In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

DKTM 273


Hey all. I hope all my Canadian friends are enjoying their long weekend. I'm a tad hungover from celebrating Ronda Rousey destroy yet another opponent last night, but I need to get things back on track so here goes...

Soundtrack Swap.

Here's a cool little experiment I found via The Play List. The Kentucky based site The House By The Video Store (which is pretty slick and you should check out) made a video which swaps out the scores for portions of 1960's Psycho and 2014's It Follows. Check it out.



While it largely doesn't match up, it's still a very interesting video. I'd say the switch works better for It Follows than it does Psycho and that speaks to just how timeless Bernard Hermann's score really is.

Homegrown.

I was very saddened that I had to miss two Fantasia film premieres from friends of mine. From the pictures of the events and the ensuing reviews, it sounds like both films went over like gangbusters.

Trevor Juras' The Interior, a lost-in-the-forest creeper was shot last year in British Columbia. I've known producer Peter Kuplowsky for years through Toronto After Dark, which is also where I met Juras, after his awesome short The Lamp played there in 2013. Check out the trailer below.



Second was Gabriel Carrer's The Demolisher. I've rubbed elbows with Carrer and his crew over the years at various festivals and conventions and their output is staggering. Ry Barrett, the titular character, was in my short film Lively, and I couldn't be happier to see him carrying entire films as a lead.



I wish these guys all the best, and hopefully these two flicks come home to Toronto soon.

Levelling Up To Z.

For those of us disappointed in 2012 that the game Zombie U wasn't released on a decent system, fear not! Ubisoft recently announced that the first-person zombie survival game would be released on PS4 and Xbox One on August 15 as the affectionately renamed Zombi. Here's the trailer.



As I await a PS4 price drop, this is another title to add to the list. I had hoped to indoctrinate myself into the current generation by the time Until Dawn was released later this month, but it's looking like I won't be owning one until at least 2016. It will definitely be by the time Uncharted 4 drops at the latest though. I wouldn't miss that for the world!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Amusé!


While I spent the majority of my time in Fantasia watching movies, drinking on patios and eating mass quantities of unhealthy foods, I did get up to some other activities, as well. My companions & I spent some time checking out the attractions down at The Old Port.

This year, they had something called Virus, which was a cross between haunted house and rhythm game. You slip these sensor thingies over your palms at the start and use them to cover panels lit up with your designated colour during the walk through. 


However, the rub is there are several things, like loud noises and jets of air and water, that deter you from you doing so. And naturally, in between these rooms, you are crawling through the darkness waiting for the employees to jump out at you. Save for the Goretorium, it's probably the most elaborate scare house I've been in.


Next, we went onto Hangar 16 SOS Labyrinth, purported to be the largest indoor maze in the world(?). The full walk through is two kilometres and takes about fourty-five minutes to an hour for most people to get through. It gets a little confusing at times because it's not clear where you are supposed to go - it's not linear like a normal maze, just four random points inside you have to find - and often got crowded with families with their fucking strollers in tow. A neat idea though.


A few days later, Fantasia had a VR demonstration set up at the De Seve building. Most of them were running the Samsung Gear VR. but they had the Oculus Rift there, as well. I spent a good two hours there (most of it was waiting in line of course), and realized that now there are multiple devices on the market, you can already see differences in quality. The demos on the Samsung (a horror one called 11:57 and a Jurassic Park one) were noticeably lower resolution than the Oculus Rift, and the fit of the goggles & headphones were not as snug. The Samsung literally felt like it was a Galaxy being put right in front of my eyes. Whereas the Oculus Rift demo Body Mind Change - a TIFF sponsored experience based off the work of David Cronenberg - was crystal clear and pretty fucking neat.



Anyhoo, things should get back to normal around here this weekend. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: Road Games

It was a long day of transit for me last Sunday. After I once again bid farewell to Fantasia, I was reminded of Richard Franklin's 1981 flick Road Games. Probably the least known of Jamie Lee Curtis' slasher credits, I think this film's “Rear Window on Wheels” conceit works really well. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The October Society.


