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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fan Expo 2014 Part 1

I once again entered the madness of Toronto's yearly Fan Expo this weekend. It began on Thursday evening, which is when I like to zip in, grab my pass and quickly check out the floor before things get crazy. It didn't take long to notice the changes from last year.

First, the experimental inclusion of Sports to the Expo must have been a sizable failure last year, as it was completely absent from this one. It seems like that would have been obvious - one just has to look no further than any high school in the world to see those two groups don't mix - but it wouldn't be the first time the organizers have made a bone-headed decision.

Another thing was that the Festival of Fear, the horror arm of the Expo was set up in the North building away from its usual digs in the South. This was likely good for them, in terms of exposure, as they were now close to the most heavily trafficked area of autograph row, but for those actually looking for it, not so much. As with last year, the commuting time between buildings was problematic, so it makes it difficult to limit the back & forth when the things you're interested in are spread out evenly across both.

Then imagine this times three.

I also noticed how much the popularity of certain things has increased. Gaming has obviously been a good chunk of the Expo since its inclusion in 2005, but this year was the biggest leap I've seen in several years. In addition to the large areas for Intel, Playstation and the like, there were also massive stages in the middle of both buildings for on-going seminars & game sessions for League of Legends and Starcraft 2. Doctor Who has been gaining popularity since its reboot about a decade ago, but it has now reached a fever pitch and was definitely the most represented icon of pop culture this weekend. I witnessed everything from remote controlled Daleks & K-9's to five-year-olds dressed as The Doctor.

Perhaps one of the more welcome changes was how much more substantial in volume Artist Alley seemed to be this year. I don't know if it was just more well laid out, but it felt like there were more artists at the show. I got to meet & talk with some great artists, including Paul Ainsworth, Matt Ryan, Andrew Barr and Sabrina Parolin. Please check out their links because they are all ace.

Poster art by Paul Ainsworth.
Stagefright “Monstar” by Andrew Barr.

Gary Pullin, my favourite local artist, was doing an artist workshop on Thursday, so I made sure to stick around for that. He talked about starting out at a commercial design firm, and then working his way into the art director job at Rue Morgue magazine. His presentation included a slide show of his work as well as some examples of what he thinks makes a good design and what doesn't.

Gary blew all our minds when he showed us the hidden profile of Alfred Hitchcock embedded in his fantastic Psycho print from a few years ago. It seems fitting he would do that, as Gary was the one who told me about the hidden face in the Halloween poster - an occurrence the original artist insists was unintentional - a few years back.

Can you see it?

The most interesting part of his talk was about his process. He was recently commissioned by a studio for an upcoming, high-profile horror release and presented a series of images which represented the back-and-forth between him and them. It was fascinating to see the concept evolve across the dozen or so images he showed.

Speaking of posters, I, not surprisingly, picked up a few myself. Within a few minutes of hitting the floor, I met up with Schwartz at the Hollywood Canteen booth, and then it was pretty much open season. Mike had a milk crate filled with vintage horror posters for like, ten bucks each. It was very difficult to walk away with just five.

Check back tomorrow when I delve into the many panels I attended this year. It was a banner year for these things and felt like the majority of what I did this weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Big Weekend!

Hey all. The Festival of Fear is upon us here in Hogtown, so you'll not be hearing from me until the smoke clears.

Have a great long weekend, and I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trailer Tuesdays: The Kid's Table

On the heels of my thoughts on the book Kid Power! I decided to post a collection of trailers for some of my favourite kid-centric horror films. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kid Power!

I've spent the last while digging through Kid Power!, the book I picked up at Fantasia last month.

Released by Canadian publisher Spectacular Optical, Kid Power! is a collection of essays on kid-centric cult classics lovingly assembled by cinephiles Paul Corupe & Kier-La Jannise.

I enjoyed this book immensely, but was also impressed by how wildly varied and diverse it was, as it features writers from around the world covering everything from the traditional to the darkest pits of the art house. While I was around when a lot of the stuff covered in this book was released (either on the big or small screen), I was surprised by how much of it was new to me. I found myself making a list while reading and definitely want to track down titles like Ken Loach's Kes and Ann Turner's Celia in the future.

The most comprehensive part of the book – and frankly, most impressive – was Kier-La Janisse deep exploration into the ABC Afterschool Special phenomenon of the seventies and eighties. I was absolutely shocked by how many now-famous actors got their start here – Jodie Foster, Jennifer Grey, Michelle Pfieffer, Val Kilmer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rob Lowe & Amanda Plummer just to name a few.

The chapter that most appealed to me as a horror fan was the detailed rundown of actress Nicolette Elmi. A Euro-horror mainstay, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas & Craig Martin trace Elmi's career from her early uncredited roles like the one in Mario Bava's 1971 slasher Bay of Blood all the way up to her swan song as the usherette in Lamberto Bava's Demons in 1985.

The interview with Rock Demers about The Tales For All Collection was also a gleeful trip down memory lane, as stuff like The Dog Who Stopped The War and The Peanut Butter Solution got constant play at my house as a kid.

