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, March 27, 2015

It Follows, Today!

Hey all. Just a reminder that David Robert Mitchell's It Follows expands to select theatres this weekend. If it is playing anywhere near you, do yourself a favour and GO SEE IT.

On the strengths of its run in four theatres in NY & LA, the Weinsteins have decided to forego their usual indie-horror VOD route and take a chance on a theatrical release. Don't make them regret it.

I really can't stress the importance of this film doing well this weekend. It Follows is one of the freshest indie horrors to come out in a while, and if we, as a fan base, do not support it, you are not ever allowed to complain that the only horrors that get released are bland, carbon copies of the same old thing.

So again I say, GO SEE IT! Even if, for some reason, you don't feel it lives up to the hype, just by putting your butt in the seat, you are saying yes to studios taking a chance on stuff that is new, exciting and provocative.

Do your part.

Okay, rant over.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

VHS Nite Part VI: Killbots!

It took over two years, but I was able to orchestrate another VHS Nite at my abode last weekend. This time around, I planned a VHS double-bill featuring killer robots, the first being Jim Wynorski's 1986 flick Chopping Mall

It had been many, many years since I'd watched this movie and had been meaning to revisit it ever since I snagged a VHS copy from The Vault a while back. I remember digging this film when I first saw it, mainly because of the nudity, solid head explosion scene and cool looking robots. Watching it again, I was happy to discover that it was even better than I remembered.

This movie has so much going for it and is fully entrenched in that happy-go-lucky exploitation feel that a lot of low-budget, but well-produced, horror movies from the eighties had. Being older I was able to fully appreciate all the references and cameos (like Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham as well as Mary Woronov & Paul Bartel reprising their roles from 1982's Eating Raoul) that Wynorski put in there.

I was now even more awestruck by the practical robot effects. With the exception of the laser beams (with added War of the Worlds foley), all of the Protectors actions were done in camera by way of remote control. It may not seem like much now, but in 1986 that must have been a pretty ambitious undertaking for a project that cost under a million to make. And the robots also shit-talk, which only adds to the levity.

But, let's not take away from our colourful cast of characters, including the lovely Barbara Crampton as Suzie, Tony O'Dell as the quintessential nerd Ferdy and John Terlesky as the perpetually gum-chewing Mike.

This movie is super fun, and at a brisk seventy-five minutes, runs at a great pace for almost the entire movie.

Moving on from this, I fired up 1995's Evolver, a thrifty acquisition from I came across this movie when I heard about the robot design being somewhat similar to that of the Protectors in Chopping Mall. And you know what? It is.

The premise here is that Ethan Embry (inexplicably credited here as Ethan Randall) wins a robot in a video game contest, which then goes ape-shit after a few rounds of Laser Tag. And all this while the robot's creator played by John “Q” DeLancie glowers in disbelief that his creation has somehow reverted back to its original military programming. And like the Protectors in Chopping Mall, Evolver also has a mouth on him, which funnily enough is voiced by William H. Macy. I know, right?

What is kind of hilarious is how tiny the thing is when it first rolls out of its crate. From the cover, I was expecting it to be a giant, but it barely comes up to the actors' waists. Still, once it switches out its Nerf ammunition for ball-bearings, knives and then lasers, things get a little more interesting.

Also, there are some pretty crazy virtual reality scenes that take place in an arcade. I love watching nineties films because of their nonsensical grasp of hacker and video game culture. I mean look, here we are twenty years later, and we STILL don't have a consumer product VR headset. Sure, developers are messing about with the Oculus Rift, but I'm still not able to walk into a Best Buy and grab one, am I?

In addition to the characters being somewhat irritating or douchey, (Embry's character has one of the worst cases of Dawson Leery Syndrome I've seen in quite some time – in that the female lead Cassidy Rae is basically throwing herself at him and he's too much of a nerd to realize it) so is the robot. Evolver is not only homicidal, he's also kind of a dick about it.

Ethan Randall (aka Ethan Embry) in 90's garb.