One of my most anticipated films at Fantasia this year was the anthology Tales of Halloween.


Bear witness to ten devilish tales that take place in the same sleepy suburban town on All Hallow's Eve.

I thought Tales of Halloween was a really strong anthology. The brainchild of Belgian writer/producer/director Axelle Carolyn, this little project turned out rather well. The list of directors is as long as my arm, but includes such genre vets as Neil Marshall, Darren Lynn Bousman and Mike Mendez, who contributed my favourite effort, Friday the 31st.

As horror fans know, anthologies can be a very tricky affair, but I feel they hit the sweet spot with the ten-minute episode lengths. When dealing with your four or five part anthologies, if one part is a dud, it brings the project down as a whole, while absorbing too many, like with The ABC's of Death movies, can just be exhausting. Ten shorts, with a through-line narration provided by the inimitable Adrienne Barbeau (in a role recalling that of her turn in John Carpenter's The Fog), is a fine amount of time to properly tell a story and also not too much of an investment if it doesn't work.


Fortunately for Tales of Halloween, I thought there was only one weak link in the entire thing (Lucky McKee's entry continues to distance himself further and further away from his wonderful 2002 effort May). You can tell that everyone involved had a blast making this and the feeling is infectious. While it is true the majority of the shorts went for whimsy over scares, there are a lot of really great ideas on display here. I have to preface this statement by saying I haven't given Michael Dougherty's 2007 flick Trick r Treat a rewatch since its release, but Carolyn and company's venture maybe even superior. Tales doesn't have the recognizable figurehead of Sam behind it, but with double the amount of stories, it offers more memorable moments. And we didn't have to wait two years to see it!

Further evidence of this being a community effort is just how many familiar faces are in this movie. I think that Tales could actually be referred to as cameo porn. In addition to the participating directors being in each other shorts, there are also appearances by the likes of John Landis, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, Adam Green, James Wan and even iconic artist Drew Struzan in a laugh-out-loud moment. However, the list of rare gets wasn't limited to in front of the camera, as the filmmakers were able to pull Oscar winning composer Lalo Schifrin out of retirement to create material for them.

Director/Producer Axelle Carolyn.

Tales of Halloween is the perfect balance of fan service and spirited short film storytelling. It is a love letter to every genre enthusiast's favourite time of year and totally the kind of thing I can see myself throwing on during my All Hallow's Eve celebrations.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Hellmouth Holiday.


After checking out the solid actioner Momentum, I made a last minute decision to get back in line to see The Paz Brothers' horror film, JeruZalem.


Two friends Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) & Rachel (Yael Grobglas) are vacationing in Jerusalem, when the biblical End of Days suddenly rocks the city.

At its core, JeruZalem is a pretty standard found footage horror film, but there are some elements that really elevate it.

The first is the use of Google Glass, which Sarah puts on at the beginning of the film. By making the lenses prescription – and having her bag carrying her other pair of glasses subsequently stolen – the filmmakers cleverly circumvented any logistical problems about why she continued filming once all hell broke loose. Additionally, because we were privy to Glass's HUD, the Paz Brothers also found new ways to visually relay exposition and story through the device. How this tech could potentially pull up anybody's Facebook profile via facial recognition may have been the scariest part of the movie.

The calm before the storm.

Secondly, the location is breathtaking. The movie travelled throughout Jerusalem and as everything was first person, you really felt like you were walking the streets with the characters. I was quite impressed by how much footage they captured – in holy places and the like – and found out later they filmed under the guise of a documentary to grab that stuff.

The performances were natural and solid across the board, though Sarah did get a little whiny towards the end. She was also the one making the majority of the bad decisions, which was cause for frustration. And while it is true the “Z” in the title is bit of a misnomer, I can see why they tried to incorporate it into their marketing campaign.

