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Bucheon film fest brings 2017's best in gross-out

The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival has enjoyed a hard-earned reputation for bringing to Korea the most outlandish, horrific and just plain absurd cinema to Korean audiences over the last two decades. In 2017, it brings “A--holes.”

“A--holes,” the title of which appears uncensored on marquees, is the debut directorial feature from Peter Vack, an American actor who has appeared in mainstream efforts like “The Intern” and TV series “The Blacklist.”

The X-rated film had its Asian premiere in the wee hours of Saturday morning in the fest’s Forbidden Zone. Its world premiere was at South by Southwest in March in Austin, Texas, where Vack won the inaugural Adam Yauch Hoernblower Award, recognizing the “filmmaker whose work strives to be wholly its own, without regard for norms or desire to conform.”

(From left) Director Peter Vack stars in “A--holes” with his parents, Jane and Ron Brown. (BIFAN)
(From left) Director Peter Vack stars in “A--holes” with his parents, Jane and Ron Brown. (BIFAN)
Betsey Brown (left) and Jack Dunphy star in “A--holes.” (BIFAN)
Betsey Brown (left) and Jack Dunphy star in “A--holes.” (BIFAN)

And there is certainly not much that is normal about the movie, which the director described as “graphic and grotesque.”

“A--holes” is a love story about a couple who come together united by an aggressive form of herpes. As their love grows, so too do the sores that deform their faces.

The couple are the titular anti-social characters, but they also share a love for poppers and fixation on all things involving the anal orifice. Explaining the concept and title, Vack told The Korea Herald at the festival on Saturday, “It just made sense. It was the only title the movie could possibly have.”

At a merciful 73 minutes, the film moves quickly from graphically realistic scenes of sex and revulsion to graphically absurd scenes of scatology and revulsion. The director explained that what gave him the freedom to make the film was that he financed it himself with his earnings from acting.

“I was conscious of the fact that I don’t think traditional investors would ever have come on board,” Vack said, imagining how his pitch would go, “It’s a movie about two characters who are obsessed with literal a--holes, oh, and my sister (aspiring filmmaker Betsey Brown) is going to play one of those roles, and my family is in it.”

Vack’s father, independent filmmaker Ron Brown, and mother, psychoanalyst Jane Brown, act in the film, but it took a little convincing to get them on board.

“At first I think they thought something was very wrong with me, and maybe there was (somewhere) that they had gone wrong that they were not aware of.”

Many in the audience are likely to have the same questions about the mind behind the drug-fueled, feces-filled film.

“I’m trying to be truthful to whatever the main impulse is,” Vack says in explaining his motivation. “But I’m also trying to come up with something that feels unique to me, or something I haven’t seen.”

The 21st Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, featuring 289 films from 58 countries, runs July 13-23. The final screening of “A--holes” at BIFAN is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m.

By Kevin Lee Selzer