My only complaint with the San Francisco Film Society's "Dark Wave" is that the quality of the international horror marathon demands conscientious stamina of a supremely indolent variety, as well as a full free weekend. Quite simply, there is no way a true devotee of terror could choose among the six offerings: England's Blood, a little ditty about a gorgeous genetic mutation whose narcotic plasma gives rise to a gruesome underground of junkies; The Convent, an '80s-style gorefest about zombie nuns and girl-school misbehavior; Dead of Night, an often-overlooked '70s classic that mingles vampirism, zombieism, and timely social commentary; Gemini, a Japanese gothic from the director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man about two brothers who battle for sexual supremacy; Possessed, the latest in Danish medical-horror films about a satanic conspiracy that takes the form of a grisly Ebola-like virus; and 1980's Demon Lover Diary, a glimpse of real-life repulsion (in keeping with American Movie) that follows a Michigan filmmaker with too little money and too much ego. If, by the end of this weekend, you don't look like a pasty, dark-eyed zombie, you should toss out your horror fan-club membership because Saturday alone promises nearly 10 hours of on-screen dreadfulness. "Dark Wave" runs Friday through Sunday, Oct. 20-22, at the Roxie Theater. Tickets are $8 general and $35 for an all-weekend pass; call 863-1087 for individual show times or go to www.roxie.com.
The Campbell Brothers, devoted sons of Bishop Charles Campbell, customarily place their electric steel guitars in the service of God, rousing their father's congregation to frenzies of sweat-drenched faith at the House of God Church in Rochester, N.Y. As their guitars moan, wail, tremble, and quake, the parishioners rise, lifting their hands and hearts in exultation. This newly documented form of African-American praise music is well portrayed in Sacred Steel (a movie that premieres on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Pacific Film Archive along with Les Blank's documentary on Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb, A Well Spent Life) but it is better felt on the Arhoolie release Sacred Steel Guitars Vol. 2: The Campbell Brothers Featuring Katie Jackson. If the homogenization of modern-day blues has left you feeling dry and the high-gloss of standard gospel has left you empty, sacred steel offers solace. The Campbell Brothers perform on Friday, Oct. 20, at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.50-15.50; call (510) 548-1761. And on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Amoeba Music at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200.
Nick Cave once said of his friends in Dirty Three that their music is soaked through with saudade, a feeling the Portuguese define as the unfathomable longing and yearning of the soul. After the release of Ocean Songs, Cave's statement was incontrovertible. Slower and sadder than previous releases, without the sudden violent outbursts in which Dirty Three's classically trained violinist Warren Ellis had earlier reveled, Ocean Songs offered the dark, silky yawn of watery depths; rage was replaced by a seductive menace that grew in force until the wave closed firmly overhead and only the most fleeting glimmers of sunlight could be felt tumbling from unreachable heights. While Ocean Songs was drenched in saudade, Whatever You Love, You Are seems born of it. Followed by the hesitant shuffle of Jim White's snare and the worried plucking of Mick Turner's guitar strings, Ellis' violin wanders like a beaten man through lost summers and long barroom nights, permitting the thoughts behind his wild eyes to reach out into the world with desperate, shy wonder. After sojourns touring with the erudite and wordy Cave and writing a soundtrack to accompany the Australian film Praise, the members of Dirty Three seem ever better fit to express elaborate stories without the limitation of words. Whatever You Love is an altogether human story, conjuring sorrow, dissatisfaction, joy, and resolve in the course of a few well-placed notes. Dirty Three performs on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 24 and 25, at the Great American Music Hall with Shannon Wright and Orso opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 885-0750.