The Washington Psychotronic Film Society (WPFS) held its 4th Annual Psycho Awards gala last Tuesday at Mr. Day’s Back Alley sports bar, honoring a broad range of works by local filmmakers. Where once the grand prize of $150 for first place ($100 for second) represented an entry’s entire budget, this year’s film crop was surprisingly ambitious and well produced.

If you’ve been wondering who will be directing Steven Seagal/Keenan Ivory Wayans films in the next millennium, keep your eye on Hassan El-Amin. His lengthy, assured martial arts crime drama, Justice, was one of the few entries actually shot on film. Likewise technically impressive was David Jacobs’ Night of the Sequels, a droll assemblage of horror-movie cliches that dared to use camera dollies and elaborate lighting effects.

The tireless Jeff Krulik screened his mondo deadpan documentaries, Ralph Whittington, King of Porn and Meet Fanboy. Jeff Herberger’s Remember Me had the crowd chanting the title. It takes nerve to parody 32 Films About Glenn Gould, but Jason Higgins did it anyway with his 3.2 Films About Ben Fold. Higgins also crafted Banana Attack, after finding a stack of scratch-and-sniff cards, which he thoughtfully passed out to the audience. The prolific Higgins teamed with Marc Slanger for the most cinematically energetic offering of the evening, the delirious Haircut 2.

The judges included shock-rocker Esmirelda, WPFS potentate Melanie Scott, and celebrated Baltimore cineaste, Skizz Cyzyk, who revealed his judging criterion: “The less the budget, the better the video.”

Appropriately, second prize was awarded to Alvin Ecarma for his collection of shorts, Alvin Ecarma Salutes the Tobacco Growers of America. Alternating between the pointedly sardonic and the over-the-top tasteless, the shorts included a wry tale of vitamin B deficiency and the horrifying My Dog Has a Cyst.

“People have violently mixed reactions” to Cyst, Ecarma revealed laughingly while pocketing the check. The dog has since died.

Top dollars went to Brad Dismukes and Bess Taylor for The Better Half, which starred good sport and perky mugger WHFS DJ Shari Elliker. Making unauthorized but satisfying use of Little Rascals music, the film pleasantly recalled the silent-movie days, except that it was shot on hi-8 color videotape.

In addition to the money, winners were to receive a handsome statuette of a flying saucer slicing through the Capitol dome, but the trophy was unavailable, as its maker was visiting Graceland.—Dave Nuttycombe