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.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Flashes Of Light.

Last weekend saw the release of David F. Sandberg's Lights Out.

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) re-enters the lives of her estranged family when her half-brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) tells her that a spectral presence is endangering him and his increasingly unstable mother (Maria Bello).

I was pulling for this movie as it evolved from an excellent two-minute short film. Unfortunately, as a feature length effort, it didn't pack the same punch. Don't get me wrong, there were a handful of solid set pieces, but often the premise was more frightening than the actual execution. The stay-in-the-light plot device was effective, but I don't know that it really added anything that wasn't explored in titles like Darkness Falls and Pitch Black from the early 2000's.

Gabriel Bateman & Teresa Palmer in Lights Out.

I cannot fault the performances, as they were good top to bottom, but the dramatic beats felt a little forced at times. Lights Out also sadly fell into the trap of spoon-feeding exposition. I can't not roll my eyes when scenes start out with awkward lines like, “so your mom was in a mental hospital.” A similarly-themed film like 2013's Mama (also coincidentally birthed from a short film) resonated more with me because I was invested in the characters. However, unlike Mama, Sandberg kept the movie from becoming a CGI shitshow. He employed as many practical effects as possible and that was something I really appreciated.

I also liked that the opening scene of the movie was essentially lifted from the short film and built from there. Sandberg even used the same actress, (Lotta Losten) and keen eyes may have caught a familiar doll in the boss's office. It made for a nice bridge between the short and the feature. When Lights Out worked, it really worked, but it was barely a movie otherwise. It's certainly watchable and stacks up against other mainstream fare out there, but I was hoping for something more substantial.

Mainly, I do want to say good on David F. Sandberg for turning his two-minute festival competition piece into a feature deal. It gives hope to the rest of us that if you can come up with a really great idea that the horror community latches onto, the future can be very bright indeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Siren Songs.

Tuesday evening, I checked out the Polish mermaid flick, The Lure.

A trio of musicians working in a nightclub come across two mermaids and incorporate them into their act. However, their transition into everyday life is not without its challenges.

During his intro, Fantasia programmer Mitch Davis stated that there was nothing quite like this film out there. And boy, was he right! I mean, on the surface it was an adult retelling of The Little Mermaid, but director Agnieszka Smoczynska injected so much of herself into this effort (her mother ran two restaurants when she was a girl) it became an entirely new organism. I am so impressed by how much confidence she had, both narratively and technically, in this debut.

And it's a musical! Yet, perhaps even more admirable is that these musical numbers were so catchy and appeared so organically, I was at no point sorry or annoyed that the characters were breaking out into song. The entire cast was strong, but the two mermaids Golden (Michalina Olszanska) & Silver (Marta Mazurek) were absolutely stunning. The Lure was soaked in sexuality and a good majority of that was the icy and inviting looks from these two women.

Marta Mazurek as Silver in The Lure.

Everything came together perfectly in this film. It was delightfully colourful and every frame was laced with the personality of its creator. Needless to say, I thought this film was super great. Upon first glance, it may not seem like The Lure is your bag, but I implore you to check it out, because it is so, so much fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Never Trust A Demon.

Next up, was the highly anticipated supernatural tale from South Korea, The Wailing.

Random acts of violence in a small town have the constabulary baffled. When the daughter of head investigator Jong-Goo (Do Wan Kwak) starts to exhibit the same symptoms, he races against time to find the cause.

This is a strange review to write because I feel like this one now will be a lot different than the one I would have written yesterday. Both past and present me would have said it was a solid movie, but the former would have said its overwhelming Cannes buzz was a tad overrated. But let's back up.

The Wailing has that mix of comedy, horror and drama that is uniquely Korean. It reminded me a little of 2006's The Host, in that the family is the narrative strength. Director Hong-jin Na spends a good amount of time getting you invested in them so that when the supernatural element is injected, you actually care about their fate. The performances were great all around. There are a lot of scenes that required extreme emotion, especially from the young daughter (Kim Hwan-hee) and she was a force to be reckoned with.

Kim Hawn-hee & Do Wan Kwak in the Wailing

The first half was very enjoyable, but it started to get a little muddled the longer it went on and was not helped by its hundred-and-fifty-six minute running time. After watching the film, there were a lot of things that didn't add up for me. After doing some research, I filled in some of the blanks, but that's not really an ideal scenario. I mean, I like to think that I'm not an idiot, so if I have to have an important misdirection explained to me, I choose to put that on the film. But, I (kind of) get it now, so everything's cool.

Overall, The Wailing is a fine film, but don't feel bad if you find yourself scratching your head afterwards about the details.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Beddie Byes!

My first movie at Fantasia this year was Black Fawn's newest – and fifth (I believe) title of their eight-picture deal with Breakthrough EntertainmentBed of the Dead.

While watching the first act, I was sure that Bed of the Dead was going to be standard and procedural fare. It reminded me of a lesser version of The Raft, Stephen King's segment from Creepshow 2, but with a supernatural antagonist that uses your sins against you. However, about halfway through the movie, a new element was introduced that made things a little more interesting.

The added device, which I won't spoil here, took the movie into more uncharted territory and I appreciated that. I mean, logically it doesn't make a lick of sense, but as lead actress Alysa King said in the Q&A, “if you're going to accept a bed that kills people, you might as well as accept the rest.”

