The sWARm has landed

Yet again, the world can be divided into two types of people: those who spent their formative teenage years drinking bottles of Nyquil and having their minds blown by the psychotropic world of late-night cable television, and those who didn’t.

There is a twilight world of sex-starved mummies, zombies fighting sharks, buxom, man-killing biker gangs, mystics turning shit into gold and puppets gouging out the eyes of their masters. A world for filmmakers who embrace the edges of society and the dark side of the human imagination. A world where the profound and profane sit hand-in-hand while Lucifer sings the blues. A world of uncompromising gore, camp and the occult, and the fine people of sWARm atLANtis live there.

When, after a week’s worth of cryptic emails, I finally approached the Fifth Avenue Cinema for the sWARm atLANtis film festival Sunday night, I was prepared for a disappointment. In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a movie without Nicole Kidman’s pointy, sniveling rat face, I was starting to lose the hope that people understood what it meant to make or enjoy cutting-edge film.

sWARm atLANtis promised a great line up of films and shorts, but what if I arrived only to be inundated with yet another “South Park” festival or, worse, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”? Seriously, the last thing the world needs is another outlet for lonely, singing, dancing, cross-dressing Goth kids.

My fears subsided however, before I walked through the doors. From between the outdated posters for autistic French love stories and hobbit-humping fantasies, a single, tiny picture of Vincent Gallo beckoned to me from a vibrant, flashing box.

Gallo, (whose most recent film, “Brown Bunny,” was described by the vulgar and corpulent Roger Ebert as less entertaining than watching his own colonoscopy) is an icon in the world of uncompromising film. He represents the conviction of vision first, audience second, filmmaking better than anyone alive right now. Seeing him there, flashing his crooked smile at me, told me there was hope at sWARm atLANtis. And they delivered.

With a two-theater lineup including Lucio Fulci’s horror classic “Zombi,” complete with shark-versus-zombie underwater battle (you thought I was kidding?) and one of the most realistic eye-gougings ever put on film, how can you go wrong?

A showing of lost sixteen-millimeter wonders included Kenneth Anger’s “Lucifer Rising,” a psychedelic short about wizards from the time of the pharaohs to the 1960s, complete with an amazing psych/free jazz score, Satan’s hairy chest and a young Jimmy Page. Cartoon shorts included the hallucinatory stop-motion animation works of Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay.

And to top the night off, a showing of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain,” a surreal, visceral commentary on religion and the occult featuring Jodorowsky himself as an alchemist and mentor to Jesus. My favorite moment of the night, though, had to be the showing of “Thundarr the Barbarian,” an early-’80s Saturday morning standard featuring a post-apocalyptic world swarming with midgets and man-apes. The addition of original Nintendo commercials sent me into nostalgia overload and running into the night looking for a bowl of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch.

sWARm atLANtis is the first of a series of new endeavors by the Student Film Committee at PSU. Their goal is renewed focus on student and avant-garde film, promising more events including screenings of avant-garde classics, local showcases and bands performing live scores to abstract and narrative film. The live performance of scores to accompany films has recently been finding new audiences though live performances by artists like Cat Power, Yo La Tengo and The Black Cat Orchestra.

The student committee plans on breathing new life into the Fifth Avenue Cinema at 510 S.W. Hall, which is maintained by PSU and used for classes during the week.

If upcoming events even come close to the standards set by sWARm atLANtis, their success is almost guaranteed. At least it’ll be a nice alternative to the tedium of Regal Cinemas, and there’s a certain security in knowing you can go to movies occasionally without worrying about seeing Tom Cruise cut anyone with his itsy-bitsy wittle sword or running the risk of getting rubbed up by Roger Ebert’s lustful man-boobs.