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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Frontières!


I wanted to break from the reviews for a moment to give a shout out to my good friends Serena Whitney and Justin McConnell, who are pitching their feature project, Mark of Kane to investors at this year's Off Frontières at the Fantasia Film Festival

They've been preparing for this opportunity for months and have some really cool materials made up to showcase their project, like this pamphlet;




My last night at Fantasia, I also finally met filmmaker Todd E. Freeman whose been a name in my Facebook feed for months now. We both have projects in the ABC's of Death 2.5 (mine of course being M is For Manure, and his being M is for Marriage) so that was a good conversation starter. He is in Montreal because he is also pitching at Frontières. He has put all the pieces together for his next feature Love Sick, he just has to find some generous investors to back it.


Love Sick starring Tristan Risk & Francisco Barreiro.

Good luck to my peeps and everyone who is throwing their ideas out there this weekend. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that. Hopefully, the bean counters will recognize your passion and give you all that you need to make your dreams become flesh. Who knows? Maybe I'll even be there someday...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

She's A Man-Eater.


Immediately after Late Phases, was the Canadian premiere of the hot new horror comedy, Life After Beth.


While still mourning his dead girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), Zach (Dave DeHaan) discovers she is still alive & kicking, holed away in her parent's attic. After being reunited, he soon realizes that Beth isn't quite the same girl she used to be.

I found Life After Beth entertaining, but wouldn't say it was anything spectacular. A lot of the jokes were featured in the trailer, and there wasn't much more depth to the proceedings than what was glimpsed in such. I certainly see the comment made within about relationships and the difficulties of letting go, but they didn't really land for me. I guess I prefer my zombie girlfriend pictures to be of a somewhat different tone. I did, however, appreciate that the movie opened up in the third act to give us Jeff Baena's version of the zombie apocalypse. There were a good amount of gore gags – almost a given when dealing with zombie fare – but the movie, save one or two clever exceptions, played things pretty safe.

Dave DeHann & Aubrey Plaza in  Life After Beth.

To Baena's credit, he assembled an impressive ensemble for this movie. DeHaan & Plaza make a deliciously awkward couple, even before all the undead insanity starts. I liked Plaza overall, but I did find her moments of rage a little cringe-worthy, so perhaps that's not in her range. I certainly give her kudos for enduring all that zombie make-up though, not to mention having a oven strapped to her back. The cast was rounded out by an all-too-brief appearance from Anna Kendrick, as well as John C. Reilly & Molly Shannon as Beth's off-kilter parents. Matthew Gray Gubler also kills it as Zach's war-hungry brother, Kyle.

Director Jeff Baena, Plaza & Matthew Gray Gruber.

I no doubt enjoyed the experience of watching Life After Beth – and it was awesome to see the lovely Aubrey Plaza in person – but this will likely be a movie that is soon forgotten by me.

*Q&A photo courtesy of Ali Chappell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Wolf At Your Door.


Saturday was a long day of films, the most anticipated for me being Adrián García Bogliano's, Late Phases.


After several residents of senior community are viciously mutilated, blind war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) takes it upon himself to find out the cause, and stop him – or it – for good.

Bogliano's newest is a slight departure from his previous film Here Comes The Devil. Sure, they are both narratively straightforward and feature strained family relationships, but while Devil focuses on youth, this one centeres on the other side of the spectrum. Ambrose (played with crusty zeal by Damici) has basically been cast off by the world, so when the opportunity arises to go some good, he accepts, even though he is in no shape to do so. Ambrose is, in fact, a man with nothing to lose.

What Late Phases also shared with Devil was great performances. In addition to Damici, who it was good to see have a significant role away from his compatriot Jim Mickle, there were also a handful of actors I don't get to see as much as I'd prefer, like Tom Noonan and Dana Ashbrook.

Nick Damici & Tom Noonan in Late Phases.

I was excited to see Bob Kurtzman's name in the opening credits, as that meant the effects were in good hands. I really liked the creature designs in Late Phases. Most of the time when you see a werewolf movie, they are some variation of what we've seen in go-to films like An American Werewolf In London. Here, I felt like Kurtzman really tried for something unique, while also adding touches that somewhat recalled creatures from his previous work. The featured (and lengthy) transformation scene, though it does cheat with some cutaways, was well executed.

Apart from that, Late Phases isn't too flashy and is of a pace you would expect about a blind old man doing mock detective work. The bloody climax was terrific though and worth the wait.

Bogliano is steadily making a name for himself with these solid genre pieces utilizing tried-and-true formulas (rape revenge, evil children, werewolves, etc) and I'll be sure to check out any of his future projects.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nice Beaver!


My yearly jaunt to Montreal would not be complete without a midnight screening, and this year's was the newest animal hybrid flick Zombeavers.


When a toxic waste spill turns the beaver population of a secluded lake into ravenous flesh eaters, a group of vacationing college kids must fight for their lives.