Gwenlyn Cumyn & Alysa King get red in Bed of the Dead

And speaking of the lead actress, King was the standout here. Much like her strong performance in Berkshire County, she kept her wits about her, got covered in blood and looked good doing it. I feel she is one of the brightest talents in the Canadian genre landscape right now.

Bed of The Dead is also another great showcase of F/X house The Butcher Shop's skills. There was some great gore and it felt like real thought went into the death pieces.

Of course, the 1977 cult flick Death Bed came up during the Q&A. They were aware of it, and have even since been in contact with director George Berry to set up a screening.

Cast & crew of Bed of the Dead.

Bed of the Dead is pretty much what you would expect, but it does have its moments. Black Fawn are banging out these scripts pretty quickly, so it's more about how well they can dress them up. In this case, the combination of a fine lead, blood & guts and the easy-sell premise made this fairly watchable.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On My Way!

That's the view from my train car while on my way to the twentieth (and my ninth consecutive) edition of the Fantasia Film Festival. Check back next week to hear about all the cool flicks I'll be checking out while in Ol' Montreal.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mixtape Massacre!

My friend Serena recently introduced me to a new board game called Mixtape Massacre.

The game takes place in the town of Tall Oaks, an unfortunate little village that harbours more slashers per capita than any place in the universe. But unlike games like Betrayal at House on the Hill and Camp Grizzly where you are stalked by said killers, in Mixtape YOU get to be the antagonist.

After choosing one of ten knock-offs of Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Chucky, Pinhead, Hannibal, Pennywise, Gremlin, Carrie or Sadako, you actively lumber around town looking for victims - and souvenirs.

The rule book looks intimidating at first, but it's actually pretty simple to learn if you just dive in. It's mainly just drawing cards and rolling special dice.

And avoiding the other players because if you end up in the same area together, it's franchise vs. franchise! The game is won once someone acquires a certain amount of souvenirs or there is one slasher left standing.

This is a really fun game that we've played a few times now. It could do with an expansion pack of cards, as we've already started to see repeats, but the art is great and the eighties references are good for many a chuckle.

Mixtape Massacre is coming off a successful Kickstarter campaign, so if you want more info check out the website here. At sixty bones, it is pretty pricey, but if you're into novelty board games and eighties pop culture, there's tons of enjoyment to be had here. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dark Carnival

Last week, Rue Morgue's inaugural Dark Carnival horror convention descended on Hamilton, Ontario. After severing ties with Fan Expo - and the logistical nightmare that it has become - Rue's Festival of Fear has risen from the grave under a new moniker. And what a fantastical parade of wonders Dark Carnival was!

The Hamilton Convention Centre was the perfect venue for this event. It was a nice size and nestled right in between the city's main thoroughfares, which made getting in & out of the city remarkably simple. I say this because if you've ever been to the Hammer, you know that's not often the case.

The list of vendors was a nice mix of East and West, and included some I'd never seen before. Schwartz & I became fast friends with a guy who had a treasure trove of 80's VHS posters. He came away with over half-a-dozen he'd been seeking for years, and I scored these!

Creep Factor Studios had some really cool stuff, including these recreations from The Blind Dead and Critters.

I'm equally proud and disgusted that I didn't shell out the $175 for the Critter. I want it so bad. I did pick up this awesome Videodrome fridge magnet from him though.

I have to say that the coolest thing at the show was this zombie foosball table created by Keith Busher of Precious Mutations. So amazing!

VHS had a limited presence, but I did manage to find a lenticular companion for my Jack Frost tape.

Teta Kika, the Casual Taxidermist had a sizable display, including this rodent resembling Dark Carnival's Guest of Honour.

The Devil's Latex was on point as per usual, including this life-size replica of Slimer.

What I really loved was how many amazing artists were in attendance. Conventions usually have artist alleys, but this was the first time I'd seen Ontario's elite all under one roof. Gary Pullin, Jason Edmiston, Justin Erickson, Matt Ryan, Sara Deck & Vincent Marcone were all there showcasing their inimitable illustrations.

I couldn't come away with that amazing Matt Ryan poster above, but I did splurge on these beauties from Gary and Sara respectively;

The Deep Red pin comes with full stabbing action!

All Decked out! :P

And what would a Rue Morgue event be without panels. Aside from a great artist panel with some of the names above, filmmakers Tal Zimerman (Why Horror?) & Kevin Burke (Twenty-Four By Thirty-Six) gave a talk about poster collecting.

Tal Zimerman (left) and Kevin Burke talk movie posters.

It was super intricate and included copious amounts of slides showcasing some of the most beautiful and bizarre movie posters of the last hundred years of cinema. 

The vibe around the show floor was awesome. One vendor spoke of a happy medium, in that the show had the jovial atmosphere of Shock Stock, but with the commerce of Fan Expo. It felt, to me, akin to Horror-Rama, but situated in an area much more accessible to everyone west of Oakville.

I think Dark Carnival went over like gangbusters and in tandem with the pop culture art shows and the boys & girls of Fright Night Theatre, it is safe to say that the Hammer is now in the throes of a horror renaissance. Good on 'em.