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, January 14, 2018

Return of the Crites.

There was some very exciting news this week that one of my favourite horror franchises is being resurrected. Blue Ribbon Content, the digital television arm of Warner Brothers is producing a Critters television series for Verizon's go90.

As we know, horror is cyclical and I have been anticipating the resurgence of creature features as fans and emerging filmmakers pine for a return to practical effects. I hope this is a step in the right direction.

BRC is also producing a comedy series called Golden Revenge that has an intriguing premise that sees discarded pets seek vengeance against the owners who abandoned them. Both projects are expected to go into production this year. I have no idea how I'll be able to watch these, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out.

Friday, January 12, 2018

So Hip It Hurts.

This week's VHS pick is Dominique Othenin-Girard's 1990 horror flick Night Angel.

The ancient spirit Lilith (played by German actress Isa Jank) infiltrates the fashion industry in order to seduce the masses.

Wedged in Girard's filmography, between two best forgotten sequels (Halloween 5 & Omen IV) is this little under-seen oddity. You would never know from its innocuous coverbox, but this movie contains all manner of treasures. I really have to thank my buddy Justin Decloux for bringing this to my attention because it's chock full of all the insanity that made movies from this era truly great.

Isa Jank as Lilith in Night Angel

I'm not sure where to start. Night Angel is like a fever dream and one has to wonder if not only Joe Augustyn & Walter Josten were high when they wrote it, but if everybody involved was, as well. Litith causes everyone around her to lose control, but the decadence seems to be on full display before she even arrives on the scene – as in this movie was already a souped-up Trans-Am version of the eighties and Lilith just drives it off a cliff. This movie keeps on giving. Karen Black appears as the magazine editor and even has a young Doug Jones, as the biggest nerd who ever nerded - I believe the phrase “I just want to tickle her tonsils with my meat puppet” may have come out of his mouth.

Doug Jones & Linden Ashby in Night Angel

However, it is the abundance of special effects that are the highlight of this movie. Night Angel was in that sweet spot where practical effects were at their peak. Touchstone pictures like Society and Nightbreed were out and Dead Alive was not far off. To give you an idea of the pedigree involved here, not only did Steve Johnson work on Night Angel, but also the legendary KNB trio. I feel there must have been a carte blanche directive at play here because the sheer quantity of gags is astonishing. There's a character named Woman with Faces under Breasts for Christ's sake as well as a full body creature suit (and Jones isn't wearing it!) at the end for good measure. Man, those were the days!

Night Angel at its most subtle.

It is very difficult to quantify why this movie isn't better known, as it is so loud and abstract I can't imagine it being easily forgotten by anyone who watches it. Thankfully, Kino Lorber's recent Blu-ray release may get it in front of more eyeballs. In a decade marked by its excesses, Night Angel seeks to make you wonder how any of us made it through the eighties without bursting into flames.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THS's Short Of The Week

Probably not the most clever of names to be sure, but call it a work in progress. I wanted to kick off the first month of this by showcasing some of my favourite short films of all time. First is Spencer Susser's I Love Sarah Jane from 2008 - holy smokes this thing is ten years old now!

I'm a big fan of horror films that also explore coming-of-age themes and there are few that do it better than this. It's also an opportunity to see Mia Wasikowska before her rise to the Hollywood A-list. Enjoy!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The New Regimen

Hey all! I hope you are managing to stay warm during the deep freeze. I am just popping in to announce some changes around here. In 2018, I have plans for some fairly substantial projects unrelated to THS - plus four fests worth of programming duties - so I have to scale things back here a bit. 

I stated before that I was shutting down my weekly news and trailer posts, but I'll still be doing VHS Fridays, hopefully with more regularity. In place of the stuff I've shit-canned, starting tomorrow I'll be showcasing horror short films as a weekly feature called... well I haven't thought of a name yet. Any ideas?

But don't you fret, I'll still be covering the usual film festivals when they come around because you know... free movies. I'm sure my output will decrease somewhat, but I'm dedicated to keeping up with the two-posts-per-week thing going forward.

See you back here tomorrow!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Preview

It's 2018 folks! Not the greatest start considering man baby numero uno just basically tweeted “my missiles are bigger than yours”, but let's try and forget we're a button push away from living post-apocalypse Bruno Mattei style and talk about some upcoming horror flicks, shall we?

I'm happy that two of genre's hottest directors, Robert Eggers and Jeremy Saulnier, have projects coming out this year. Eggers is following up his brilliant 2015 debut The Witch with an ambitious retelling of Nosferatu. I wouldn't blame you for being skeptical, but if there is anyone who can do justice to this vampire touchstone, it's him.

On the strength of Blue Ruin (2013) and Green Room (2015), we should all be very excited about Saulnier's newest project Hold the Dark. Adapted from the William Giraldi book, it stars Riley Keough & Alexander Skarsgård and takes place in the Alaskan wilderness.

I'm going to offer the theory that due to the strength of TV's Legion and last year's mega-hit It, horror has bled into the superhero genre and given us The New Mutants. Not that I wouldn't have seen this already with Anya Taylor-Joy & Maisie Williams in the cast, but with a trailer like this, I'm so in.