Lastly, you have to take into consideration that, apart from Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (the duo behind Rabies and Big Bad Wolves), this is the first full blown horror film to come out of Israel. JeruZalem's production values rival much of Hollywood's output, so if these are Israel's baby steps into genre territory, then we in for some great things when they really get their legs under them.

Many feel zombies and found footage are both played out tropes, but I say JeruZalem is worthy of your attention.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Observance.


A lesser known title I took in this Fantasia was the world premiere of Aussie Joseph Sims-Dennett's Observance.


A destitute man named Parker (Lindsay Farris) takes a job spying on a woman. After several days cooped up in the ratty apartment across from her, the mystery behind his assignment incites a crippling paranoia.

Observance was a strange film that took a while for me to digest. It's one of those films that if, taken at face value, seemed to be straightforward, but upon further reflection you wonder if there wasn't more going on under the surface. The premise does have the Hitchcockian underpinnings of Rear Window, but Sims-Dennett's allegiances lie more with Roman Polanski. His 1976 film The Tenant was mentioned in the intro and Observance definitely shared a similar descent into madness.

The film's most powerful aspect was its underlying sense of dread. It was helped along by the score and set design, but Sims-Dennett just had a knack for portraying even the most mundane moments as threatening. This is a very important skill as when you're dealing with low-key psychological horror, successfully making it appear that more is going on than what you are seeing onscreen is a rare talent. It is also laid out in such a way to make you feel like you are right there trapped in that apartment with the protagonist.

Lindsay Farris as Parker in Observance.

Observance also has a very cool look. It reminded me a lot of Marc Evans' underseen (and decidedly mediocre) 2004 flick Trauma. It had the same decrepit apartment block facade that served the film aesthetically and metaphorically.

It is always hard to say where a meditative genre piece like Observance will end up once it is finished its festival run, but if it does pop up somewhere in the future and you like this sort of thing, give it a watch.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Home Sweet Home.


The haunted house horror We Are Still Here was another SXSW darling that was screening at Fantasia this year. After establishing himself as a writer and producer (most recently on The ABC's of Death 2), I was very much looking forward to seeing Ted Geoghegan's first stint in the director's chair.


Grieving parents Anne (Barbara Crampton) & Paul (Andrew Sensenig) retreat to an old house in New England only to find it may be haunted.

We Are Still Here was a very enjoyable affair. Geoghegan is another cinephile who grew up during the home video era and you can tell where his influences lie, most prominently the work of Lucio Fulci. Aside from the neat callbacks to The Beyond – there is no Joe the Plumber, but there is a Joe the Electrician – this film has huge helpings of House by the Cemetery.

I thought this film was really well made and featured a strong core of actors who've worked with some of the most exciting genre filmmakers in the business. In addition to genre veterans Barbara Crampton & Andrew Sensenig, you also had indie icon Larry Fessenden who adds energy to every project he appears in.

Barbara Crampton as Anne in We Are Still Here.

The thing I liked most about We Are Still Here was that Geoghegan was able to incorporate the best of both worlds. The majority of the film was reserved and atmospheric and then built to an explosive crescendo of gore. I have to liken it to Ti West's 2009 effort House of the Devil, except We Are Still Here boasts a satisfying conclusion.

It is more credit to the film that I still had a positive experience despite the obnoxious asshole sitting behind us at the screening. Being enthusiastic during a movie is one thing, hooting and hollering at every little thing is quite another. As my friend put it, it was like he'd never seen a horror film outside of his living room before and had been waiting his whole life to witness one on the big screen. It's a dilemma because can't you really call someone out for being excited, especially when the director specifically encouraged the crowd to be vocal in his intro. I don't know, maybe I'm just an old man shaking his fist at a cloud.

I crush your head!

Regardless, Geoghegan's debut is an impressive little ghost yarn that finds just the right balance between freshness and homage. His intent was to create something that would not feel out of place on a video store shelf circa 1983 and he has done just that.