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, January 15, 2019

Short of the Week #50: Human Cattle

This week's short film is some down home exploitation called Human Cattle brought to you by the boys at The Butcher Shop.

Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, The Butcher Shop has been providing top notch makeup effects services for over a decade. And now that they've tasted the filmmaking bug for themselves, God help us all.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Totally Worth it!

This week's VHS is Nick Kazan's 1993 erotic thriller Dream Lover.

After successful architect Ray (James Spader) falls in love with the seemingly perfect Lena (Mädchen Amick), he begins to suspect she may not be who she says she is.

This movie was a blast and wholly indicative of the thrillers that were coming out at this point in the nineties. I won't get into this genre's long sordid history, but I recall 1981's Body Heat really kicking off the whole explicit thriller – Brian De Palma had been dabbling with it, but women rarely played a central part in his narratives – but the flood gates didn't open until Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction in 1987. Then it seemed like a new title hit the shelves every week during my video store tenure.

My main question coming away from this movie is; “has there ever been a more beautiful creature than Mädchen Amick?” She set the screen on fire here and was one of several actresses who spent the mid-nineties erasing their good girl image – in her case built up in her stints on Twin Peaks and Sleepwalkers – and running chest first into some smut. God bless her.

While most of it follows a fairly predictable nineties thriller arc, I must admit that Dream Lover definitely offered up one of the more dour and abrupt conclusions. I was actually shocked to find that writer Kazan was happily married (and still is to this day) with two kids because the script did not strike me as scribbled down by someone who liked, or at least trusted, women. Then again, who knows where this shit comes from? I'm willing to bet the son of Elia Kazan saw some shit growing up.

In addition to seeing a LOT of Amick - it was the “special sexy unrated version” after all - I got to watch James Spader spade it up, so there was really no downside here. Dream Lover was trashy to be sure and maybe not as well put together as say, one of my personal faves, John Dahl's The Last Seduction, but it's hella entertaining and did I mention Mädchen Amick is hot AF?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Short of the Week #49: Mouse

Every so often while screening shorts, I come across a title that makes me say, “I can't wait to watch this with an audience just to watch them squirm.” Logan George & Celine Held's 2017 short Mouse is one such short. Watch if you dare.

George & Held are a formidable team that have made a handful of shorts since Mouse, including the incredibly engaging Valencia Road, also from 2017.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lucio's Eyes.

This week, I decided to start out 2019 with some Lucio Fulci and my VHS of his 1977 giallo, The Psychic.

When a vision leads her to a body inside the walls of her husband's former home, Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill) goes about trying to solve the crime.

The Psychic was made right before Fulci's extended foray into the supernatural – for which many consider to have been his best period – with titles that included Zombie, The Beyond, House By The Cemetery and City of the Living Dead. With this one being on the cusp of that era, I actually found myself surprised by how understated this movie was.

With the body count standing at an anemic three – with only one happening onscreen – I would go so far as to say The Psychic was downright restrained. It also didn't help that the aforementioned death scene was an almost shot-for-shot lift from Fulci's earlier film Don't Torture A Duckling.

The Psychic at its heart was a giallo with all the usual misdirects, visual queues and star Jennifer O'Neill put in a solid performance and she wandered from shock zoom to shock zoom. Seriously, there were so many, it would've made Mario Bava blush.

The story owed most of its DNA to Edgar Allan Poe, namely The Black Cat, but with the furry object of its climax switched out for a watch alarm. A pair of things struck me about that, first was how much the final moments mirrored Denis Villeneuve's 2013 film Prisoners and also that Fulci felt the need to revisit this Poe classic less than five years later in 1981, albeit with a better cast and more grandeur.

Though The Psychic may be the weakest of Fulci's giallos, it was still super watchable on the strengths of tried and true formula and a solid score by Fabio Frizzi.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

HNY 2019!

Happy New Year folks! No preview post, but just stopping in to say you can expect the same kind of frequency this year with the usual emphasis on short films and old VHS titles.

I am also expecting to do a lot of archiving this year, mainly old commercials and newscasts from circa 1986-1995. I have a couple of totes worth of that stuff that I'll be digitizing over the next few months. Some of it might make it on here, or maybe I'll just throw it over to Retrontario and see if  they want it.

I have aspirations of making my next short film this year, but early days yet. It will be something fairly simple and manageable so that even I won't be able to fuck it up. 

Anyhoo, as you were!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Shorts

Hello again. Now I know yesterday I said I was done with Best of lists, but short films have become such a big part of my life in the last few years that I would be remiss not to showcase the ones that really stood to me in 2018. While some of them may have premiered in 2016-17, they came to my attention this year so I'm treating them as such.

The first half-dozen I saw while screening shorts for Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and were subsequently programmed. The next pair I watched during my visit to Calgary Underground Film Festival. Fauve screened in front of Summer of '84 at Fantasia in July and last, but not least was my favourite short at this year's Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival.

Directed by Santiago Menghini.
Directed by Heath C. Michaels
Directed by Ian Hunt Duffy
Directed by Astron 6
Directed by Teal Greyhavens
Directed by Joshua Long
Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen.
Directed by Gonçalo Almeida.
Directed by Jeremy Comte
Directed by Robert Deleskie

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Wrap-up

Hey all! Let me just start off by saying thank you to all those that have stopped by over the last eleven years. Though this humble blog was mainly meant for me to a) wax nostalgic about the VHS age and b) to stave off writing atrophy, it warms my blackened heart to know that a few of you out there care enough to keep looking in.

2018 was a pretty decent year for me. I picked up two new gigs, one as head programmer at the Toronto Smartphone Film Festival and one as a shorts screener for Fantasia, the latter of which brings the relief of not begging for a pass every year. I have further ingratiated myself into the short film community and even printed up some new business cards!

On the writing side of things, I'm also proud of the anniversary article I wrote for Delirium magazine about Bernard Rose's underseen gem Paperhouse. It's a pretty sweet issue, you should pick it up.

I was also glad to visit Calgary this year and check out CUFF. Frankly, I was enamoured with this fest, and not just by how brilliantly they treat their guests – I was there screening The Good Samaritan – but by how well it is run.

Lastly, Blood, Sweat & Terrors, the third Little Terrors compilation I helped put together is now available on almost every platform out there. This one is action oriented and it's pretty crackin'.

So now we're done with all the sappy stuff, things are going to be a little different at this year's end. No more calculated top five lists. I decided this for two reasons. First, having now shifted my focus to old VHS titles, I realized there was no yearly archive of posts I could go back and refer to when compiling my Best/Worst of 2018. Second, I finally came to the conclusion...

That being said, I am still compelled to briefly touch on the media that enraptured me over this past year.

That was my 2018 in a nutshell. You may have noticed that there were no short films in that list above. Well, that's because I'm going to dedicate a special post to those tomorrow. Check back then, kiddies!