After a sugary diet of holiday-themed fare, the annual Another Hole in the Head film festival — a Bay Area favorite — arrives in its 17th iteration to cleanse the palate of all that sweetness. For this topsy-turvy year, organizers are allowing all indie filmmakers to apply.

The result is an absolute delight for lovers of scrappy fare, a banquet of shorts and features, many of which have deep Bay Area connections. The virtual fest kicks off Friday and runs through Dec. 27. 

For a full program and to purchase tickets and passes, visit

Here are a few not to miss.

Shot in Berkeley and El Cerrito, San Francisco filmmkaer Michael Lovan’s “Murder Bury Win” is a sly comedic thriller that pulls the rug out from audiences a number of time. (Courtesy of Another Hole in the Head)

“Murder Bury Win”: After its successful world premiere a few months back at Silicon Valley’s Cinejoy, director/writer/editor Michael Lovan’s sly thriller on killer board-game shenangians keeps moving to the next level on the fest circuit. Easy to see why. Shot in Berkeley and El Cerrito, “Murder Bury Win” is an inventive comic horror homage, with essential not extraneous gore — OK, maybe just a splatter or two — that’s bolstered by smart writing and vigorous performances, notably from Mikelen Walker, a true star. He plays Chris, one of three inventors of a new board game called, you guessed it, Murder Bury Win. The trio, which includes Adam (Erich Lane) and Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly), work at a Willits game store but can’t raise the funding needed to publish their game. That is until an encounter with a mysterious bankroller (Craig Cackowski) holed up in a cabin in the woods makes an offer that they might just want to refuse. You won’t want to miss this one.

“Precarious” is an imaginative ’60s-set fantasy/thriller that keeps you guessing. It was shot in Emeryville, Berkeley and Petaluma. (Courtesy of Another Hole in the Head)

“Precarious”: Otherworldly in “Outer Limits” retro style, Weston Terray’s hallucinogenic fantasy/thriller was filmed in Emeryville and pivots on a man (Andrey Pfening) recuperating from getting struck with an arrow near Grizzly Peak and Claremont. From there, “Precarious” catapults into even more ’60s-era strangeness and even includes a bizarre tree-fort confrontation. Terray masters a surreal vibe throughout.

Oakland filmmaker Vinent Cortez’s “The Lost” is a standout in the “Strictly Local” shorts program. He’s destined for bigger things. (Courtesy of Mitchell Street Pictures)

“The Lost” (part of the “Strictly Local” program): Oakland filmmaker Vincent Cortez takes a zombie-chained-in-the basement narrative and not only makes it terrifying but also emotional and relevant. A virus is to blame and, in the process, two brave sisters band together. Told via flashback, Cortez’s visceral short reveals how all the characters know each other, making the ending even more powerful. It’s a standout in an impressive lineup of shorts. Hopefully, Cortez’s short catches the eye of Hollywood. It’s just that good.

Another short in the “Strictly Local” program well worth your time and simply great fun is “The Trouble With Cats.”

“Unquiet Grave” is an effective exercise in terror along the lines of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.” (Courtesy of Another Hole in the Head)

“An Unquiet Grave”: Fresh off a world premiere at Nightstream, Terence Krey’s poignant portrait of out-of-control grief is as sad as it is unforgettable. If you are a fan of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” this haunting bone-chiller, a two-hander in which a widower (Jacob A. Ware) and his late wife’s sister (Christine Nyland) revisit the scene of a tragic event, is a must-see. (

A bag of unclaimed loot leads to all sorts of nefarious activities in the standout noir “Beasts Crawling at Straws.” (Courtesy of Artsploitation Films)

“Beasts Clawing at Straws”: An unclaimed bag of money leads to wicked behavior by an assortment of seemingly random, often unsavory characters who are interested in getting the loot — and will do whatever they have to. As shocking as it is fun, Kim Yong-hoon’s twisted South Korean noir moves from its run at the Roxie to Another Hole in the Head. Don’t let this violent delight for fans of “The Grifters” slip by.