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, May 17, 2019

Dream Weaver

This week's VHS is another Shock Stock acquisition in Richard Christian's 1982 thriller The Sender.

When an amnesiac telepath (Zeljko Ivanek) enters a mental hospital under the care of Dr. Farmer (Kathryn Harrold), she soon finds that his uncontrollable abilities are affecting everyone around him, including herself.

I did see this movie when I was very young, as it used to often play on First Choice when we first subscribed circa 1984. Being that was thirty-five fucking years ago, it's not surprising I remembered nothing of this movie except the scene with the bleeding mirrors. A striking image to be sure, but considering the amount of bat-shit stuff going on here, it's funny that's what my nine-year-old brain latched onto.

The Sender was a legitimate Paramount release so, after watching Terror at Tenkiller last week, I was almost overwhelmed by the comparative quality. Though Christian had previously worked on some of the biggest projects of all time as a set decorator/art director, this was his debut as main man and he did a pretty solid job. At the very least he beat both Dreamscape and Elm Street to the dream party by two years. Though the story, by design, was surreal and discombobulating, I never felt like the filmmakers lost control of the narrative.

Kathryn Harrold & Zeljko Ivanek in The Sender.

I believe the strength of Harrold & Ivanek really helped steer this picture true, as well. This was Ivanek's first major role and I feel like I grew up with this guy as I've seen him pop up in my favourite shows (X-Files, Oz, 24 & Banshee to name a few) throughout my life. Another familiar face was Angus Mcinness as the sheriff, but to me he'll always be Jean LaRose from Strange Brew – yes, it was many years later that I realized he was also Gold Leader.

The Sender was a very erratic thriller, as it often felt like it wanted to keep things fairly standard, but then it would hit you with a frying pan to the face set piece, like when the staff tried to give Ivanek shock therapy and immediately regretted it.

I never thought I'd see a medical procedure scene more bonkers than the one in 1978's The Manitou, but there you have it. Lastly, I think The Sender may feature the worst security guard ever in that when he hallucinated that one of the patients was missing their head, his first instinct was to shoot them. Excellent job, sir!

This film is definitely worth a watch, as it's a lesser known title from a booming era in horror cinema with some memorable set pieces and a hospital ward full of character actors.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Short of the Week #66: Eldritch Code

This week I'm in a Lovecraft kind of mood so here's Ivan Radovic's 2017 short Eldritch Code.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Coverbox Was Cool At Least Vol. 117

This week's VHS is another recent Shock Stock acquisition in Ken Meyer's 1986 backwoods slasher Terror at Tenkiller.

Leslie (Stacey Logan) & Janna (Michele Merchant) retreat to her parent's remote cabin for the summer only to find there is a killer stalking the town's inhabitants. Will they be next?

Even factoring in my extra muddy video tape, it became apparent within the first five minutes that this movie was, to put it plainly, not good. Consisting largely of long scenes of meandering dialogue and shots of the same lonely fisherman, Terror at Tenkiller felt like a shot-on-video movie that just happened to be not actually shot-on-video. I must admit that even though I became mildly entranced in the second act, I still found myself wondering how there could still be half a movie left.

That sign was unfortunately false advertising as the gore was never as good as it was in the opening moments of the movie with the red stuff either being too close up, shrouded in darkness or underwater. It's a shame because having some solid set pieces could've made everything else more engaging.

Stacey Logan as Leslie in Terror at Tenkiller.

Terror at Tenkiller was strange in that there was no mystery to it, as the killer (Michael Shamus Wiles in his first role) was introduced right away and interacted with the main characters shortly after. His motives were murky at best and the sequence of events that led to the climax were clumsy, most notably the scene where Janna invited the killer back to the cabin for a beer and then proceeded to wash her hair in the kitchen sink while he looked on. I think he was on the fence about killing her, but that sort of sealed the deal.

Robert Farrar scored the movie and it was somehow the best and worst part of it. Armed with what sounded like a Casio keyboard, he laid down some tracks that at times took me back to my all-night marathons playing Warlords 2 as a teen. I know that the sound was done in post, but they even used a synthesized harmonica and it's bloody hilarious. Then there was this random sound cue that constantly made me jump because it was so high in the 2-channel mix.