Nicolette Elmi in Dario Argento's Deep Red.

There were two points that were really hammered home to me while reading Kid Power! The first was how profoundly affecting a piece of media can be if it hits you at the right place and right time. It can be inspiring, comforting and/or completely change your outlook. I think this was best represented by Chris Alexander's recollection of Barry Morse's adaptation of Isaac Asimov's The Ugly Little Boy, where seeing it at the age of eight brought home the concept of death and loss, and Robin Bougie's experience watching Curtis Hanson's The Children of Times Square paralleled his own midnight excursions into the underbelly of New York City.

The other thing was just how much children's programming – and development in general – has changed over the last few decades. It is almost certain that the material meant for kids in this book would never be produced today. It appears there is a general attitude nowadays that children need to be, for lack of a better term, “handled with kid gloves”. As Janisse states during her interview with John & Paul Hough;

“When I was a kid, we went to school by ourselves, we just went out after school and had to be home by a certain time. Now I have a brother who has kids, and they're supervised all the time. Everything was so different then.”

The work of John Hough is perhaps the greatest example of this, as he worked on several films for Disney (like 1980's Watcher In The Woods) during their “dark” phase, releasing films that sought to scare the bejesus out of their best customers. Now, children's programming seems so incredibly sanitized, as if its only function is to preserve the innocence of youth for as long as possible.

Lynn-Holly Johnson, Bette Davis and Kyle Richards in Watcher In The Woods.

Unfortunately, keeping the darkness at bay may do more harm than good in the long run. What would childhood be without discovery? If you ask me, to be deprived some of the wonderfully colourful treasures found within the pages of Kid Power! seems like child cruelty.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

DKTM 234

Hello all. With the Festival of Fear and TIFF imminent, it's the calm before the storm around here, but below are some horror tidbits to keep you satiated until then.


A preview for an upcoming release from Freaktown Comics came across my email last week called Slashermania. Written by Russell Hillman with art by Ron Joseph, Harry Saxon & Jake Isenberg, here's the description;

“1983. Troubled teens from New York and Los Angeles are taken to a summer camp facility to be trained as counsellors and mix safely with other people their own age. Little do they know they are being watched by an audience hungry for sex and violence. They are the designated victims for a bizarre contest of murder and mayhem – WELCOME TO SLASHERMANIA!”

Click to enlarge.

This seems to combine ideas from three projects dear to my heart - Friday the 13th and the lesser known, Marc Evans' My Little Eye and Maurice Devereaux's $la$her$, so Slashermania definitely has my attention. No release date has been set, but you can keep up to date by following Freaktown Comics, here.

Alien Digested.

Here's a cool little link I found in my Facebook feed this week, courtesy Dion Conflict (organizer of the yearly Shock & Awe marathons). Before the advent of home video, it was possible to buy heavily abbreviated versions of theatrical films on Super 8 called “digests”. Here is one for the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien.

I'm always impressed by these things. It takes a lot of skill to cut a two-hour film down to under twenty minutes and still have it make sense narratively.

You Darn Kids!

I came across these awesome series of drawings from the artist IBTrav this week. You know how Scooby Doo & The Gang always came across all sorts of supposed ghosts and ghouls? Well, this guy had the brilliant idea to insert in more “familiar” frights.

You check out the rest of this series - plus IBTrav's many other projects - by going here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Twin Peaks, Atari Style.

So, I know I've been slacking off in the video games department, especially since the last few episodes of The Walking Dead still remain unplayed, but I found something so frickin' cool on Monday. A super awesome dude by the name of Jak Locke has created a retro Atari 2600 game based on the classic TV show Twin Peaks.

I realize it's been out for a while, but hey, it's new to me and hopefully some of you, as well. Entitled The Black Lodge, it recreates the last few moments of the unforgettable last episode where Agent Dale Cooper enters said place between worlds. There is a free download available for PC and Mac, and even comes with a beautiful retro style manual.

There's so much to love about this game. First, it seems like Locke has pulled actual sounds from vintage 2600 titles like Pitfall and Yar's Revenge, though that could just be my imagination. If you stand still at the beginning, you can also listen to a chip-tune rendition of Angelo Badalamenti's Under The Sycamore Trees.

The game is also rife with Easter eggs. If you survive long enough to get 5000 points, the Giant will appear with information (in his usual riddled prose) on how to beat the game. Along the way, you'll see iconic characters like The Man from Another Place, Laura & Leland Palmer and, of course, Killer BOB.

My current high score is 5650, so take a crack and see if can beat it. If you'd rather just sit back and watch someone else play, here's a YouTube walkthrough, although sadly without sound.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trailer Tuesdays: The Faculty

Since we were in class yesterday (and Robert Rodriguez's latest flick Sin City 2 hits screens in a few), here's the trailer for The Faculty.

Ohhh nineties promos! Trailers just aren't the same now that Don LaFontaine isn't with us anymore.