However, as with Chopping Mall, I was also impressed with the design by FX guru Steve Johnson. There was a lot of articulation in the head, neck and arms, which gave him a lot of range. I kept expecting him to get larger at some point, but nope. Even when he morphs into military grade “Level 4” badass, he is still pretty toy-sized.

So, Evolver wasn't quite as good as Chopping Mall, but still serves as an entertaining banner of its decade.

It was another successful movie night in the Western frontier. Now, I have to start scouring for two more suitable titles to play together. Although, if frequency holds, I've got plenty of time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: Poltergeist

While on the subject of the paranormal, I figured I'd throw out a trailer for one of the most well known and beloved of the bunch.

It been a very long time since I saw this, so I think it is due for a rewatch sometime in the near future, especially with the remake looming. Perhaps a marathon, as all I remember from Part 2 is the braces and tequila worm scenes and Julian Beck lookin' all crazy.

And I don't know if I ever saw the third one all the way through. Hmmmm.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Who You Gonna Call?

The Black Museum kicked off its fifth semester of lectures last week with a comprehensive look at the steely character known as the paranormal investigator.

Toronto journalist Brian Baker was on hand to guide us through the creaky mansions, abandoned asylums and hallowed grounds that have made the paranormal investigator the most earthly trope of supernatural horror. 

Baker began with saying that ghosts have always been a part of our history. Even though the ghost story dates all the way back to 33 B.C, he chose to focus his talk on the transition from Victorian Gothic hauntings into modern horror.

But what are hauntings exactly? Well, Baker explained they could be broken down into three categories.

Ghost – is an apparition, the spirit of a dead person appearing to the living.
Poltergeist – is a supernatural being that can physically move objects.
Demon – is a spirit that is otherworldly, and not human.

This can also be seen as an evolution; a shift due to audiences needing to be more scared by their eerie entertainment. So, ghosts became poltergeists, and poltergeists became demons.

Brian Baker ain't afraid of no ghost.

From here, the lecture was broken into two halves, the first being the real-life ghost hunters and then those of fiction. Though not officially recognized by the scientific community, paranormal investigation has ballooned in recent years with chapters popping up in every major city. There are programs functioning in several universities, but they often funded by like-minded philanthropists and not the school system. A dip in the interest in the eighties saw many of these programs shut down – as evidenced at the beginning of the film The Ghostbusters.

But we've come a long way since then, as now we are over-saturated with media about paranormal investigations, including the likes of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. However, the two most widely known investigators were the husband and wife team of Ed & Lorraine Warren.

The Warrens claimed to have investigated over ten-thousand cases over their long careers, the most famous being turned into the popular movies The Amityville Horror, A Haunting In Connecticut & The Conjuring

Paranormal pioneers Lorraine & Edward Warren.

“These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.” - Ed Warren.

Moving onto fiction, Baker pointed out the two most influential pieces of literature on modern supernatural horror were Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and Richard Matheson's Hell House (1971), later adapted into the films The Haunting (1963) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) respectively. These works brought about two of the main themes of the subgenre, faith vs. science and characters denying the existence of the supernatural despite the evidence in front of them.

The Amityville Horror (1979) based on Jay Anson's account from two years previous featured the most famous icon of supernatural horror, 112 Ocean Ave and its foreboding quarter-window eyes. Focusing more on the second film of the film franchise, Baker brought up perhaps the most popular trope of the haunting/possession films, isolation. Very often you see the evil spirit isolate its target from the rest by breaking down the family unit. This then brings about the last common theme of Good vs. Evil.

112 Ocean Ave, the infamous Amityville house.

Moving into the eighties saw one of the most popular films of the genre, Poltergeist. Its notoriety went beyond the film when people began speaking of a Poltergeist “curse” after several tragedies befell several members of the cast. It is rumoured that the crew used real skeletons in the swimming pool scenes and that brought about a curse that then inadvertently caused the deaths of Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson and Heather O'Roarke. Complete nonsense to be sure, similar stories surround other such films of the time, like The Omen, but it makes a great story.

