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, August 16, 2019

The Deadliest Film Ever Made.

This Friday, I’m forgoing the usual VHS to do a rare post about a new release. I went to a screening of David Amito & Michael Laicini’s film Antrum this week and just had to throw down some thoughts here.

A recently unearthed film believed to be cursed tells the story of a little boy and his older sister who dig a hole to hell.

I did consider further cultivating the myth surrounding this movie, but its Imdb page now lists the release date as 2018 so I guess the jig is up. I knew nothing about Antrum going in so as far as I knew it was made in 1979. And I can’t say for sure that, if not for co-director Laicini’s appearance at the screening (he’s not in his sixties) and the blatant homage to Mulholland Drive toward the end of the film, I wouldn't have been duped. While at The Royal, I got a kick out of all the precautions and disclaimers.

We even got an onscreen thirty-second countdown clock before the movie rolled, just in case anyone had zero-hour second thoughts. Antrum was also book-ended by documentary footage about all the dead viewers this movie has left in its wake.

Curiously, this marketing campaign works for and against the movie in some ways. Daring someone to watch a movie definitely gets you more eyeballs, but I feel like even without all the hoopla, the movie could stand on its own as a retro-experimental piece. Though, by Laicini’s own admission, “experimental” is not a word you should ever utter when speaking to possible distributors.

I generally dig movies that covet this vintage vibe and Antrum was one of the most authentic examples I’ve seen. It had a dream-like quality that lends itself to multiple viewings as well as a thinly veiled nihilism that further aligned it with the era in which it was spiritually conceived.

In addition to the haunting sound design and score, the movie featured a lot of spliced in stuff that you might expect from a “cursed” flick. Not all of it worked, but I did like the idea of the summoned demon watching us watch the movie.

Antrum is one of those movies that I like more and more as I think back on it. I'm getting a kick out of envisioning alternate realities where it actually released in the late seventies. Would Antrum have served as a prequel the 1981’s The Pit? Would it have enjoyed a cult following similar to that of The Evil Dead, a picture with whom it shares more than a few similarities? Who knows?

Regardless, I’m pretty proud of this little Canadian oddity that comes with its own embedded lore, the likes of which I haven’t seen since The Blair Witch Project. I read an angry review on Imdb (posted the day after this screening so I assume we were at the same one) about how the filmmakers ripped off a 2016 flick called Fury of the Demon. I guess he didn’t stick around for the Q&A to hear that Antrum was actually shot in 2015. Oh well. Guess I’ll have to track that one down, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Friday, August 9, 2019

If You Go Out In The Sun Today...

This week's VHS is Harry Falk's 1989 TV movie High Desert Kill.

Three men on a hunting trip in the desert encounter an unseen force that preys upon their weaknesses.

This one's a bit of a strange beast, in that I wasn't sure what I was actually watching for a good chunk of the running time. More specifically, for the first hour the antagonist was completely ambiguous, only appearing as sudden silences and Predator vision. Keeping the viewer in a state of confusion only works for so long and this one tottered on the verge of annoyance. It's a bit tough to stay engaged when the scariest thing in the movie is this guy's dance moves.

Fortunately, the movie has Chuck mothafuckin' Connors! And while High Desert Kill might not be as wild as Tourist Trap, he certainly makes the most of his screen time. Another face I was happy to see was that of Marc Singer. I haven't seen him in ages (I don't watch Arrow) and I was transported back to a time when The Beastmaster and V were constantly spooling through my top-loading VCR.

Chuck Connors (channelling Tim Thomerson) in High Desert Kill.

High Desert Kill was a tad dry, but at least it was an interesting idea – once it finally gets around to letting us in on it – even if said nugget felt like an abandoned Twilight Zone script padded out to feature length. You could do a lot worse though.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Direct To Video.

I'll just leave this right here...

I've got one word for Dustin Ferguson's new project, Direct to Video... SOLD!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Sleaze in the 6ix

This week's VHS is my recently acquired copy of 1983's American Nightmare.

Eric (Lawrence Day) travels into the city's underbelly to find his missing sister.

Hey, you know you've been doing this a long time when you start duplicating movie posts. I remembered I watched American Nightmare a few years back at Trash Palace, but didn't think I'd actually done a review. But I did. And now it's Thursday night and I'm already committed so now you can compare and contrast.

Lora Staley as Louise in American Nightmare.