It looks like we get some promising giant monster movies this year - and I'm not talking Jurassic whatever. After almost two decades of attempts, the giant shark flick The Meg is finally coming to fruition as a Jason Statham action vehicle. Any port in a storm I say.

Perhaps a little bit more respectable is Alex Garland's Annihilation with Natalie Portman & Jennifer Jason Leigh. I like the trailer, even though it does have that whiff of disposable sci-fi. However, some of us probably thought the same way about Ex Machina at first glance.

Then there is A Quiet Place. I find the “silence is survival” hook really intriguing, but it's heartbreaking that the first thing I thought about after seeing the trailer was not “man that is going to be intense” but “all I'll be able to hear during the tense bits is fucking mouth breathers chewing their popcorn”.

In terms of the A-list creepers, Winchester has potential. The scares in the trailer look old hat, but I'm counting on the production design of the house and Helen Mirren and company to add the necessary gravitas.

Out of the sea of sequels, two stick out as promising. Even though I don't really need it, I'll check out Strangers 2. They've had a decade to work on it, so hopefully it's good.

Then there's Halloween. I'm gonna give it a chance for three reasons - John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jordan Peele. No, I know Peele isn't involved, but when I heard about who was doing this new iteration of Halloween - or the Pumpkin Express I remember calling it - I thought what the fuck do these comedy guys know about horror? Then Get Out dropped like a fucking culture bomb. 

So okay guys. Thrill me.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

DKTM 360

It's incredible to think that since January 2009 I have done three-hundred-and-sixty of these news post things. In the interest of symmetry, I think it's time to close the loop on them. While part of the regimen was about archiving cool stuff that was going on, as an actual news delivery device it's largely redundant as there are a million other places you can get your news.

The shutting down of DKTM is the first step in a Horror Section overhaul that I'll elaborate more on in 2018. Rest assured I'm not going anywhere, but the coming year is going to be a busy one, so I mean to take steps to streamline things around here.

Have a great NYE and I'll see you back here later in the week.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Best Horror Shorts of 2017

As I indicated yesterday, I am now in a position where I watch hundreds of short films a year. When you attend a shorts block at a film festival, be aware that someone has spent countless hours pouring over submissions to give you the very best.

I likely broke a personal record this year having watched over three hundred for SFFF, two hundred (and counting) for HXFF plus the usual supplement of Little Terrors subs and regular festival viewings. I enjoy it and the feedback received when someone really digs a short you played is really rewarding. I obviously have to sit through a lot of not-great shorts, but surprisingly few are so abysmal that they break my spirit. No one sets out to make a bad short, so their heart's in the right place at least.

Today though I want to highlight some tremendously gifted filmmakers who really shone in the short film space this year. Though some of these were technically from 2016, most are currently still playing around the world.

First and foremost is Natalie Erika James' Creswick. This creeper from Australia has been tearing up the festival circuit after making a splash at Fantasia this year. I still marvel at how well the visuals and audio were mixed in this piece. Rumour is that James' is currently now working on a feature version so the future is very bright for her indeed.

A short that I absolutely adore that hasn't been seen nearly as much as it should is Dániel Reich's Recall. I'm not aware of it screening anywhere in Canada so I'm eager to show it at LT in 2018. Everything about this short is top notch and I imagine that the 20-minute running time is the only thing that has kept it from showing everywhere. I guarantee you will wish it was longer when the credits roll on it though.

For the third year in a row, Toronto filmmaker Justin Harding has directed a winner. Latched went so far as to play TIFF - the highest honour for a short, at least in the Big Smoke - with good reason. It has high production values, a playful tone that borders both on the whimsical and grotesque and a great cast. It is only a matter of time for Harding makes the jump to features.

Another great creeper I came across while screening shorts for Little Terrors was LA native Evan Cooper's The Armoire. It was some genuinely freaky imagery and an audio hook that will literally give you the shivers.

As crazy as it sounds, one of my favourite shorts this year was a Skittles ad. Fox really brought it when they broadcast some two-minute horrors during the Halloween season. Floor 9.5 is the perfect marriage of execution and economy.

Now there are shorts that are meant to scare, but there are also ones that aim to just entertain and I saw many of terrific ones this year. Chief among these were Mike Marrero & Jon Rhoads' Buzzcut and Joe Hitchcock's Stick To Your Gun. The former seeks to make a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon and the latter proves just how difficult personal grooming can be during the end of days.

Kelly Jane in Buzzcut

I also really like the world building involved in Adrian Selkowitz's Taste. A short that is funny and satirical while being incredibly well put together does not come around often.

In terms of short shorts, Greg Kovaks' Fun is just as advertised. Recalling the puppets of Kovak's classic short Tasha & Friends, this takes a loving stab at those kids' shows that encourage kids to talk  to the screen.

2017 saw an amazing numbers of solid animation shorts this year. So many were there that we at SFFF were able to put together an entire block of animations from around the world. The best (and coincidentally the most dour) was the Spanish stop-motion import Dead Horses by Marc Riba & Anna Solanas.

Lastly, there are the ones that go for the gross out, and none were better than Logan George & Celine Held's Mouse. If this tale about two junkies down on their luck attempting the yuckiest get-rich-quick scheme doesn't make you squirm, nothing will.

It's been one hell of a year! I think I got one more post in me before the ball drops so we'll talk then. Stay safe, kids.