disturbing look at the violent daydreams of people who might be our neighbors. (9:30 Fri.)

Twisted "Scooby-Doo" fans should appreciate "Saturday Morning Massacre," in which four young paranormal sleuths and their dog investigate mysterious goings-on in a spooky mansion. The tongue-in-cheek parody turns dark and bloody as the meddling kids run up against evidence of real Satanism and ritualistic murder. (9:30 p.m. Sat., with director Spencer Parsons participating in a Q&A session afterward.)

Canadian director Derek Franson's feature "Comforting Skin" is a surreal supernatural thriller about a former drug addict losing her grip on reality. Her new tattoo initially gives her a burst of self-confidence. Her attitude changes when the design comes to life, migrating across her body and promising her an erotic wonderland of sensual excess. "It's our time to be selfish," the tattoo whispers, "our time to enjoy life!" (9:15 Sun., screening with the documentary short "Tattoo Underground.")

MINNEAPOLIS UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL

Where: St. Anthony Main. Tickets: $5-$8.50. Info: www.mspfilmsociety.org.