Moving into present day, Baker brought up films such as The Frighteners, which saw the ghost hunter using his gifts for personal gain, and Grave Encounters that played up the hammy reality television host angle. He also spent some time on the solid 2012 film The Awakening, which brought the Victorian ghost tale full circle. He also didn't leave out Paranormal Activity, which is a perfect example of what can happen when you wait too long to reach out for the professionals. Nope, your idiot boyfriend is no substitute for Zelda Rubenstein.

As with television, films about paranormal investigation are everywhere with five titles being released just this year (Insidious 3, The Conjuring 2, the Poltergeist remake, Amitville: The Awakening & Paranormal Activity 6) and no sign of things slowing down.

Baker's talk was a solid and informative walk down the annals of paranormal investigation. And who knows, maybe, someday, one of these guys will actually nab some irrefutable proof of the other side.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

DKTM 258

Spring is officially here, and thankfully I didn't even need a calendar to tell me so. It was already evident in the fact that we've had a string of plus-zero days and the ice has melted to the point that I don't have to risk breaking my neck every morning. Good deal. I've got a spot of past, present and future for you today, so let's get right to it.

A VHS Adventure.

Over in Alberta, that crazy retro-minded collective, The House of Heathans have themselves a new project called The B-Movie Odyssey. Expanding on the universe introduced in The Last Video Store and M is for Magnetic Tape, video jockey Kevin Martin finds himself sucked into the world of home video. Here's the pilot episode below.

If the subject matter didn't already sell me, the Tristan Risk Final Girl cameo certainly did. B-Movie Odyssey is actually a contest entry for Storyhive, a community powered funding program for emerging filmmakers in Alberta and British Columbia. So, if you liked what you saw, go on over to the website and cast a vote for it. The winner gets $50,000 and a Telus distribution deal.

Where Paradise Is Home.

This week saw a new trailer for the upcoming FOX show Wayward Pines.

There are certainly a lot of intriguing notions in this show, but I'm weary that the more I learn, it becomes less like Twin Peaks and more like Lost. If this is just a show about M. Night trying to be clever, I'm going to lose interest real fast. However, there is a ton of talent in this show, and NBC's Hannibal has proven that network shows can compete with their cable brethren. Wayward Pines premieres Thursday, May 14th.

Eat Your Heart Out, Peter Weller.

Below, is perhaps one of the better proof of concept trailers I have ever seen.

We are certainly getting photo-realistic with our animations these days, aren't we? I've heard some negative feedback about the Leviathan design, but I like it. The front end resembles a Great White shark, which offers up intriguing possibilities about shared evolution. Hopefully, there is more of a story here than director Ruairi Robinson's last project, The Last Days of Mars. But, that trailer above is a great jumping off point.

And hey, if it doesn't become a movie, maybe Team Ico can make a video game out of it, as it seems apparent by now that we're never getting The Last Guardian. But, that's a whole 'nother matter.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Into The West.

I've got some great news going into the weekend. My short film The Monitor will be playing the twelfth edition of The Calgary Underground Film Festival next month.

I'm absolutely honoured as CUFF is one of the premiere genre film festivals in Canada. If you happen to be in Alberta, my short film will be playing in front of the bat-shit crazy flick I Am A Knife With Legs at midnight on Sat, April 18th. 

This year has some great flicks playing including Benson & Moorhead's Spring, the super sexy Duke of Burgundy, a revival of the infamous 1981 animal attack film Roar as well as a great David Cronenberg retrospective. For more info on the films playing, click here.

Man, this is just tremendous. Anyway, as you were.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: The Island

I want to go back to the beginning this week. One of the very first movie posters I can remember marvelling at was for the 1980 Michael Caine/David Warner vehicle The Island.

I subsequently watched it on late-night television, but remember very little, except the climax where Caine has to save his kid from the pirates. But this trailer sure makes it seem pretty action packed!