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, July 26, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Alice, Sweet Alice

Hey all. I'm back from my travels with your regular Tuesday trailer. No real reason for the pick, except maybe that it remains one of the few slashers I have never seen.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Court Réductions


While wrapping up my coverage of this year’s Fantasia, I wanted to talk a little about some of the short films I saw while I was there. I could be imagining things, but it seemed there were a good deal more at the fest this year. Granted, I was actually there for their yearly edition of Small Gauge Trauma (I’m usually not), but it seemed there were more shorts being screened in front of features this time around. Anyway, here are half-a-dozen that caught my eye.

Tim Hyten’s Snake Bite is a perfect example of the kind of trouble kids can get into when left to their own devices. The four child actors gave naturalistic performances, which helped nurture a believable de-escalation from bad to worse. This short was a great fit with Taika Waititi's truly delightful dramedy Hunt For The Wilderpeople.


Moving onto Small Gauge Trauma, science fiction was well represented in this programme. Both Luke Jaden’s King Ripple and Antonio Padavan’s Eveless were efforts that created substantial worlds in short periods of time. The latter was far more intimate than the former, but both were equally impressive in their ambition.


The Disappearance of Willie Bingham from Australian Matt Richards was a cautionary horror tale that would have been quite at home as an episode of Black Mirror. Morally ambiguous, the piece truly made you think of the film’s theme from both sides, all while maintaining a grim sense of humour.

Perhaps my favourite short was Anthony Collamati’s Break My Bones. I’ve made it no secret here that coming-of-age/horror hybrids have a special place in my heart, and this one sure falls under that category. Anchored by the fine performance of young actress Eloise Lushina, this story played out in such a way that welcomed multiple interpretations.


Lastly, I have to mention the short A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky created by a Frenchman named Quarxx. It was grim and befuddling, and it held us all hostage as it unspooled. You could literally hear an entire theatre holding its breath during one particular sequence involving two children. Its problematic thirty-six minute running time means that only a limited amount of people are likely to ever see it, but it was some strange and provocative shit.

I was impressed with all of these, and will endeavour to get them played in my neck of the woods at some point.

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.