I will give Terror at Tenkiller one piece of credit though. During the climax, it seemed that the abusive boyfriend Leslie ran away from at the start of the movie was going to appear and save the day. But he didn't. Which was good. Cuz that would've been super lame. No, in the end, it was Leslie who saved herself. Well actually, as she says in her obligatory voice over, being a swimmer saved her life! Yeah, this was an eighties home video boom special if I've ever seen one.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Short of the Week #65: Meow

I discovered a short I programmed at the 2017 edition of Saskatoon Fantastic made its way online. Here below is Chris Jopp's Meow, courtesy of Alter.

This was Jopp's fourth short so I'm sure it is only a matter of time before we see a fifth.

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Room To Die For.

This week's VHS is my newly acquired Video Treasures copy of 1979's The Silent Scream.

Students residing at an off-campus mansion get bumped off one-by-one by someone or something.

I was teetering on whether to post about this one, as it was largely unremarkable, but I decided to soldier on anyway. Looking up The Silent Scream on Imdb, I wasn't surprised to find it was a revived project originally shot in 1977. At first considered unwatchable, the filmmakers revamped the script and hired some name actors like Cameron Mitchell, Avery Schreiber and Barbara Steele to gussy things up. I wonder if that was when they decided to add this aggressive title card, as well.

Almost nothing remained of the original movie and – considering the fuzzy rape scene that a character watched on TV was apparently footage from its previous incarnation – that's probably a good thing.

The first chunk of The Silent Scream felt a bit like Psycho, if the Bates Motel had been near a big university and not off the beaten path, but it descended into something more like Danny Steinmann's The Unseen – though admittedly that was released a year later. Technically sound, the movie boasts a decent location in its old rustic house, the very same one used for 1967's Spider Baby.

Juli Andelman as Doris in Silent Scream

Director Denny Harris populated the movie with a mix of old and new actors, including Juli Andelman as Doris. She was a plucky young thing whom I warmed to almost immediately. I thought it was a dick move for the two leads to abandon her on the beach with Grabby Grabberson. Doris seemed a bit more worldly than Scotty (Rebecca Balding) who ended up spending most of the climax tied to a clothing rack that looked like one I bought at IKEA. Push UP on it for FUCK'S SAKE!

Mainly though, this movie could've used more Mitchell & Schreiber. You know, it's funny. Usually when horror movies cut to the cops on the case, it comes off as jarring or upsets the tone (case in point, Last House on the Left), but these guys... I could have watched these guys all day.

The Silent Scream was watchable fare and should be given some credit for being saved from the fire with a do-over. If anything, it teaches us to apply for on-campus housing early, as procrastination = trauma.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Short of the Week #64: Creature Feature

Here's an amusing bit of retro horror I caught at one of the short blocks at Shock Stock last weekend. Here is Newton Wallen's Creature Feature from circa 2017.

Some other highlights from SS were Vidar T. Aune's Creaker from Norway and Canadian Kyle Sharpe's dark animation Astray. It was also good to see Natasha's Pascetta's Road Trash show up there too, as we screened it at Hexploitation a few months back.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Shock Stock 2019!

It's that time of year again where I travel down the 401 to London to take in the greasy sights and sounds of Shock Stock. Despite being up into the wee hours the night before due to a late Endgame screening, I still managed to get to the Ramada at a decent hour to meet up with Schwartz.

It was great as always to catch up with some old friends and people I seem to just see at these types of events like the Witch Finger Podcast gals and the dudes from Poster-Mortem and the CCHCC. It did not take me too long to burn through my allocated cash, mostly on the items below.

As always Shock Stock brought in some really cool guests, which included the likes of Tim Cappello - who performed live on Saturday night - and Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall, Night of the Comet).

Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) & Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall)

The biggest draw was the Shock Stock Drive-In hosted by the legend himself, Joe Bob Briggs in his first event in Canada. This was a treat as we watched him intro the 1974 film The Mutations (on 16mm!) starring Donald Pleasance and Tom Baker.

Joe Bob Briggs introduces The Mutations on 16mm.

It was super fun and he did a lengthy Q&A afterwards where he talked about the history of freaks in film, Pioneertown and his new gig at Shudder. When asked what his favourite Canadian horror film was, he answered “Hello Mary Lou, Prom Night II.”

As for the rest, well... I'll adopt the old adage and say what happens at Shock Stock, stays at Shock Stock. The community is already abuzz with what will happen next year for the almighty tenth edition.