So first off, I have to reiterate that American Nightmare is basically the closest thing that exists to a Canuck giallo. I was once again surprised by how grimy this movie was for a Canadian joint. Practically every female character gets naked and a good chunk of the movie is padded with strip tease performances – some by actual Toronto peelers. I feel like this would make a good double bill with Strange Shadows as they both exude – save for their less than stellar treatment of transvestites – the best traits of the grindhouse era.

Hey, even though my first review might have had an exceedingly witty jab at the NDP, this one has Gifs!

The biggest laugh about this movie still remains that though it is called American Nightmare, it couldn't possibly be more Canadian. You've pretty much got every familiar face of the time, including Michael “Mike” Ironside, Tom Harvey and Lenore Zann, actors drop a-boot's at will and there was a driving scene where shops like Color Your World and Bi-Way streamed by. I mean, the climax takes place on the roof of Channel 47/Cable 4 with the CN Tower in the background for Christ's sake!

So what have we learned here? Well first, Toronto can be pretty greasy when it wants to be and second... I should really double check my database before picking my posts. Anyhoo, happy Simcoe weekend everyone!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Shorts Fantasia 2019.

At Fantasia this year, I sadly didn't see any movies that knocked my socks off (my fault, I missed the ones that peeps were buzzing about after the fact) so I figured I'd rundown some short films you should keep your eyes out for.

Up first, is Germ├ín Sancho's creeper Fears. I was super impressed with this creative take on the monster-in-the-closet tale. Another pair of efforts that caught my attention were Lance Edmands' Whiteout and Joshua Giuliano's In Sound, We Live Forever, as they both involved innocuous situations that deteriorate quickly.

For the gore hounds out there, you need look no further than Oskar Lehemaa's Bad Hair. Just think of it as if The Peanut Butter Solution went full-on body horror. If you don't cringe at least once during this, you ain't got a pulse.

Fortunately, I was there for this year's edition of the Born of Woman programme. It was as strong as always, but there were a trio of standouts in my opinion. Opening up the block was Yfke Van Berckelaer's Lili. Buoyed by a terrific performance by Lisa Smit, this uncomfortable and all-too-real short was a good indicator of what we were all in for that evening.

Erica Skoggins' The Boogeywoman was a provocative short that blended coming-of-age tale with urban folklore by way of David Lynch. Skoggins (like BoW alumni Natalie James & Alice Waddington before her) has such a firm grasp of story, sound and visuals that I'm sure a feature film cannot be far away. Lastly, it's not an overstatement to say that Jamie DeWolf's Girl in the Hallway obliterated everyone in attendance. This was an incredible piece of work.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Adventures of Harley & Dick.

With the passing of the great Rutger Hauer, I fished out a VHS I’d actually been meaning to revisit for sometime – Tony Maylam’s Split Second from 1992.

In futuristic (2008!) London, Det. Harley Stone (Rutger Hauer) is on the trail of a brutal serial killer that rips out his victim’s hearts.

This was a fun rewatch. I remember when this came out, people were quick to compare it to Blade Runner and Alien, but cumulatively I think its biggest influence may be Predator 2.

Looking up Split Second, I discovered the script had a pretty storied evolution which I won’t regurgitate here, but I was surprised to learn the whole half-submerged London was a late addition. I recall my Dad coming in while I first watched it and asked, “What’s with all the water?”
“Global warming.” I replied.
“Oh,” he said, simply.

It seems like a really costly and cumbersome plot device just for the sake of world building, but I must admit that it worked. In hindsight, I can also see the DNA of the original script in there, as well.

Being on the Deckard side of things a decade later, you could tell Hauer was having a good time with this. I mean his partner’s (Alastair Duncan) name was Dick Durken for Christ’s sake, and they say it SO MUCH. Split Second was just one of the cool action movies Hauer did around this time (Blind Fury, The Blood of Heroes & Deadlock being three others) and he made the most of it. Add on a solid supporting cast in Kim Catrall, Pete Postlethwaite & Michael J. Pollard and you’ve got some real entertainment value here.

The creature was designed by pre-Blade Steve Norrington, but sadly the best look you get of it is on the cover box. In fact, the subway sequence where you really only saw it at all was a re-shoot by Maylam’s late replacement Ian Sharp. I think it looks like a weird cross between Giger’s Alien and Marvel’s Venom.

Split Second is definitely worth a watch, as it comes from an era when there were still mid-budget action flicks that blurred the lines between theatrical and straight-to-video.