There's nothing like a Fantasia midnight screening. It really enhances a movie like this and lends so much more to the experience than just downloading and watching it on a laptop by yourself. I'm not going to purport that Zombeavers is anything but what you expect, but I did find it pretty entertaining. Paired with the Indiegogo-funded zombie kangaroo short, Waterborne, it was exactly what this midnight crowd ordered.

While I was doing some research, I found a lot of people comparing this with Sharknado, which I feel is inaccurate. It may sound weird to say this, but Zombeavers wields a fair bit more credibility than that. First of all, the majority of the beavers are puppets, rather than cheap CG, so that instantly won me over. There is some decent gore in this, with some great little set pieces that work because of the emphasis on the practical.


Zombeavers also takes itself slightly more seriously, as well. I mean, the film has every variation of the “beaver” joke imaginable, but the humour still comes off as slightly more clever than Syfy fare and their “look what impossible thing we've done now” formula. And to be clear, this isn't a creature feature where you hardly ever see the antagonists. There is plenty of beaver in this.

Lexi Atkins in Zombeavers.

That said, I certainly can't forget the three lovely ladies (Rachel Melvin, Lexi Atkins & Courtney Palm) in the picture. They spend a good chunk of the movie in bikinis – or even less in Palm's case – and will command your attention even if the subject matter does not.

This is a “just as advertised” kind of thing. If a movie about combining zombies and beavers sounds appealing to you, then step right up.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Levelling Up.


My first Fantasia film of note was Faults directed by Riley Stearns.


A down-on-his-luck cult expert named Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) is hired by a couple to deprogram their daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has fallen under the influence of a mysterious cult called Faults.

Faults actually turned out to be not at all what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it a great deal. I thought the movie was going to be of the straight-up horror variety, something along the lines of The Sacrament – especially with AJ Bowen appearing in both movies – but it is more of a quirky comedy that got darker as the movie progressed. I briefly debated if I should even review it because of this, but I've always actively promoted indies that offer good character stuff, so here we are.

I am hit and miss with films that have a tonal shift, but this one works rather beautifully, mainly due to it being very gradual and buried in a strong dialogue-driven script. There's a straight-faced comedy to the delivery that I responded to immediately. If you watch Steans' 2012 short The Cub, that should give you an idea of what he's about. The air of mystery about what may or may not be going on under the surface was of real interest to me.

Leland Orser & Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Faults.

The movie hinges on the two leads and they are both excellent. I was pretty chuffed to see Leland Orser – whose made a career out of supporting roles for the last twenty-odd years – front and center in this picture. He was given a meaty role and he delivers perfectly, as does Winstead. I've been loving the work she has been doing recently, after many years of doing sequels and remakes. I hate to sound like I'm slighting the genre that I love, but after her more serious performances in 2012's Smashed and this, I feel she has really elevated her game. I also want to stress how intimate this piece is. It could've been a stage play. The meat of the picture is really the “deprogramming” exchanges between Orser and Winstead, as it is really captivating stuff.

You never know what kind of future small films on the festival circuit will have, but if you ever do come across this in your travels, and are a fan of dialogue-driven, encounter pieces, I encourage you to check this one out.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fantasia Bound.

I'm now on my way to Montreal for Fantasia, and that makes me as happy as a...


Stay tuned, folks. My reviews should start coming in by the end of the weekend. Talk to you then.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Doc Of The Dead

During its limited run in Toronto last week, my buddy Schwartz & I took in the recent zombie documentary Doc of the Dead.


Directed by Alex O. Philippe (The People vs. George Lucas), Doc of the Dead delves into the worldwide phenomenon of the zombie.

This doc was a pretty good time. Whereas the other zombie doc I watched recently Birth of the Living Dead focused more on George A. Romero and his contributions to the genre, this one was a much more broad and all-encompassing look at the undead. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Birth, but its interviewees are many, including Bruce Campbell, Simon Pegg, Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero. The biggest insights, however, came from arguably the three most important figures in modern zombie culture, Romero, Robert Kirkman & Max Brooks.

Zombie godfather, George A. Romero.

There are an impressive number of things covered over the course of this doc's eighty-one minute running time, including the genre's ravenous and ever-growing fan base, the scientific, social and philosophical underpinning of the zombie as well as its origins in folklore – contrary to the literary beginnings shared by the rest of horror iconic figures. Even the heated debate between fast vs. slow zombies is discussed!

Being a fan myself, I'm obviously aware of just how pervasive zombies have become in pop culture over the last decade. The Walking Dead is the most popular show on television (save for maybe GoT), almost every city has a zombie walk event that draws hundreds or even thousands, and advertisers are now using the undead to schlep everything from phones to candy to courier services.

One of the many zombie faithful.

However, due to so many topics being offered up, Doc of the Dead did tend to meander a bit. I also thought the “comedy” skits added in for filler were pretty painful. It was only when talking about them with Schwartz afterward that I realized it was the same guy who did those elongated reviews of the Star Wars prequels a while back. Yeah, his material isn't as amusing when it doesn't involve hookers trapped in his basement. But, I digress.

Despite perhaps lacking direction, there was a lot of good stuff in there. It featured a lot of familiar genre faces and offered up some good observations about everyone's favourite flesh eaters.